Anthony Hamilton was born in Texas but later moved to Watts, a suburb of Los Angeles. There, amid the upheaval of the late 1960s, he discovered the unique power of the spoken word. He joined the Watts Writers’ Workshop and, with two other visionaries, formed the Watts Prophets. Racism, poverty, and violence formed the foundations of their signature jazz inspired topical poems. Today they are recognized as the founding fathers of rap and hip-hop.
In the past 25 years, Hamilton has brought a wide range of artists-in-residency programs to schools across the nation. The core curriculum of these programs consists of his knowledge of oral tradition, including the formal structural elements of the spoken word, theater, and poetry. He has continuing partnerships with the University of Southern California Theater Department, the University of California at Los Angeles’ (UCLA) English and Arts Departments, and the Los Angeles County public schools. In collaboration with Arts Reach UCLA, he earned the Rand Corporation’s Best Practice commendation in 1998 for the effectiveness of his residency programs as an intervention tool for high risk youth. In 1999 the federal Department of Juvenile Justice selected his work with Arts Reach as one of the best projects in the nation. He and his wife, Shirley, co-founded the Watts Prophets Community Education Association, Inc. which offers in-residency programs for children and young adults.
Hamilton has collaborated with such greats as Quincy Jones, Bob Marley, Roscoe Lee Brown, Jr., Sarah Vaughn, and Billy Ekstein. He is founder and creator of the Hip-Hop Poetry Choir, and poet laureate for the Watts Towers Arts Center.