Hamilton Park Are ‘Original Like Jodeci,’ Explain ‘Evil Women’
Male R&B groups have been relatively quiet in recent years but Atlanta-based quartet Hamilton Park is looking to change that dynamic. Comprised of childhood friends Royce P., Anthony, Mr. Marcus and Chris Voice, the group's big break came at the hands of industry veteran Andre Harrell. While in town promoting the Radio One singing competition "Superstar Soul Search," a local radio DJ told Harrell to listen to H.P.'s music. Harrell then set up an impromptu meeting, asked the guys to perform the national anthem and later signed them to his record label.
Harrell -- one of Diddy's most talked about mentors -- has been open about comparing Hamilton Park to the likes of Jodeci, a quartet which he also discovered in the '90s. Having grown up during the male R&B explosion of groups like Jodeci, Boyz II Men and Dru Hill, Hamilton Park steers clear of the troubles that have caused the aforementioned to break up, by staying true to their church upbringing. They've come a long way from singing in the choir and playing basketball at a local park -- from which their stage name derives -- but the foursome are more than ready to take their shot at the spotlight. The BoomBox caught up with the crooners, who set out on the Scream tour this month with labelmate Diggy Simmons, to discuss meeting Harrell, their new single 'Thing Called Us' and why being in the music industry is similar to getting drafted in the NBA.
How did you guys get your start?
Chris Voice: Hamilton Park is a park on the east side of Atlanta, just a little park where we used to play basketball. We used to also sing in church together coming up. I met Mr. Marcus and Anthony singing in that church choir and they introduced me to Royce P., and together we formed Hamilton Park. We took what we had and we gave it to our manager Frame, which is Anthony's uncle, he coached us, put us through the developmental stages and just prepared us for every experience that came forth.
Royce P.: To add to that, we actually ran into him [Andre Harrell] because of a Radio One personality and she asked him if he ever heard of Hamilton Park. That's how we ended up going by his hotel and singing the national anthem, and then he allowed us to come into the "Superstar Soul Search," and that's how we formed that unification with Hamilton Park and L Seven and Andre Harrell music along with Atlanta Records.
How does it feel to be compared to the likes of Jodeci and Boyz II Men?
Mr. Marcus: To be compared to Jodeci, it's an honor because apparently we're doing something right! It's kind of like Jodeci is the Chicago Bulls and [basketball coach] Phil Jackson is Mr. Andre Harrell, and when he went to the Lakers, we kind of look at ourselves like the Lakers. We don't never want to be patterned after them [other male R&B groups] but we remind you of them. We definitely have our own Atlanta R&B flavor.
Royce: We remind you of what original groups used to be. When you think of originality you think of Jagged Edge, Jodeci, Boyz II Men. So Hamilton Park is an original group.
What would you say separates you from groups like Jodeci, Dru Hill or Boyz II Men?
Marcus: One is the obvious, we all have four leads.
Chris: The fact that we have four lead [singers] definitely sets us aside from groups but at the same time we model ourselves after those groups. We're not trying to stray too far away from the path but at the same time we just want to be originals. They marked time in their own generation, so what we're trying to do is be originals. We're marking time in our own generation.
How do you plan to navigate your way through problems, so as to not end up separated like other R&B groups before you?
Royce: Prayer. If you have had a chance to read the Bible, we all grew up in the church. We stand on something more than just the glamor and all of this extra stuff that comes along with doing this awesome job that we've been blessed to have. I think it's the foundation that we all grew up on that's going to keep that to a minimum. There are going to be bumps in the road but we've been together for several years before we even signed anything, that right there shows the dedication that we have to each other and to Hamilton Park.
I know that you guys have personal lives to tend to. How do you balance that life with your professional endeavors?
Royce: If I explain to a young lady, I'm single, what's going on and she can't quite understand, then the balance is, she's not there. I'm on a path right now and I know my brothers are on the same path where we're focused. We've been grinding at it so long, our experiences have put us in positions where we've had to make these type of decisions before. To be here now, it's kind of like you have played with NBA players all your life and you're just like, "I wanna go to the draft," and you get drafted as a first round pick.
Chris: Nobody in our group is in a relationship or has kids or anything. The only thing that has shown to be a little rocky is with our family at times. Our family might have been in the early days, "What's going on with this?" or "What's going on with that?" [but] success fixes everything. Our relationship with our families are good.
Your music video for 'Thing Called Us' deals with a man who is grappling with making the right decision when his girlfriend gets pregnant. How did the concept come about?
Marcus: It's very relevant to what's going on today. A lot of guys are so prideful that they never break themselves down. Where music is, a song like that is so meaningful and to have young people sing about that, it shows older people, "Wow, there is something potent in this generation." If you see in the video, Ant makes the right decision, a lot of these videos have the wrong ending.
What can people expect from your debut album?
Chris: What you can expect is potent R&B from Hamilton Park. There was a time when R&B became unpopular. Andre Harrell always said, when we first met him, he wants to put love back out into the universe. He brought us Jodeci and Mary J. Blige, they were singing about real love, but at the same time it got unpopular to be in love. It got unpopular to apologize to a female that you really care about. As Hamilton Park, we just want to bring that to the forefront.
Royce: We definitely write. The creative process is we go into prayer and we allow the room to be filled with an herbal fire and desire that keeps us all lifted. [Laughs] We allow a well produced beat to do it's thing, we put our seasoning on it and if it ain't right, we not afraid to be like, "Yo, that's not hot!" But that's really the creative process. We want to give a shout out to [producers] The Good Guys, J Minor, Duke Williams and Teddy P. Those are the people who we've been working with so far.
Is there one song that you know is going to be a major hit besides the single?
Chris: Mine would have to be this song called 'Sometimes Love Ain't Enough' and it was so relevant because two of us were going through something to where all the lyrics were like kicking our a--. Sometimes love ain't enough and I think everybody can understand that.
Why or how is love not enough?
Royce: It goes back to the record 'Thing Called Us.' I think this is why it became unpopular to tell a girl, "I'm sorry." We're prideful but women can be evil in their ways sometimes. Women do worse things than men sometimes, let's just be honest. I think there was a [group] of young men who were like, "Forget it, I ain't loving you, you're just my [sex] buddy." We are just men that are not afraid to be vulnerable, and on top of that sometimes love ain't enough. I could be giving you all the love in the world and sometimes you might not feel like it's enough. You might not respond in the way I feel you should be responding.
The four of you are going out on the Scream tour this month. How do you prepare for life on the road?
Chris: We've been going on the road since February of this year so we've done plenty of shows. We stepping into the big leagues right now but we've definitely been getting our batting practice up. We've definitely been working on our jump shot. Hamilton Park is definitely going to shine.
Marcus: Just be ready to enjoy a new R&B sensation from some real, original, young men.
Anthony: And note me down right here, we're still some young men. Young ladies, we're still available. I wanna put that in there. We sing about some young love, but we do some grown things [laughs]!