September 20, 2020
2020 has taken its toll on everyone, from the pandemic spreading to the racial injustice we’re seeing at an alarming rate. As tension and stress increase, everyone is looking for an outlet that sympathizes with the struggle.
Enter, North Carolina’s Grammy-nominated R&B and soul group, The Hamiltones. With the release of their latest EP 1964, the project is a commentary on current times while harkening back to the Civil Rights Movement. It’s an album that group member J. Vito feels is somewhat of a social responsibility: “Being a Black man you have to talk about these things, you have to let people know you are aware of what’s going on, and you want peace and justice for the wrongdoings.”
The entirety of this project was recorded during the pandemic and this gave the trio a chance to try new things. While the virus has affected the group’s ability to perform in front of a crowd, it hasn’t stopped them from working and performing virtually, “By the grace of God, we’ve still been pretty busy,” member Tony Lelo said.
Busy seems like an understatement in hindsight as the North Carolina standouts have been balancing rehearsal on top of a pandemic scare and the creation of an EP. However, the second you press play on the six-track project, you’re met with myriad sounds and topics fit for today’s R&B, with something for fans of music’s simpler times.
1964 initially started out as a Juneteenth single meant to celebrate the accomplishments of Black people. It was group member 2E that brought up the idea of creating a project out of this, especially given the times.
The only guest feature on the album is on “The Warning,” which brings the talents of North Carolina natives Ricco Barrino and Petey Pablo together. The duo creates a chilling track warning future generations of the violence and brutality we’re witnessing today. In it Petey Pablo raps: “I get locked up if I step on a Cheerio, where is the justice for me? Zero.”
An interlude from the late Congressman John Lewis serves as a transition into the more positive side of the album as he’s quoted saying: “I still believe in this society and we can live in this society as brothers and sisters.” Lewis’ words are affirmed rolling into “Imagine,” a song that is reminiscent of the loving Sunday morning jams our parents may have played.
The trio exudes a positivity of a newer and more sympathetic world, one that’s better for everyone. “We wanted to touch on what everyone felt, for the people that want to see the world come together we got a song for that.” Lelo said. “For the people that’s ready to go out and protest, we got a song for that, for the people that may not understand what’s going on and just need to know their history, we got people on the album for that too.”
The interludes are just as important as the tracks. Short, sweet and to the point, James Baldwin, John Lewis and Nina Simone– legends spanning the entire Civil Rights Movement– collectively narrate the EP. What makes these hit even harder is that they’re all applicable to today’s world and the fight that’s happening now.
1964 plainly states the issues Black men and women face daily, while simultaneously showing us what the brighter days look like. “At one point you’re going through the grittiness of it and as the album progresses it kind of lightens and at the end it’s a celebration,” Lelo said.
It can be a challenging listen, given how long the fight for equality has spanned and the pain that has been endured but, with 1964, The Hamiltones give hope harnessing strength from heroes of our past while creating timeless soul music relevant in today’s time.
Listen to the EP 1964 by The Hamiltones and watch the new music video for “Celebrate.”