Hamilton Park may have honed their vocal skills while singing in their church choirs, but they are much more than just four guys who share a love for singing. They are a brotherhood born on the basketball courts of Hamilton Park Recreation Center in Atlanta. Hamilton Park, which is made up of Anthony, Mr. Marcus Lee, Chris Voice and Royce P aka The Prince of H.P., turned to both music and basketball as a way to avoid trouble in the streets of Atlanta, and remain on the path of following their dreams. Never once did H.P., imagine that the endless time spent playing basketball, or singing for hours on end, would later lead to being discovered by legendary music mogul Andre Harrell through his partnership with Radio One’s “Superstar Soul Search,” becoming the first group signed to his label, Harrell Records.
In 2010, Andre Harrell and Radio One launched the “Superstar Soul Search” in Atlanta, with the grand prize being a recording contract with Harrell Records. H.P. unfortunately missed the registration deadline, but fate would soon bring the four another chance to perform in front of Harrell. While on a radio promo tour for the competition throughout Atlanta, Harrell heard more and more about H.P. from every radio station he visited. After a visit to Atlanta station WHTA, Harrell learned that the Southeast Regional Manager for Atlantic Records, Yancey Richardson, who had been with him throughout this promo tour, was actually one of the managers of H.P. Harrell reached out to Yancey to set up a meeting with his partner Frame and the group for an impromptu performance. “They reminded me of Jodeci,” said Harrell, who then collected their music and decided to allow them to perform the national anthem at the finals. They were church boys, but they were masculine. I liked their relationship with each other and the way the blended in and out. They looked like a superstar group to me. … They’re like four heads thinking as one.” After H.P.’s rendition blew the entire audience away, Harrell realized they deserved a recording contract more than the other contestants, knowing that with his musical genius combined with H.P.’s potential, the outcome could be extraordinary. “They were better ready to come out with a record than any other contestant who was there,” said Harrell, who was responsible for discovering Diddy. “They had their production team in place. They were ready to go. They were like, ‘Let’s go.’”
From there, H.P. flew to New York to meet with Atlantic Records, where they performed their infectious single “Computer Love” along with Jodeci’s “My Heart Belongs to You.” It took H.P. only two songs to get a standing ovation from an entire conference room of music execs and A&Rs. After seeing this reaction, Harrell knew that H.P. had something special, and knew he could polish them into the flagship group for his new label Harrell Records, a partnership with Atlantic Records. “We weren’t taking ‘no’ for answer,” said the group ironically at the same time.
Hamilton Park successfully marries their athleticism and masculinity from their time on the basketball courts with their sense of chivalry, sensitivity, and ability to tap into their emotions. With three of the group members raised by a single mother and the fourth by a mother and father who are Pentecostal pastors, they collectively have an unfaltering affinity of how to properly treat a woman. Subsequently, H.P.’s infatuation with women evolved has into a matured state, compelling them to strive toward touching female’s hearts with their rebellious, untamed love ballads.
H.P. is united through an ineluctable fate. Mr. Marcus Lee and Anthony have been friends for more than 10 years, since they both sang in the youth choir at Paradise Church of God and Christ on the Southside of Atlanta. They later built a close relationship with Chris Voice, who used to sing at choir events while visiting his aunt. When the three saw that they had something special, it was time for the guys to find someone to help manage and develop H.P. further. It was then that an ambitious Anthony approached his uncle, Don “Frame” Howard, who was an A&R for Upfront Entertainment (Devyne Stephens, Akon) and worked with Dallas Austin and Left Eye of TLC and saw firsthand development of many acts that came though Atlanta, such as Another Bad Creation, TLC and Boyz II Men, to fulfill this role. Once Yancey, introduced Royce P to Frame, Hamilton Park had found the missing piece of the puzzle. It wasn’t until all four members sang together that Frame was captivated by each member’s ability to grab the mic as the lead singer, while still remaining a cohesive unit. But the group also has many different complexions within it. Royce P sings with undeniable conviction and passion, engaging listeners with his serious tone that beams from his eyes; Anthony bellows with hope, leading listeners into an optimistic retreat; Mr. Marcus Lee speaks the truth with his soulful array of salacious words; and Chris Voice touches the heart with his silky, inspiring words.
For the next four years, Frame groomed the four members at Hamilton Park Recreation Center & Park in Scottdale, Ga., where they spent vigorous hours learning their strengths and weaknesses as a group, building camaraderie and teamwork during pick-up games on the basketball court. The four named themselves Hamilton Park, paying homage to the area where their bond progressively became more intact. “It just made sense,” said Mr. Marcus Lee, the group’s lone preacher’s kid. “That’s where we made a commitment to ourselves and to God. Even if we have a group discussion amongst us, it’s going to be in Hamilton Park. That’s where we got our wisdom. It all starts in Hamilton Park.” Yancey, who also helped develop the sound of H.P. with his writing, says the group’s time together is what helped build the strong, brotherly rapport that the guys have with each other. “They open up every session with a prayer and close every session with a prayer; they understand that it starts and ends with God.” In a five-year period, H.P.’s likability transcended across the city, drawing comparisons to hometown platinum-selling groups 112, Jagged Edge and the 1990s group Jodeci, gaining approval from the masses.
“They are what New Edition once was,” said Frame, who, along with Richardson, developed Hamilton Park through their company L7 Entertainment. “These guys are pure. They’re untamed. It’s the chemistry, the unity that makes them special. They come from the tradition of a southern church. Altogether, Hamilton Park is what Atlanta sounds like today.” H.P., who have been influenced by everyone from The Commission and The Clark Sisters to The Temptations and Usher, want to continue the lineage of legendary groups with their youthful soul singing rhythms. They are the face of Harrell Records and aim to reintroduce songs that appreciation women.
In today’s disposable pop environment, H.P. is seeking to reestablish the sheer essence of chivalry and lyrically deliver tasteful grooves that will encourage listeners to reminisce about the time when showmanship was once a direct correlation of male R&B groups. “We’re bringing the real essence, the real R&B back to the bedroom. The stuff Ron Isley used to sing about. It’s tasteful, but graceful,” Royce P said. “It’s passionate and us being us. We’re young and we’re real strong with our love. We pull out the chair, we carry bags and do everything right. So when it comes time. … We do it for the sheets.” As Anthony puts it, “We do it for the ladies. We’re connoisseurs of love. We emphasize the fact that we are young men who are connoisseurs of love. It’s love in the most masculine, most manly way.” “I believe they can bring love songs back to the radio,” Harrell said. “Love songs are missing from the radio. They’ll bring back love and romance for young people.”
HARRELL/L7 ENTERTAINMENT/ ATLANTIC RECORDS