Anthony Hamilton is feeling good.
It’s been twenty years since the acclaimed singer-songwriter released his debut album, XTC, and a little less than that since he serenaded his way to the charts with his hit song “Comin’ From Where I’m From” off of the 2003 album of the same name. But the 45-year-old is still in the game — partly due to his negro spiritual-like covers of recent hits like Drake’s “Hotline Bling “and Silento’s “Whip/Nae Nae” that went viral late last year.
With a deep baritone and soulful vibes, Hamilton has been churning out hits that speak to our emotions and his latest album, What I’m Feelin, is no different.
Ahead of his upcoming tour with Fantasia, Hamilton explained to The Boombox how he is feeling, what fans can expect when he and Fantasia hit the road, why he wants to work with Kanye, and how he and Young Thug are similar.
The Boombox: With thirteen years in music, what was it like to have your ninth album reach No. 2 on Billboard’s Top Hip-Hop/R&B chart?
Anthony Hamilton: I felt like the other albums were more successful with everything going around back then. I’m excited. With the change in the climate of musical retail, it’s a great feeling but I feel like the numbers are different for me. I have to get used to the numbers being lower than what they were before.
Was that disappointing for you?
I’m still excited. I’m still excited. Not totally disappointing but I don’t know, it’s just–you have be able to sell all these CDs in a week’s time. When you do great music, you kind of hope that the numbers can kind of mimic each other. But hey, I’m still in the game twenty years later–so I have to thank God for that.
Absolutely. I saw you re-teamed with Mark Batson for this. What was it like getting back into the studio with him and Salaam Remi?
We really love music and those guys really know how to bring out the best. Me and Mark, we go back so far. Even before Coming From Where I’m From. We had this connection and he’s always been one of my favorite producers. And with Salaam Remi and James Poyser–we all share a past. That’s special to have them on the album with me. It means a a lot. Talent and great people, it’s always good company.
Have you had a chance to read Mark Batson’s graphic novel, LOADED? If so, what are your thoughts on it?
I didn’t read it but I have it. It’s in my house. It’s on one of my favorite shelves with the glass on it. I understand it. Mark is a talented man from another world. I love it.
You’re heading out on tour with Fantasia. What can fans expect when they come to see the show?
You can expect a lot of singing, a lot of great singing. A lot of energy. May be the first tour with nobody wearing shoes.
[Laughs] Why’d you decide to name your album What I’m Feelin? And what are you feeling now?
What I’m Feelin just sums up a variety of emotions. Each song is different, each moment is different.
Is there any song on the album that describes your life right now?
They all do. I don’t want to pick my life apart. They all do. But I’m still extremely happy in this life.
What inspires you?
Everyday. Every. Day. Every person I met from my first album. Even before my first album until now has inspired me. Meeting people who leave a lasting impression on you and those things that shape you. And all the greats. I listen to all the greats. My kids wake up every morning and ask me to hear the Michael Jackson Thriller album. So, I’m inspired by Michael Jackson right now. Michael Jackson is influencing my three-year-old. They keep me jamming.
I saw you made a few covers of modern songs like Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and Silento’s “Whip/Nae Nae”? What made you think about doing that?
Talent. I just get inspired. I’m a hip-hop head. When I hear rap music, I don’t know there’s something about it. The attitude, the freedom. I like the voice that most raps speaks to. It’s not apologetic whether it’s political or passion. It’s just something about it — something freeing about it.
I’m curious now, did you ever try to become a rapper?
No. I’m not a rapper. But I can spit a good eight bars. I’m a singer but there’s just something in rap that’s never really…when I do my music, it has to be attractive to the rap world because it’s a big part of who I am and the world I was heavily influenced by is hip-hop.
Do you have any words to say about Phife Dawg who just passed away?
Of course. Very outgoing guy, very cool. The life of the party. Phife was a brilliant, funny guy. I met him during the D’Angelo tour; I was touring with D’Angelo the first time I met him. And yeah–it was a sad moment, because I know he had been battling with his illness for a long time so when I first heard about it, it was heartbreaking. We have such great people, and they leave us so early. So you start to wonder, you start to speak to God like ‘Alright God, we’re leaving pretty early now.’ But the only thing left to do is pray for his family. There will never be another be another Phife Dawg. And pray for Q-Tip, as well–and the whole group.
Who are you listening to right now?
BJ The Chicago Kid. Bryson Tiller is pretty talented, he’s got a slick way about him. I’ve always been a big fan of Jazmine Sullivan. Future, Young Thug–I like what [Thug] is doing. You know, working with him was incredible. In the studio, we spent like two or three days.
What was that like?
Amazing! It was incredible. He’s like me. One night I was in the studio and he was working and Tip came in and I guess they shot a video. So I just kept working. They went and did the video and got back and got it popping again. He’s a workaholic like me. I like to do three or four songs in one night if I can.
Who would you like to work with in the future?
I’d like to work with Kanye. I think Kanye’s very creative. I had a chance to go in the studio with Drake and he’s definitely really creative. He has a different way of getting to where he is musically. I’d like to get in the studio with D’Angelo. And Missy Elliott. I’m a big fan of Missy Elliott. And Pharrell–me and Pharrell have talked about working and then “Happy” came. He got so big with that.
Hip-hop kind of took over in the past few years — do you think R&B is making a rise back to the top?
There [were] years where New York rap was winning, then West Coast rap was winning, now Southern rap is winning. Everything just keeps…it revolves around this kind of…it’s almost like the seasons for the sonic boom and right now the Southern sonic boom is happening. And right now there’s a resurgence because of R&B. But it’s never gone anywhere. Where do you think they sampled music? It’s always been around.
What’s next for you? More trap covers?
[With his backing group] Hamiltones, definitely. I met some really talented people. Hopefully producing them and getting them out. And maybe come out with my own line of chicken and waffles.
That’s another thing, a lot of fans talk about food with you and Fantasia touring together. Have you thrown down in the kitchen together?
No, we like to eat. When we wake up down here, in North Carolina, we sell the best part of the bread. We get some bread, eggs–some substance.
That sounds good. What was the last really good meal you had?
Wow. It would be the last meal before I laid down last night! I had grits and eggs. Mmmmm. Before I came here and relieved the nanny. Yeah, it was so good. It was really good. Boy, that thing something, boy!