Written By @VenessaLB
You know that knot in your stomach that grows while walking into the darkness of a two-century-old crypt’s burial chamber, under the shadows of a haunting church spire?
If I didn’t have my dictaphone and a now wrinkled sheet of paper with 20minutes worth of question in hand I would be convinced this was set up.
“A crypt is by far the strangest place to renovate into a studio” was the thought going through my head. As I heard the voice of my interviewee, 24-year-old South London born rapper Amplify Dot planning her lunch which would follow our interview.
Amplify Dot is a huge contrast against the usual starched suit and ties of London Bridge but she relaxes comfortably on a low couch, naturally I take note of her Harris Tweed Nike high-tops.
Amplify Dot is the first UK female rapper to signed an album deal with a major label in ten-years, the last being Ms. Dynamite with Polydor. The success of her debut album could either prove to major labels that female rappers are a lucrative investment or shut the door completely.
“I don’t look at it as pressure or that I have to be the one to hold the torch for all female MC’s. Everyone is doing their thing, finding their voice. I’m just privilege to have help and that’s how I’m gonna look at it and keep doing me. If I allow myself to bare that pressure I’ll go crazy.”
The new member of Virgin/EMI’s roster says “Record deals are like buses” she was offered deals from three different labels the same week she decided to sign with EMI.
“When they see what somebody else wants they think, well okay maybe we need to be on that as well, EMI weren’t jumping on the band wagon like everybody else.”
Finding her from an obscure video, the label called Amplify in for a meeting. She tested their believe in her music.
“So I went in there and I played them some of my hardest music the least cross over sounding stuff and they said they loved what I was doing but I just needed to have that push. It was that belief in what I’m doing without an attempt to change me into something else. So I knew these were the people who were going to help me take my music to another level.”
Earlier this year with the help of the PRS Foundation Amplify Dot released her EP Short Back and Sides, which charted Top 10 Hip-Hop/Rap on itunes. The self-confessed control freak describes the experience of a major label taking over roles she used use to manage herself.
“You can’t compete with that major label machine.” she explains leaning back into the huge couch.
“I think it’s hardest when you’re independent, I’d never really had real management. When I had Amped up Entertainment I was financing it, managing everything doing A&R coming up with the video concepts. Something I would have twenty people doing for me now I was doing all of those rolls myself. When you’re doing something like that off your own back and it works, it really pays off. Now it’s a lot of weight off my shoulders, all I have to worry about it making music. Its nice to say, okay you lot handle that side of things and I’ll just make the songs.”
Still in the process of recording her debut album, we spoke about some of her best studio sessions so far including a session with Gyptian in Jamaica. ‘Torch’ shows her growth as an artist revealed a new depth of creativity in both her lyrical and conceptual scope.
“I wrote this song and I cried. I don’t usually cry when I write music because I don’t really go to a place that harrowing for me, even if it was a personal song. It’s about being in a place when you feel like you’re in complete darkness and that one person will be your torch, I was writing it and I was crying my eyes out. I listened back to it and it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever written. There are hype songs too but it’s about finding that balance, difference people connect to difference things. “
Amplify has just arrived back from Sweden after working with ISHI and Eric Turner (producer and writer of Tinie Tempah’s Written In The Stars) after a week of recording, she explains that is all about finding the balance between real grit and music that will speak to a large audience.
Production and concepts are of course a difficult compromise for artists coming from the underground creating an album with a major labels influence who ultimately have the final say.
“It’s very important for me to work with producers that I want to work with, rather than a load of pop producers .The label they teach me a side that I don’t know about and I teach them where I come from.”
One of my most burning questions for artist navigating the middle ground between mixtapes and releasing their first album is, how they transition their audience into purchasing music and creating a real financial supportive fan base. This is an area where so many artist create a glass ceiling for themselves and their audience. Amplify seems to have navigated that middle ground correctly so far, resulting in a Top Ten Hip-Hop/Rap EP in itunes. Her analogy on making mixtapes work for her career long-term involved a shopping center and some pretzels. But it actually made perfect sense.
“Music is like when you go to Westfeilds and they give you those free pretzels, you get that little free taste then you realise it’s something you’d spend your money on. If they are constantly standing there giving free pretzels, I’m just gonna walk past four times and I’ve just got myself a whole free pretzel.
That was actually the worst analogy ever. You have to moderate what you’re giving away, it needs to lead to something. I hope that I’ve gotten the balance right, I haven’t been consistently been putting out free music. I think it devalues the scene.”
Two of the most creative songs on the Spare Parts mixtape are ‘Don’t go Cold’ and experimental track ‘Mars’ that features Amplify both singing and rapping. ‘Mars’ was recently featured in PRS magazine.
“My A&R called me the other day and said we shouldn’t have put Mars on the mixtape because people are coming back saying it’s sick so maybe we should have held it back for the album. I love that people liked it because that’s is one of the direction’s I want to go in, that song was an experiment for me and it paid off because it stands out.
I was then quizzed on the concept of my favorite song of the mixtape ‘Don’t Go Cold’. Of course I linked the song to a relationship ending and feeling alone even when you’re together.
“You don’t even notice I’m there
You don’t even notice my hair
I don’t even know you care
So why the fuck am I here
I feel like I’m taking to myself
Because you don’t speak back when I’m pouring all my feelings out
It feels like we’re fallin’ from a ledge
And your not going stick around, it’s probably time I realise’
When I wrote ‘Don’t Go Cold’, I thought I’m gonna make a song that sound like its about one thing but people who really listen to it will realise its about something else. People that hear it will think it’s about a relationship breaking up but people that really listen to it will realise a deeper meaning. ‘Don’t Go Cold’ is about watching someone die, but I wanted it to sound like it could be breaking up with somebody. I love music that has layers and requires you to go into a deeper place. At the end of the song you will hear the flat line of a heart rate monitor. (Laughs) I can get deep you know.