Release Date: Aug 4, 2009
Record label: Downtown
I’ve been waiting for this album for two and a half years, give or take, ever since I heard Aaron LaCrate’s Bmore Gutter Music mix for the (assumedly) defunct Science Faction mix series. That excellent disc was my first exposure to the Baltimore-based “gutter” sound, loosely affiliated with the Hollertronix crew, which itself exists under Diplo’s auspices. LaCrate is based in the Murder City while Diplo hails from Philly—only about two hours between them, an axis of mad crunk club musicians dominating the mid-Atlantic region.
Leading up to the release of her major-label debut, there was little doubt that Amanda Blank was her own woman. A torrid rapper and inventive lyricist, she lit up the Baltimore club scene during 2005-2006, and her closing verse on Spank Rock's "Bump" provided a highlight to one of the best albums of 2006, YoYoYoYoYo. With so much talent on display already, the only concern leading up to the release of I Love You was whether her jump from featured artist to top billing could avoid the usual wide-distribution pitfalls.
There's been a lot of advance hype around Amanda Blank's debut album thanks to her collaborations with Spank Rock, M.I.A., Santigold, Aaron LaCrate and others. The Philly hipster rapper is known for her filthy sex raps, and fans of her potty mouth won't be disappointed with the sleaze quotient here. Some might be surprised that she undertakes so much singing, which unfortunately isn't her strength.
Comparing Amanda Blank to M.I.A. and Santigold is as obvious as it is incorrect. Sure, Switch and Diplo produced the bulk of Blank’s debut album, I Love You, and she has been known to pal around with Santi and Maya. But Blank shares a more obvious, not to mention more fitting, comparison to Spank Rock, the ribald Philadelphia rappers who gave Blank guest spots on their mixtapes a few years ago.
Ever since Diplo and his larger Hollertronix collective started bringing fairly unvarnished versions of popular urban genres like crunk, Bmore club, and Miami bass to the discerning hipster elite, there's seemingly always been a steady undercurrent of backlash directed at the crew either on the grounds of lazy cultural appropriation or cynically ironic repackaging. To his credit, Diplo's always seemed like a genuine, serious student of his favorite sounds, and the tunes have been almost uniformly hot, so it was easy to accept not only an icon-in-her-own-right like M.I.A. but also a savvy chameleon like Santigold and even, to a degree, expertly crass party-starters like Spank Rock.
T he Philly MC's party rap is raunchier than an Ann Summers soiree. Still, amid the sighs and groans, she hits the pop G-spot with her savvy hooks and superlative rhyming. Spank Rock et al pop up, too..