Music executive Andre Harrell once said that soul singer Anthony Hamilton’s voice sounded like 400 years of slavery. That’s how much love, pain, triumph Hamilton emotes in his music. With his signature rugged beard, cowboy boys and hat, Hamilton’s sound and look is in a lane of his own. And being the first soul singer signed to Jermaine Dupri’s hip hop and urban R&B So So Def Records signifies just how special Hamilton is. 

The North Carolina native has poured his heart out in the latest installment of the A Closer Look docuseries on ALLBLK. This season of the show, that profiles R&B, soul and hip-hop artists whose songs have dominated the charts, focuses on him. It’s the first of its kind for a typically private Hamilton, who uses his music to share his story. But this time, Hamilton is sharing his life unlike ever before.

“Our lives are not totally our own,” he told Shadow and Act in a recent interview. “I think our experiences and the things that we go through I think other people can be influenced and blessed by it. So I felt like I’m at an age where I’m not ashamed by it. If it can be used to tell the story of Anthony Hamilton, maybe some young kid or one of my own kids can see something in that to push them through to their next level of greatness.”

The Grammy-award winner reveals all about his sometimes difficult upbringing, including choosing to be adopted by another family as a teenager to live in a more stable environment outside of his mother’s substance abuse struggles. After becoming a father right out of high school, Hamilton balanced working odd jobs at The Waffle House as a cook and even became a barber to care for his son while pursuing music. Eventually, his barber friends told him it was time to leave the shop behind and pursue music full-time, which he did.

He fled New York, got a deal and for 10 years his career stalled until his encounter with Dupri. Since then, Hamilton has released nearly a dozen full-length studio albums and counting. All of which detail Black life and love at its highs and lows.

But Hamilton admits that coming from his era and now being in a world where oversharing via social media creates buzz versus simply focusing on the music can be challenging. Instead of running away from it, he embraces it where he sees fit. More than anything, he eyed are set on creating something great.

He now owns his own label and just signed his first artist, whom he says gives off Chris Brown vibes. Hamilton is also extending his brand beyond music and is the proud owner of Hamilton Corner Store, where fans can purchase southern comfort foods he grew up on. 

“Hamilton Corner Store is where you can get the best grits you ever had in your life,” he said with a smile. “They cook well, they cook creamy, no preservatives, not bunch of stuff in it and they’re really good and they’re mine…There will be cornbread, a homestyle one and one that has honey flakes in it…hot sauce, we’ve been brewing our own hot sauce and trying to see what hot peppers work best…Eventually i want my own grocery stores in the urban communities like Whole Foods and Publix for my people so that we can stop getting stuff that’s handed down and ran through and I feel like we deserve the best of the best.”

Hamilton is just getting started. Check out the full interview where Hamilton discusses the next phase of his career, which includes his foray into fashion and film, more about his music, career and more.