Anthony Hamilton: "You Got to Love, Live, Believe It ... Never Try to Sing a Lie"

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Need a dose of that old-school vibe for your rap track? Well, R&B singer Anthony Hamilton provides a fine, cost-effective alternative to pricey soul samples.

"A lot of people want that old sound, that old grit." he says, speaking by phone from his North Carolina home.

"So they say, 'Let's get Anthony Hamilton to sing it and you don't have to pay no licensing fee and you still get that same sound.' It's cheaper."

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Over the years, a lot of rappers have taken him up on this economical offer. He's sung hooks for hip-hop stars like The Game, Busta Rhymes, and, most famously, the Nappy Roots, who, along with Hamilton, earned a 2003 Grammy nomination for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Po' Folks."

Of course, though, he's also unearthed "that old grit" with fellow soul singers, as evidenced by "Freedom," his powerful duet with Elayna Boynton, featured in the Quentin Tarantino movie Django Unchained.

Born in 1971 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Hamilton's musical heroes included names you'd expect, like Bill Withers and Al Green (with whom he collaborated for Green's 2008 album, Lay It Down), as well as unexpected names like The Cure. But there were also closer, less renowned influences.

"There were guys you wouldn't know their names. They'd just be singing down on this path, where I'd walk on the porch from my Grandmother to my mother's, and they had some of the best voices you ever heard," he recalls.

"And then my father, he had a really amazing voice. He was very close to getting signed with Motown. His group was called the Showstoppers. He just didn't believe. Growing up in North Carolina back in that time, it seemed too far fetched."

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