Debi was born in Georgia. In 1964, after her dad, Lewis Hamlin Jr., lead trumpeter, Chief Arranger, and band leader, left James Brown and the Famous Flames, the family moved to Baltimore, Maryland where she attended Belmont Elementary, and learned to play the flute under the tutelage of her dad, and Faye Carmichael. Debi competed in the Peabody Institute's Solo Festival earning the highest score of "1" for her performance of Frank Joseph Haydn's "Sonata #7 in D Major." Continuing to study the flute, she attended Edgecombe Elementary, Pimlico Jr. High, and graduated from Forest Park Senior High in 1975.
While a senior at Forest Park, Dr. Hamlin represented her class by serving as a Page in the Maryland State Legislature and, having studied voice under Margaret Lindsay, Metzo Soprano and Assistant Director of the Morgan State University Choir, wrote and performed the graduation song for the Class of 1975: "Farewell." Clearly, the groundwork for Debi's interdisciplinary approach to music and education began during the early stages of her academic and artistic development.
In 1976, Hamlin began performing in the Balto.-Washington area with local R&B groups such as Hyde Park and Grand Jury. In 1977, Debi returned to Macon where she established a local Jazz Trio; performed with Dexter Redding, and Bone Holmes and Friends under the leadership of Anthony Dorsey (arranger for Paul McCartney); Mary Holmes (lead vocalist for Joe Tex) and Charles Burns (singer and trumpeter for Bobby Womack).
In 1985, Debi left Macon for Atlanta, Georgia where, under the guidance of Isaac Hayes, she performed and joined the Atlanta Song Writer's Association receiving acclaim for her performance of "You Should Know," co-written and arranged by sister/producer, Devin Christy. She later recorded a demo; a collection of standard and R&B tunes with her dad in Silver Spring, Maryland. In 1986, Debi met Oscar Richardson, President of PMP Records in New York, who, after hearing the demo, offered her a lucrative recording contract. In 1986, she moved to New York where she recorded and performed for five years on the PMP Label :(1) Visions; (2) Windmill of Love; and (3) Hypnotized. It was also while an artist at PMP that Debi learned the "business" of music, ultimately becoming the company's Executive Vice-President and Producer.
In 1991, after the death of her dad, Debi left the music scene and turned her attention toward the academic world. She received her BA from City College of CUNY (1994), and also studied at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. In 1995, Debi was awarded a Duke Endowment Fellowship at Duke University, receiving her MA (1998) and Ph.D. (2004) in American and African American history. During her tenure at Duke she published several biographical articles, book reviews, editorial pieces, and, from 1998-2003,served as Executive Assistant/Research-Editor to deceased historian, John Hope Franklin, author of the seminal text, From Slavery to Freedom (1998-2003). She also studied under other stellar professors such as Peter H. Wood (Black Majority) and Richard Powell (Blues Aesthetic).
After graduating with the Ph.D. from Duke in 2004, Dr. Hamlin was appointed Assistant Professor of History at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. While there she taught the first course on the writings of John Hope Franklin, "Race and History": Reading John Hope Franklin," a course which she continues to teach on occasion. She later served as Academic Advisor at Fort Valley State University, and Adjunct Professor of History at Gordon State College (2007-8). In 2009, Dr. Hamlin recorded a second album, "My Favorite Things," and published cirtical CD reviews for the Baltimore Jazz Alliance.
In 2010, Dr. Hamlin relocated to Los Angeles, California where she founded the BronzeTone Center for Music & History, an organization through which she and her staff "bring the mix" by serving up music and history in a way that both informs and inspires. Dr. Debi Hamlin has worked with some of the greatest talents in the music industry, including but not limited to, Isaac Hayes, Freddie Cole, Mose Davis, the Lewis Hamlin Orchestra, and has appeared at the Apollo Theatre, Sweetwaters, Baby Grand, Lucy's, and the Celebrity Clubs in New York; Odell's, Martin's West, and the Palladium in Baltimore, Md.; New Directions, Grants, Macon Coliseum, and JD's Touch of Class in Macon, Georgia; and the Los Angeles Public Library and City Club in Los Angeles, California. She made her debut television appearance in 1989 on the former "Dance Connection," an entertainment show that aired in the Balto-DC area hosted by music/radio legend, "Moon Man."