Anthony Hamilton is a pretty good singer. But that’s not why we’re here today.
We’re gathered here today because Anthony Hamilton – Grammy Award-winning R&B singer, cameo actor on "Empire" and guest in Barack Obama’s home – is turning memes into works of transcendent beauty.
As the first example, we turn to Birdman’s erratic behavior at a morning radio show on Friday. The rap mogul showed up to “The Breakfast Club” and delivered a curse-laden rant, demanding that the hosts speak more thoughtfully about him – or, in his words, “put some respeck on my name.”
The Internet, predictably, made jokes. But Hamilton had other ideas.
Hamilton and the Hamiltones turned a viral joke into an introspective moment. Sure, Birdman was acting a little strangely, but the man is right. Everyone deserves to be treated as a unique, valuable human being.
This one really hit home for me when a friend of mine used the hashtag #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName on his Facebook page Monday, as he wrote about what his name means to him. His name is one of those that doesn't sound "white" enough – people try to call him by nicknames, refuse to say his name properly, or say his name is “unprofessional.”
He refuses to dilute his blackness for the comfort of others – and for that, he faces constant opposition. It's a struggle that people of color deal with constantly. Sammus, a rapper from upstate New York, has a song on the topic.
It doesn't matter whether or not Hamilton meant that in his short reinterpretation. But he took the viral Birdman joke, slowed it down, and made us think: “Hey, I want some respect on my name, too.”
This wasn’t the first time that Hamilton has taken a viral pop culture moment and flipped it into something special. He’s actually been at this for a while.
Hold it Down
For example, there's the infamous “P.O.P. hold it down” video of a young woman named Donna Godeau struggling to hold back tears as she is arrested.
It was a video that launched a lot of questions – first off, who is "P.O.P"? We don't know. Hamilton probably doesn’t either, but it didn't matter because this is what he gave us:
We all have those moments when we need a higher power to hold it down, to look out for us, to show us the way. Maybe that’s your religion, maybe that’s someone you lean on, maybe it’s your friends.
Admittedly, this topic is a little dicey. There were a lot of parodies of the original arrest video, and a lot of them were pretty disrespectful. But Hamilton turned the final words spoken by Godeau as a free woman as she attempted to hold back her tears into a concentrated, raw display of vulnerability.
What’s that, you say? “Hotline Bling” isn’t a meme, but an actual song, so it shouldn’t be in this article?
Well, that’s only because you don’t realize that Drake’s “Hotline Bling” isn’t a song, so much as a premeditated meme that just so happened to appear on the Billboard charts.
Maybe you thought that “Hotline Bling” is about booty calls. Nope. Not after the Hamiltones got their hands on it.
This is now a song about the people that only go to church on Easter and Christmas Eve, and only pray when they want something (“…And I know when that hotline bling / That can only mean one thing”).
Or maybe this is also now a song about friends that stop calling you back, and then suddenly reappear when they need something. I don't even know what to think anymore.
That’s why it doesn’t matter that the singers screw up the lyrics at about a minute and a half in the video. Music isn’t about words. Music is a feeling. And this song makes you feel something.
So, I guess what I'm saying is this: I don't think the current poet laureate in Hamilton’s home state of North Carolina should necessarily abdicate his post or anything, but maybe someone could ask him if he’s finished, or if he’s done.
Because Hamilton is the non-trap antidote to those annoying, soulless acoustic covers of Rihanna’s “Work” and Beyoncé’s “Formation.” Hamilton is taking the "Whip/Nae Nae" to church. Anthony Hamilton is using funny memes to reveal timeless truths to us, the American people.
Hamilton is a national treasure. Please put some respect on his name.