Q&A: Amanda Blank Gets Deep
Hailing from Philadelphia, MC Amanda Blank has been blowing heads with the way she works a rhyme for a good five-plus years, though only in the wider public eye for the last three or so. After guesting on singles and mixtapes from Spank Rock, Aaron LaCrate, Britney Spears, and Ghostface Killah, Blank now steps out from the Diplo-anointed party circuit to weather the criticism of a solo artist with her debut full-length, I Love You. In the process she’s managed to incite those prone to both raunchy and derisive entertainment, all while backed by the Baltimore Bass Connection of DJs Devlin and Darko. Currently on tour with Matt and Kim and the Intelligence, Blank took a moment from the road to answer a few deep, philosophical questions via e-mail.
City Paper: Where does Amanda Mallory end and Amanda Blank begin?
Amanda Blank: Wherever the sidewalk ends.
CP: What’s Blank’s trigger?
AB: No sleep; delirium.
CP: And what’s Mallory’s safe word?
CP: When approaching producers for tracks, what did you ask for?
AB: Something that feels good. Or bad. Whatever is fitting to the moment, I guess!
CP: What do you feel makes for the most appropriate Amanda Blank musical arrangement?
AB: Something heavy. And loud.
CP: What tones do you feel work best with your voice?
AB: Dark ones.
CP: When producers presented a track they considered perfect for you, how did they say it suited you?
AB: Hahaha, they usually just say, ‘This is hot. You should rap on this!’ But mostly it’s a collaborative effort. There’s not much presentation, ’cause I’m usually there while they’re making the beats.
CP: How would you characterize the different contributions of [I Love You producers] XXXchange, Diplo and Switch, etc.?
AB: Well, they’re all really really different people and producers, but all equally as talented and creative. They’re just different. To try and summarize their differences and similarities and complexities would be entirely way too difficult. They’re some awesomely crazy dudes.
CP: Compare your relationship with your contemporaries to something pop cultural (i.e., the Brady Bunch, the Justice League,Rock of Love II with Bret Michaels, etc.).
AB: The Partridge Family meets Fraggle Rock.
CP: In what ways do you feel you have adapted your cadence and tone over the past few years?
AB: I think I’ve become more confident with my delivery. . . and more comfortable playing around with it. That definitely plays a part in the cadence and tone in my rapping.
CP: In what ways have tracks needed to be tweaked to your performance?
AB: Not too much, I guess. It’s not so much how they’re tweaked, but more how Devlin and Darko play them. Our set isn’t always the same; for example, sometimes they’ll loop an intro for 16 bars while I talk or do something on stage, while some nights they just drop the track. There’s very little silence on stage, whether [sound is] coming from me or them.
CP: What part did your experience with blog and mixtape distribution play in how you chose and positioned your sounds?
AB: It made me want to do something different than the stuff I had done in the past. There’s a certain part of you that wants to keep everyone that bought the mixtape and the people that write the blogs happy, and there’s this other part of you that is thinking completely outside of that.
CP: What is it like working within the Downtown Records model, a label with a house studio, healthy online presence, creative promotions, etc.? Which resources did/do you take most advantage of?
AB: Downtown is cool. They’ve been very supportive and laid back about what I wanted to make with my album. They’re good about letting their artist be free creatively, or at least for me they were. Never pushy or controlling. As far as resources, I’m pretty close with a lot of people at Downtown. Especially the publishing company and the studio engineers. I am constantly going to them for something. But mostly Vaughan Merrick. He’s the wizard behind the curtain in that studio.
CP: Do you see lines drawn between the Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Jersey scenes, and if so do you feel there are specific ways you worked to straddle them?
AB: Oddly enough. . . I don’t. The similarities I think outweigh the differences. Especially Baltimore and Philly. Obviously they’re two different cities, but the vibe of the people, the music, even the aesthetic of those two cities. . .they’re almost interchangeable at times. I think that’s why I’ve always felt so comfortable in Baltimore. It reminds me of home.
CP: If you could sample/cover any record, what do you think is a guaranteed floor filler?
AB: “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock.
CP: Where have you been?
AB: Almost anywhere and everywhere.
CP: Where do you want to go?
AB: All the little places in between.
CP: Please fill in the blanks with words that correspond to what’s requested:
AB: There once was a UGLY______ (adjective) girl who lived in a CROCODILE______ (place or thing). One day she went looking for TACOS______ (type of food) when she looked down in the GREEN______ (color) gutter and saw a SOILED______(adjective) microphone with a sticker of a GAYFISH______ (animal) on it. She picked it up, shook it off, and CREEPED______ (verb) it to her SAD-BALLS______(noun). And out came the QUICKEST ______ (adverb) MCing anyone on that block had ever heard. She knew she had to share this mic, so she took it to her friend CLEETUS ______ (name), who lived on a VOLCANO______ (naturally occurring landmass). When her friend heard what the mic could do, “FUCK”______(exclamation) was all she/he could say. They spent all day making JAWNBOL______ (silly word) recordings, then loaded up their RAZOR SCOOTER______ (form of transportation) and toured NARNIA______ (mythical place), fueled by CAPPUCCINO______(beverage). (Madlib help from DEVLIN!)
Amanda Blank plays tonight, Sept. 17, at Sonar. For more information visit sonarbaltimore.com.