Amid the scores of albums by contemporary soul brothers, Anthony Hamilton's beautiful Comin' From Where I'm From is one of the few that actually captures the essence of soul's golden age in the late '60s and early '70s. Rich, gritty and sexy as hell, his beautiful voice and equally beautiful songwriting are infused with convincingly wise-beyond-his-years grit that evokes-more than a little- Bill Withers, Bobby Womack and the like. But unlike most of today's big-throated thrushes, Hamilton is a real musician: equally proficient as a writer, singer and producer, he can front a band as well.
"My album is honest soul music. The records are straight to the point, raw, and organic," says Hamilton. "It's not neo," he stresses. "When I think of neo, I think of neon, like it's gon' glow in the dark or something. My sh*t ain't glowin' in the dark. It's just really good music."
Hamilton has been humbly paying his dues for more than a decade and has made a lot of friends along the way. Born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Harlem resident discovered his talent while singing in his church choir at age 10. As a teenager, he honed his chops while making the rounds on the local nightclub and talent show circuit, performing alongside fellow Charlotte natives Horace Brown and the members of Jodeci. "I outgrew that real quick, though," he recalls, "I knew I had to leave Charlotte in order to make it in the music business."
In 1993, Hamilton left Charlotte for New York City, where he signed with Andre Harrell's Uptown Records imprint-then the epicenter of New Jack Swing and the bourgeoning hip-hop-soul movement with an all-star roster that included Jodeci and Horace Brown, in addition to Heavy D, Mary J. Blige and Guy. Unfortunately for Hamilton, the label folded soon after he completed his unreleased first album in 1995.
Following Uptown's demise, Hamilton relocated to MCA, which put out his wonderful yet widely overlooked debut album, 1996's XTC. After the album's release, Hamilton briefly reunited with his former mentor at Harrell Entertainment before landing at the Los Angeles-based Soulife label, launched in 1999 by his hometown cronies Mark Sparks and Chris Dawley. While Soulife geared up for the release of Sunshine Anderson's Your Woman, Hamilton recorded another album's worth of new material and penned songs for other artists, including Anderson ("Last Night") and Donell Jones ("U Know What's Up," "Pushin'").
In 2000, D'Angelo recruited Hamilton to sing background vocals on his worldwide Voodoo Tour. "I went all over the world-Europe, Brazil-and had the best time of my life," Hamilton recalls. But by the time he returned from globetrotting with D'Angelo, Soulife had also collapsed and the singer-songwriter found himself back at square one. "I became depressed," Hamilton confesses. "I was like, 'Why? Lord, why? All this love I have for the music what's going on?' Still, I kept praying and working and looking for a better deal."
For the next two years, Hamilton kept busy by singing background vocals and appearing on songs by the likes of Eve ("Ride Away"), Xzibit ("The Gambler") and 2Pac ("Thugz Mansion"). Finally, in 2002, he received the break he'd been waiting for when he was tapped to sing the catchy chorus on "Po' Folks," the lead single from Nappy Roots' debut album, Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz. Thanks to Hamilton's contribution, the song became an instant smash that was nominated for Best Rap/Song Collaboration at the 2003 Grammys. The day before the ceremony, renowned entertainment attorney L. Londell McMillan invited Hamilton to close the show at his star-studded Grammy brunch. Blown away by the singer's galvanizing performance, Michael Mauldin, a music industry veteran with a famously keen eye for talent, urged his son, Atlanta hitmaker Jermaine Dupri, to take a meeting with Hamilton. Dupri indulged his father's request and, after absorbing an earful of the singer's work, eagerly signed him to his So So Def imprint within 48 hours.
At long last, after enduring the bureaucracy of the music industry for more than a decade, Anthony Hamilton is poised on the verge of stardom. But rather than brood over his rocky road to success, he maintains a remarkably positive outlook. "Everything that's happened up until this point in my career has been preparing people for my arrival," he says. "Back when I was signed to Uptown, my music was labeled 'alternative soul.' Now, people have reference points for my sound, so it won't be shocking or abrasive to the ear; it'll be well worth the wait."
Indeed, Comin' From Where I'm From is driven by imaginative, yet down-to-earth lyrics that draw listeners into Hamilton's world-weary tales about love and life, and that hit upon basic universal truths that can be appreciated by everyone. Even though cuts such as "Float" and "Cornbread, Fish & Collard Greens" find him playing the soft-core mack daddy with as much relish as Ginuwine, it's when he opts to sing about the human side of his conquests that you really warm up to him.
To help craft the old-school-inspired grooves and country soul jams that illuminate Hamilton's subject matter, he brought in a number of producers and musicians he's crossed paths with throughout his career, including Mark Batson, Cedric Solomon, and James Poyser from the Soulquarians. They succeed in creating an authentic vintage soul feel by enhancing the music with wah-wah guitar licks, stirring piano riffs, rousing horn swells, churchy organs and bumping bass lines.
"I wanna change the game in a way where I'm not knocking nobody out of the way, not claiming to be the best at this or that, but just doing wonders with the gift I've been given," says Hamilton. "I'm thankful I was standing in the way when God was throwing out musical talent, and I just wanna pass it on to the people and remain humble and shine a little bit... and smile."
--- from the official Anthony Hamilton website