In 2016 I saw Anthony Hamilton perform at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. I thought it was great. In the United States Hamilton is very successful ever since the release of the album Comin’ From Where I’m From. In the Netherlands he is relatively unknown; he doesn’t even have a Dutch wikipedia page. Remarkable, because the man makes beautiful (neo)soul and is a very good live performer.
Anthony Cornelius Hamilton, born on January 28th, 1971, is an American singer, composer and producer, who started singing at a local church choir at the age of 10. In 1993, he left for New York City to pursue a career in music. He signed with Uptown Records, a major player in the new jack swing scene that was popular around that time, which had also signed artists like Jodeci and Mary J. Blige. His debut album was supposed to come out in 1995, but the company went bankrupt. No album then.
Hamilton signed with MCA and was finally able to release his debut in 1996: XTC. The album wasn’t really successful. Hamilton enrolled with Soulife, where he began recording songs for a second solo-album as well as for others.
In 2000 he was asked to do background vocals during the genius D’Angelo Voodoo tour. After coming back from the tour, almost two years later, Soulife had filed for bankruptcy as well. No second album then. Hamilton kept busy by recording background vocals with artists like 2Pac and Eve. In 2003 he met producer Jermaine Dupri, who signed the singer to the So So Def label. The same year Hamilton’s second (his fourth counting the two discarded releases) album, Comin’ From Where I’m From, was released. It signaled his breakthrough in the United Stated, primarily on the back of the singles culled from the album, Comin’ From Where I’m From and particularly Charlene.
Comin’ From Where I’m From
I bought this album only recently, exactly 13 years after its initial release. It’s an impressive soul album, that sounds classic and still connects to the neo soul movement. Production duties are handled by, among others, James Poyser, known from his work with the Soulquarians, the collective that was responsible for important (neo soul) albums like The Roots’ Things Fall Apart, Slum Village’s Fantastic, Vol. 2, D’Angelo’s Voodoo, Common’s Like Water For Chocolate and Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun.
The Comin’ From Where I’m From production is clear and laid-back. The mix between traditional soul and hip-hop influences make for a beautiful album. Many productions that were released at the turning of the century were very soulful and modern. That makes for an album that still sounds fresh and current today.
Hamilton fit the scene perfectly, which is proved by this album. The lyrics are very personal (Mama knew love like the back streets / Used to wipe pee just to make the ends meet). The overall atmosphere is intense, sensual and emotional, without resorting to cheap sentiments. Break-up song Charlene is written from personal experience and that shows. The song resulted in the breakthrough in the United States. My personal favorite is I’m A Mess, where the background choir, called the HamilTones, keeps on repeating Call me, write me, love me, come home, intensifying the vocals and register every time the line is sung. An impressive feat. But, truth be told, the album is filled with vocal highlights and sincere songs and music. Highly recommended!
The song’s composers are listed between brackets.
- Mama Knew Love (Anthony Hamilton, Shawn Carter, Al Green)
- Cornbread, Fish & Collard Greens (Anthony Hamilton, James Poyser, Diedra Artis)
- Since I Seen’t You (Anthony Hamilton, Mark Batson, Maya Jones)
- Charlene (Anthony Hamilton, Mark Batson)
- I’m a Mess (Anthony Hamilton, Cedric Solomon, Jeanine Smith)
- Comin’ From Where I’m From (Anthony Hamilton, Mark Batson)
- Better Days (Anthony Hamilton, David Balfour, Eric Coomes)
- Lucille (Anthony Hamilton, David Balfour, Eric Coomes, Tyler Coomes, Roger Bowling, Hal Bynum)
- Float (Anthony Hamilton, Junius Bervine)
- My First Love (Anthony Hamilton)
- Chyna Black (Anthony Hamilton)
- I Tried (Anthony Hamilton, James Poyser)
After Comin’ From Where I’m From
In 2005 the Soulife recordings were found and released on the album Soulife, followed by album Ain’t Nobody Worryin’. Hamilton has released albums on a regular basis ever since, which were all very successful in the United States. In the Netherlands Hamilton is not well-known at all. Unbelievable, since his music is beautiful and deserves a larger audience.
- XTC (1996)
- Comin’ From Where I’m From (2003)
- Soulife (2005)
- Ain’t Nobody Worryin’ (2005)
- Southern Comfort (2007)
- The Point Of It All (2008)
- Back To Love (2011)
- Home For The Holidays (2014)
- What I’m Feelin’ (2016)
Do you know Anthony Hamilton and this album? What’s your opinion? Let me know!
Anthony Hamilton image: anthonyhamilton.com
Anthony Hamilton – Comin’ From Where I’m From and Ain’t Nobody Worryin’ images: tidal.com