Anthony Ramos has been on the go, nonstop. Since making his Broadway debut in 2015, it’s been hard for the wickedly talented musical theater virtuoso to find a moment to breathe between releasing his debut full-length album, filming the feature film adaptation of In the Heights, or writing new songs. “I’ve always, at least for the last five or six years, I’ve just worked and just never been home,” Ramos tells Remezcla.
The constant hustle makes sense. Ramos entered public consciousness when he made his Broadway debut in Hamilton as John Laurens and Phillip Hamilton after performing in regional productions of Damn Yankees, Saturday Night Fever, and In the Heights. In October 2019, he released his full-length album The Good & The Bad. His success also led him to star in the feature film adaptation of In the Heights, Lady Gaga’s A Star Is Born, and Netflix’s She’s Gotta Have It–and he continues to prove his versatility and range.
Some celebrities keep a certain different-than-you air, but Ramos isn’t like that. He’s animated, candid, and has an easy charm to him even by phone. There’s no pretension to him. The week of our interview, Ramos was talking to the media and making virtual press appearances in anticipation of Hamilton‘s release on Disney+. In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Tony-winning hit, was slated for a 2020 theatrical release, but growing concerns surrounding COVID-19 forced its postponement. Miranda bumped up Hamilton‘s release so people could enjoy it at home.
Growing up, Ramos listened to The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Marc Anthony, and Hector Lavoe. He was raised in Bushwick, New York, and began to sing for relatives at Christmas and Thanksgiving parties. “Every Christmas, my family would ask me to sing ‘Aguanile’ by Hector Lavoe. I knew I had an okay voice, but honestly, the moment when I really knew that there was a craft to be honed was when I got to college,” says Ramos.
There’s something so gamely about how Ramos delves into his personal stories throughout his music. In his debut album, he reflected on his mental health as well as intimacy while in a long-term relationship. The album featured heart-wrenching ballads with some lyrics in Spanish (“Woman”) and trumpet-heavy songs (“Auntie’s Basement”). The idea at the core of “Stop,” the lead single to his sophomore album, is the exploration of Ramos’ inability to pause and take a break.
“‘Stop’ was the last song I wrote on a writing trip to LA. We wrote, and then I came back home, and two weeks later, New York was on lockdown. So I had no choice but to stop, and that was coincidental.”
Ramos’ upcoming album differs from The Good & The Bad because it’s “more up-tempo and there [is] adrenaline and a heartbeat to this album that takes things to another level.” He says that this reflective, but more adult album will feature a mixture of songs written before and during the lockdown.
“We’re in the process of developing it still as a full thought. I don’t stop writing because I think you just never know what could happen. It could be a new song you write that you’re so fired up and passionate about, and you play it for your team and you decide to change your initial plans.”
Beyond encouraging listeners to open up about their feelings, Ramos is joining a conversation that will speak to different aspects of our social climate. “The Black Lives Matter movement has been around for years, but you also have police brutality and systemic racism. This dates back to the conception of this country. Finally, there’s been a moment where the world has had to stop, not just our country, our world has had to stop,” he insists, adding that he hopes his music reflects that honesty.
The track comes with a captivating video, featuring Brooklyn artist Anthony Payne, which provides a look at Brooklyn that speaks to the current civil unrest. “There’s nothing to help us take our minds off of what is actually happening and what actually matters in front of us.”
Above all, Ramos wants to make sure his work impacts people’s lives in a meaningful way. He states that his goal when making art is to “inspire people to think more and feel more and hopefully get involved in life and not just sit back.” He adds, “Hopefully, more Latino kids around the world will watch Hamilton and listen to my music and realize that this dream isn’t so crazy…I live in Colombia, Bolivia, Puerto Rico, or the Dominican Republic, and Broadway seems like such a distant dream. If these guys [Ramos and Miranda] can do it, maybe I can do it too.”