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Amanda Blank: indie dance star in the making 

Wednesday, Aug 19 2009

Twenty-six-year-old MC Amanda Blank is still trying to get past her Married with Children moment. On indie-rap crew Spank Rock's celebrated 2006 debut, YoYoYoYoYo, she contributed the following in honor of Christina Applegate's alter ego: "See, I like my ass sassy/I keep my man happy/'Cause I ride like Kelly Bundy/Yo, I keep that shit nasty." For years after, that reference in the song "Bump" stalked Blank nearly everywhere. She became that nasty girl rapper.

Blank, a product of the hipster seaboard that includes resurging sounds from Baltimore (Debonair Samir), Philadelphia (Diplo and Switch), and New York (Santigold), has matured and is stepping out now with her solo debut, I Love You. It is one of the year's most anticipated indie-dance albums, alongside Kid Sister's own October debut. On the long player, Blank steps away from her Baltimore club–flavored sound and takes a stab at more accessible pop.

On "Make It Take It," a snappy track with drum and bass undertones, Blank sings as fast as she once spit rhymes. The track paints from a punklike palette, her choruses bending upward in a sustained siren call. A cover of Romeo Void's "Never Say Never" brings Blank back to her booty-bass vixen role, albeit without the uptempo grooves of B'more. "Big Heavy" has a disco snare and bell-bottom bass line that could have come straight from the DFA catalog. And Blank is masterful in her deconstruction of LL Cool J's "I Need Love," which she calls "Love Song."

With a wardrobe of metallic, neon, and glitter, Blank skates between bad-boy addict (a nonalbum single, "Get It Now," retraces Heart's "Magic Man") and ball-busting heartbreaker. You can track her white-girl-rapper lineage from Deborah Harry through Princess Superstar to Peaches, though Blank is less of a put-on: She says her true influences were African-American rhymers such as MC Lyte and Missy Elliott.

Growing up as a child of divorced artists in Philadelphia, Blank started writing rhymes as a teen, but it wasn't until Spank Rock recorded its first album that she was asked to spit for posterity on "Bump." While she always followed hip-hop, it was an older sister's radio show on influential college station WKDU that opened her eyes to indie, punk rock, and gothic flavors. "As a teen, I would hang out with her at the studio for six hours straight and just smoke cigarettes," Blank says.

After high school, she moved to an area of Philly where she discovered that her neighbors were Major Lazer member Switch, Spank Rock's Naeem Juwon, and M.I.A. producer Diplo, the last of whom she describes as her "big, crazy older brother." The aforementioned artists, along with Spank Rock producer Alex "XXXChange" Epton, Santigold, Chuck Inglish of the Cool Kids, and Lykke Li, ended up in the studio with her in New York as she laid down tracks for I Love You.

Blank is part of a new generation of dance-oriented artists that knows no genre boundaries, has little reverence for copyright, and easily surfs between street and camp. She uses LL Cool J and Heart as canvases for songwriting that is at times both intimate and tongue-in-cheek. For the new kids like her, a track is also a means to an end, which includes paying gigs. Key cuts from I Love You are available for streaming on her MySpace page, and premium Web content is unlocked with a ticket to see her perform.

Her shows, she says, are minimal on purpose. It's just her and a microphone. And no Kelly Bundy references. ("If I never heard that song again, it would be okay," she admits.)

"I remember seeing Peaches years ago in Philly, and she came out completely alone," she says. "I was totally captured by it. I don't need the help, either. I want to prove myself."

About The Author

Dennis Romero


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