Of all the foulmouthed female rappers out there that I treasure, Amanda Blank is my favourite. That’s based, really, on a handful of songs – her remix of Britney’s career pinnacle Gimme More, a track on the NASA album, and Spank Rock’s songs Bump and Blow, which both made it onto one compilation because I loved the symmetry of including two songs that namedropped Kelly Bundy. I had to look up who Kelly Bundy even was. Amanda Blank threw the name so vicious smart that it made me want to.
Her rapping, the measured pace of it and the ability to suddenly switch to overdrive, to spit twice as fast as you thought, is her USP. The actual words, while fantastic, aren’t substantive; it’s brilliantly phrased and rhymed and metered stuff about being the smartest, sexiest damn bitch on the scene but that’s really all it is. She doesn’t waver from self-aggrandisement. She keeps it real and keeps it classic.
The problem with her debut and so far only album, then, is that she doesn’t spend too much of it rapping. It falls into the trap of the half-sung, half-rapped hybrid that no-one’s pulled off since Lauryn Hill. Angel Haze’s debut is another example; somehow you end up wishing she was singing when she’s rapping and rapping when she’s singing. A consummate rapper ends up with an album without any memorable raps on it. The two songs I liked best don’t have a rapped word on them: the last track, the swoony Leaving You Behind, and this one.
DJ is less than three minutes long, fitting the criteria of a perfect pop song. There’s very little to it, musically. A modulated bassline, an echo of speech, ticking drums that come in and out. Every so often it appears to be building, gathering strength… and then it ends up exactly where it was before. It’s a flat circle, and there’s nothing particularly arresting about that bassline. It’s not a hook. All the hooks are left to Amanda.
Because although she’s not rapping, although this is a sung song, it couldn’t have been done by a singer. It’s entirely shaped by hip hop. She speeds it up, slows it down, drops behind the beat and catches it back up, always in perfect control of her vocal line’ space and where it stands in relation to the bassline. It’s an exercise, almost, in what can be done with minimal instrumentation, like the old skool raps that only had samples. The songs stretches back and forth elastically, Amanda Blank holding us back then rushing us forward in the dead-eyed story of a man who left her for being an asshole and left her with nothing but music. Which is always, the song closing the circle and answering itself, enough.
Artist: Amanda Blank
Compilation: Coyote Summer