Lucky for him, his brother, Roy, wasn’t about to let him.
These days, the two southern New Jersey brothers are riding high as co-writers of “Number One,” one of the best-reviewed tracks on R. Kelly’s latest disc.
“I felt great about it,” said Riffraph, of Mays Landing, about hearing his song on the radio and seeing it reach No. 8 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop chart. “At the video shoot, R. Kelly said to me, ‘Yo, good work,’ and told me that I should work on a remix.”
At 26, Raphael Hamilton was already a veteran of the music business and had been pursuing musical success for many years.
He got his start in 1997, when his brother was a member of a Kelly-sponsored recording group called Vegas Cats. Then barely a teenager, Hamilton hung around Kelly’s Chicago recording studio. Even then, he was interested in creating music. He wrote a verse for a Vegas Cats track, but the group never released a CD.
Roy Hamilton III was supportive of his younger brother’s musical dreams.
Roy purchased recording equipment for the younger brother and gave him a space to record.
“When he was pretty young, I started to notice he had a serious interest in music too, so I started doing whatever I could to develop him, buying him equipment and doing what I could to help him along. I saw he had a passion for it too, like I had,” Hamilton III said.
The encouragement paid off.
Raphael Hamilton received his first paycheck for music he created by co-producing a song that rapper Missy Elliott wanted in 2003. He was one of five writers on the Britney Spears’ song, “(I Got That) Boom Boom” on her 2003 CD, “In The Zone.” When Hamilton III landed a job as a Capitol Records executive and moved to California in 2004, his younger brother also relocated. Raphael Hamilton landed gigs engineering sessions for recording artists that included Ne-Yo, Mario,Cj Hilton,George Nozuka,The Cheetah Girls and Shanell aka SNL of Young Money.
But the younger Hamilton wanted more. He came back to Mays Landing to make his own music. He also gave himself a deadline.
“I’m going to give myself until 26, and if I don’t do something, if I don’t get something poppin’ by 26, I’m done,” Raphael Hamilton said.
One of Hamilton’s plans was to develop a girl group. He started creating material for the group. One of the things he came up with was the beat that became the backbone of “Number One.”
“In spring of 2007, Roy was back (in New Jersey). Roy and I got together. He said, ‘This is the hottest track you ever did.’ I was working on the beat for months.”
Roy Hamilton III had kept in touch with Kelly over the years.
The older brother wanted the recording artist to hear his younger brother’s beat. He knew that if he heard it, Kelly would want it.
Most people would jump at the chance to have their music recorded by a multi-platinum superstar. But Raphael Hamilton had other ideas.
He would not give up the beat, which sounds like a slowed down, prominent heartbeat.
His brother stepped in again.
“Roy and I drove to Voorhees Nj, I think. We were listening to the track again. He (Roy Hamilton III) said, ‘It will get you to a whole new level,'” said Raphael Hamilton. The elder Hamilton explained to his younger brother that building a career required steps. Having Kelly record his song would be a big step forward.
Raphael Hamilton relented and agreed to send the beat. When Kelly heard the beat, he quickly recorded the catchy hook heard on the song.
With the song recorded, Hamilton III lobbied Wayne Williams, the vice president of A&R at Jive Records, to have the tune released as the the first single off the Kelly CD.
Raphael Hamilton first heard the song on the radio in front of his older brother’s house this summer in Galloway Township.
“It was in his driveway. I said, ‘Call me when it’s on. I tuned in on the second verse on Kiss (WZBZ-FM 99.3)… People were calling my voice mail and leaving messages,” Raphael Hamilton said.
“Number One,” a song where lovemaking is compared to a chart-topping song, was one of the best reviewed songs on the Kelly’s newest CD.
‘”Untitled’ (the album’s name) works better when it sticks to such up-tempo tracks as the funk-and-horns-fest ‘Be My #2,’ or the sticky Keri Hilson collaboration ‘Number One’,” wrote a reviewer for the Washington Post .
USA Today newspaper said “Number One” was one of three songs that should be downloaded from the release.
As much as R&B music fans have enjoyed the track and Kelly probably appreciated having another hit, the success of the tune means the most to Raphael Hamilton. He’s no longer thinking about giving up on music.
Raphael Hamilton’s success did not cause any rift, jealousy or unhealthy competition between the brothers. The older brother has nothing but praise for his younger sibling.
“He’s always been someone who takes really good direction. The wonderful thing is he is a great listener,” Roy Hamilton III said. “He’s doing what he should. He’s taking notes. He’s got someone as close as I am to him to continuously show him the industry and the game, teach him the things that I’ve learned along the way. He’s applying it, and I’m really proud of him.”