Six Labels Later, Anthony Hamilton Debuts

Excerpted from the magazine for

Very few artists can say that it has taken them almost 11 years to release their debut album -- and still smile about it. Having been signed to a host of different labels (Uptown, MCA, Harrell Entertainment, Soulife and Atlantic), Anthony Hamilton will finally get his shot with his So So Def/Arista debut, "Comin' From Where I'm From."

"It's been a blessing, but it's also been frustrating at certain points of my life," Hamilton says of the experience. "I've used my faith to get me through. It was working, but sometimes I couldn't understand what was going on. I know I put a lot of hard work into my creativity and I feel like I'm blessed with a special voice, and that wasn't catching on. It was definitely frustrating."

The Charlotte, N.C., native first signed with Uptown in 1993. Two years later, the label folded into MCA. Hamilton recorded an album, "XTC," for the label, but it was never released. He was eventually let out of his contract with MCA.

Hamilton signed with former Uptown chief Andre Harrell, who had launched Harrell Entertainment. When that deal stalled, Hamilton returned to Charlotte to regroup.

"I just started writing songs and trying to do something, but nothing was happening," Hamilton recalls. "It was like I had egg on my face. It was a struggle keeping my spirits up. I started to question my abilities. Then, there were days when I just knew that this had to happen."

Hamilton reconnected with producer Mark Sparks from Uptown. Sparks brought him to Soulife Records in Los Angeles. While he was working on his Soulife record, he was offered the opportunity to join D'Angelo on the Voodoo tour. But when he returned from the tour, things began to go awry with Soulife.

"Eventually, Soulife crumbled, and I was stuck to Atlantic," Hamilton says. "They were interested, but they didn't know I had it."

Hamilton found kindred spirits in labelmates the Nappy Roots. After guesting on the group's "Po' Folks," there were countless other guest appearances. Despite the accolades and attention, Hamilton says he still didn't catch a break at Atlantic. After a legal battle, he was released from his contract with the label.

The success of "Po' Folks," which was nominated for a Grammy Award, led to renewed interest in Hamilton. Shady Records, Elektra and So So Def were among the labels interested in signing him.

Due Sept. 23, "Comin' From Where I'm From" is already receiving praise. Hamilton has been featured in MTV's You Hear It First campaign and was named one of Rolling Stone's "10 Artists to Watch."

Now that he's receiving more attention, is he worried that history will repeat itself?

"It feels different," Hamilton says. "This is someone who has done it for so long and has so much power. I've been on So So Def six months, and I've [already] done a video, BET, MTV, Rolling Stone, GQ, photo shoots and I'm about to buy a house. It's my turn now."

Excerpted from the Sept. 13, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Premium Services section.

To order a single copy of the issue, visit The Billboard Store.