If you’ve been getting your groove on to R. Kelly’s new single with Keri Hilson, “Number One”, you have this man to thank:
Roy Hamilton, along with working with high caliber artists like R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, Joe, Pleasure P, and many more, was the youngest African American A&R executive at Capitol Records ever (at 24). Now at 29, Hamilton is on the move with a first ever micro-mixtape and debut album slated for release in May. Mr. Hamilton takes some time out of his busy schedule to speak with SoJones.
SoJones: Is there one song every time you listen to it you say to yourself, “Damn, I wish I could have produced that?”
Roy Hamilton: One song? The last song I said that about was “Right Round”, by Flo Rida. I thought that was a great song!
SoJones: Love that sample he used from it too. Where do you get your inspiration from to start producing?
Roy Hamilton: Well for me I grew up listening to a lot of hip hop and rap music, rock, soul music…inspirations from Al green to Aerosmith. A lot of different kinds of music and different things inspire me. I come from a musical family. My grandfather was a singer in the 50’s and 60’s, his name is Roy Hamilton and you know, it’s just in my blood to do this. and I just found myself at around 14 years old having a serious interest in producing tracks and DJ’ing and just getting into it. So it was really organic the way it happened.
SoJones: In your career you’ve done so much. Not to discredit anyone you worked with but working with Michael Jackson for the song “Shout”, that kinda got my attention. What was it like working with MJ?
Roy Hamilton: It was a great experience to work with Michael in two ways. One: It pretty much desensitized me to the whole thing about artists and being starstruck. Another great thing about Michael was his passion with what he did and in the studio when a track comes on, how he moves and gets into it, you know he’s just amazing to watch and work with in the studio. You know he’s Michael! One of the best ever in history.
SoJones: Right now, the single “Number 1” is doing well on the charts. Being under the tutelage of R. Kelly for so long what was the most important thing he taught you?
R Kelly’s latest single “Number One” Ft. Keri Hilson
Roy Hamilton: He taught me to work hard. To be aggressive and work hard and that you gotta seize the moment. He was the guy that I saw at 17 years old coming into the studio at 11 o’clock at night and not leaving till 8 o’clock or 9 in the morning just working. Sometimes not getting out till noon the next day. So at an early age I learned that. And I was always a hard worker myself before I got signed; I kept working two jobs in the summer time but working with him it showed me that that kind of work ethic is not only acceptable it’s what it takes to become the best and make it to the top. It’s not for everyone, it’s for the strong!
SoJones: Concerning your micro-mixtape venture “The International”, how will this upcoming mixtape be different than what others like DJ Drama are putting out with huge rap stars?
Roy Hamilton: Well a micro mixtape is a lot different than your conventional mixtape in the fact that most mixtapes are filled with records and things and a lot of it, you don’t remember any of it. I just decided to take my best four tunes, shoot four music videos to them, and make something small (micro), and release it. That way you can put out more quality vs. quantity. It’s something I came up with and DJ Whoo Kid loved the idea and he decided to endorse it and I’m gonna be the person to kind of spearhead micro-mixtapes, and micro albums and things where you do less. It’s about doing less and giving people more for their money and giving the listener or viewer an experience as opposed to throwing all this stuff at them at once.
SoJones: Absolutely. Your debut album is called The Last Monarch/The MA-Day to be released on May 3. What’s the most exciting moment of your recording experience of this album so far?
Roy Hamilton: For me being able to find four completely different records that tell one story, and it worked together to tell one story was so phenomenal for me to be able to make that happen. A lot of times when your trying to do something brand new, it’s hard to get the pieces to connect right away. And I was just so blessed to be able to come to the studio. I used four samples for this record (I can’t say what samples). It’s a four part story of this micro-album “The Last Monarch”, and each song tells a part of my story. And for that to come together was divine. It came together and I couldn’t have scripted it. So it was just great to have the pieces fall together like that. Awesome.
SoJones: Have you ever sampled any of your grandfathers work or gotten ideas for your own music through his music?
Roy Hamilton: I haven’t sampled any of my grandfathers stuff as of yet but I listen to his music. I have one of his cd’s in my truck that I listen to. And I got my ear tuned into a few things that could be possible future remakes and collaborations.
SoJones: You have a reality show coming up, tell us a little about that. It’s unique in the sense that its based around the studio experience, so viewers get a realer look.
Roy Hamilton: It’s Royal-ity TV (laughs.) No basically it’s not scripted, everything that people are gonna be seeing are the real things that happen in the studio and the real parts in my journey moving from producer being the invisible man and now allowing myself to be put in front of the camera. That’s a journey in itself, a huge process that I don’t think anyone has ever really seen it because a lot of the artists that turn into…I mean a lot of the producer/writers that turn into artists you don’t get to see their journey. No one has really been able to capture it, and I’ve been blessed enough to be able to capture it. And it’s called Royal-ity TV!
SoJones: Do you plan to tour soon?
Roy Hamilton: I plan to tour in the summer. I’m gonna let my single take off and it’s doing really well and starting to get a lot of traction at US radio and we’re moving into the UK. So by summertime I think I’ll have enough of a following to tour, so I’m really excited about that.
SoJones: Being the youngest A&R executive over at Capitol, what perspective from behind the desk prepares you for your debut album?
Roy Hamilton: Oh man I was using so many tricks of the trade for this it’s unbelievable. Now I understand why I went and got that education cause everything from marketing to the promotion, to understanding how to work my songs at radio, to understanding how to cater to my demographic and fan base, these are all things I learned while working at a label. It gave me a huge advantage and just the setup and I’m making a lot less mistakes than maybe some other people have cause I got the chance to see others make mistakes during my time working at a label.
SoJones: Do you think because of your knowledge, sales will increase or will it be something else?
Roy Hamilton: I think that I’m bringing my music from the heart, the fact that my faith in God is so strong, that the reality is if I go on to do great things it’s because of those factors and it really has nothing to do with the knowledge that I have. There’s no tricks to it either people feel your genuine and they feel the positive energy in you, or they don’t. That’s what it comes down to. I’m expecting the fans to feel the same thing that I feel when I make the music and the energy that flows through me flowing straight to them.
SoJones: Whats the first thing you think of when you hear the word auto-tune?
Roy Hamilton: A joke! (laughs.) I think its a joke, I really believe that. It’s something that was meant to be used as a highlight and ended up becoming a staple and I think it was really bad for the music scene for a while because now you had people that couldn’t sing all over the place, and people who really could sing weren’t getting their shine, so it caused an imbalance. That thing was meant to be a novelty and a highlight for certain parts of records, which still is cool! If you use it the right way, the right moment of a song it makes total sense. but it was never meant to say “this is my voice!” (laughs)
SoJones: So you don’t think “808’s and Heartbreak” [album by Kanye West] was significant?
Roy Hamilton: I mean, he didn’t have to use that. I feel he could have pulled off those same records without it; that’s my philosophy. I know Kanye, he could have done the same thing without it if he wanted to. I don’t use auto-tune!
SoJones: So we’re not hearing any at all on your record?
Roy Hamilton: nah uh, nope, you ain’t gonna…on the record!
SoJones: (Laughter) Was New York any different than New Jersey as you were growing up?
Roy Hamilton: Jersey’s a lot more slower pace, a lot more family oriented. New York is quick, the grind, go go go…its a huge contrast between the two.
SoJones: For our aspiring producers out there, what’s the sample clearance situation like? Do you struggle with it?
Roy Hamilton: They have a few boutique companies that deal with sample clearances, and the ones I’ve dealt with I’ve had really good luck with getting things cleared; and sometimes you don’t. It really depends on the sample. If you sample something really obscure or something really popular sometimes they don’t wanna clear it. Sometimes you have trouble finding the person who owns the sample so you gotta be careful with what you sample, gotta know what your sampling. And be prepared for them to come back and tell you no, that you can’t use it, and then you gotta be prepared to re-structure your record.
SoJones: What was the first time you spent major bucks on an apparel or major footwear item for yourself?
Roy Hamilton: What was the first time? Wow, probably when I was 21 years old when I started to get a little bit more into clothes like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. I purchased a pair of Louis Vuitton shoes. Just little things like that here and there. More recently I purchased a Gucci messenger bag; nice simple one not many logos, kinda understated but fly. Every now and then I like to splurge on something high fashion or something up there.
SoJones: What brand of kicks are you wearing right now?
Roy Hamilton: Nikes. Got a cool pair of dunks. I Keep a crazy pair of dunks on.
SoJones: Who makes your favorite jeans?
Roy Hamilton: At the moment I wear a lot of Zoo York jeans. Zoo York seems to have jeans that fit my frame.
SoJones: What one fashion trend would you like to see go away on men or ladies?
Roy Hamilton: Nothing that really rubs me the wrong way. As for me, I like to get clothes that complement what I look like.
SoJones: Is there any thing you stopped wearing this year cause its just game over?
Roy Hamilton: I’ve been really paying attention to the symbols and images that I wear. I don’t wear skulls or anything that doesn’t represent life or positivity so I’m really cautious about that. I’m more into that now than anything, so when I’m buying stuff I make sure I know what’s on the shirt. A lot of people I think they just buy stuff and they don’t really know what they’re wearing, you know? So I started being a bit more image conscious in the last two years.
SoJones: That brings up one more thing: lately Jay-z has been getting a lot of flack for his videos and everything with the skulls and the freemason symbolism. Anything you want to contribute to that?
Roy Hamilton: I honestly don’t know! There’s certain things and certain mysteries of this world that I just don’t know, and I’m sure Jay-z is intelligent enough that whatever he’s doing and putting out there, either he’s doing it cause he’s representing what he believes in or hes doing it just to be controversial. Either way he’s doing what he has to do as an artist and an entrepreneur; I just don’t know.
SoJones: Are you currently interested in working with new talent?
Roy Hamilton: Absolutely. Even though I’m enjoying at the moment getting into my self, I always welcome another artist that has a new flavor and a new sound, I’m down for that.
SoJones: You mentioned the European market; are you into euro-pop and dance like David Guetta?
Roy Hamilton: Absolutely, that’s what this whole micro- mixtape is! Matter of fact I re-did “Sexy Chick”. I put my own spin on it. Crazy, it’s the first video. Its already on the internet, getting great reviews.