Photo by Ted Wimbush
How Anthony Hamilton Is Using His Voice To Create Change For The Black Community
Anthony Hamilton's voice has always been used as an instrument for change. Throughout his nearly two-decade career, his lyrics have served as the soundtrack behind some of the most intense emotions people around the world experience daily.
But with the recent tragedy of George Floyd's death and the resurgence of conversations surrounding police brutality, Hamilton is using his influence to shed light on the harsh realities behind some of America's most unfathomable injustices.
"What I’m doing to activate and to advocate is using my social platforms and my celebrity to bring awareness, to speak up and out about injustice and prejudices that exist, to evoke change in those who may see me as a celebrity but not as black as they see my young brothers and sisters who they gun down," he told the Recording Academy.
Hamilton's words come just weeks after his latest single release—his first in over three years—"Back Together" featuring Rick James. In its purest form, the single is a rhythmic conflation of funk, R&B and hip-hop—some of the most popular genres fueled by black culture.
"I went in with 9th Wonder, someone I wanted to work with for a very long time," Hamilton explained. "We were cooking up and had done about three songs already, and he started playing the 'Fire and Desire' [by Rick James and Teena Marie] sample. I heard that and went in the booth and I just sang the first thing that came out of my mouth."
When asked why he felt his latest record called for a feature from funk icon Rick James, Hamilton said, "Why not? Rick James is one of my favorites. He’s very expressive, very free, very funky. Almost like Prince—they were just funky and they didn’t apologize about it. [James] still sings his behind off."
Collaborating with one of funk's most legendary figures isn’t the first time Hamilton stepped beyond his R&B roots to create timeless music. Even his sophomore effort, Comin’ From Where I’m From, was supported by decorated hip-hop producer Jermaine Dupri and his So So Def label, and earned him three of his 17 GRAMMY nominations.
As a songwriter, Hamilton relies on an innate ability to revisit some of the most impactful moments of his life. But during times of intense racial division, he looks to those inside and outside of the music industry for inspiration.
"I pray and collect my thoughts and build with people like David Banner," he said. "[I] listen to [those] like Killer Mike, Angela Rye, and Bakari Sellers to educate myself, then plan a course of action. The music community can use their voices to influence the masses and speak on topics that affect us directly [...] Create content that promotes better thinking and better living."
Though Hamilton’s music has brought people of various races under one roof all across the globe, an immense amount of change is necessary to begin the process of healing and progression. For Hamilton, that change begins with black ownership beyond the traditional mom and pop stores—from land to corporations and major sports teams. He believes change looks like having more opportunities to receive the best education, experiencing true peace of mind no matter where one walks, and applying for a bank loan without being denied despite meeting the qualifications.
The fight for social justice is an ongoing, uphill battle led by past, present and future generations. Whether one is a musician or not, Hamilton encourages all to use their voice to rebel against the racism that has plagued the black community for centuries.
"In my opinion, non-black people should speak out against what’s wrong and against police brutality and all the hurt that this country has endured by the hands of the old and new oppressors."