Amanda Diva Amanda pretty much does it all. From being a host on MTV2, her own show on Sirius Satellite, her multiple appearances on a variety of poetry shows, to her latest mixtape which brings a strong variety of various elements of hip-hop, Amanda lets us know about taking the hip-hop game to the next level.
Interview by Rob Schwartz
WHO?MAG: Who is Amanda Diva? AMANDA DIVA: In my eyes, would say I’m three things. I am black. I am a woman. I am hip-hop. That’s my foundation. Everything else is really just enhancement.
WHO?MAG: How did you first get into writing lyrics? AMANDA DIVA: On the real, I was ushering a play at my college, SUNY Purchase, and I ran into a friend of mine who was known as one of the MC’s on campus. He turned to me just randomly and asked me if I ever thought about writing rhymes. I told him “Nah”. He was like “You should really do it. You have a dope voice. I was like “Okay” and from there I started writing. I usually write my rhymes pretending that I’m the fourth member of the Fugees, so I have words to “Ready or Not”, “Fu-Gee-La-La”, and all that. So if they ever need a fourth member, I’m ready! I’m here. I started out just writing rhymes but I could never really fit in the pocket. But then I really didn’t know about spoken word poetry. I knew about poetry on a page, but I really didn’t know about spoken word poetry until a friend of mine did a performance on campus. I said “Wait a minute, that’s not a monologue, but that’s not a rhyme either or rap verse.” He was like, “Nah, that’s a poem.” Then I told him to show me more and that’s when I realized “That’s what I’m writing!” I really didn’t consciously know that I was writing in that style until I heard it from campus and it kind of blew up from there.
WHO?MAG: What impact do you feel that satellite radio is bringing to hip-hop? AMANDA DIVA: Oh my god! People know about payola and how money has a huge factor for music getting played. I think people really don’t know the full extent for what that exists. What I can say from working at Sirius is that the only requirement for a record to get played is that it has to be hot! And that’s real because it’s not like that anywhere else. First, with advertising dollars, that puts on a whole other swing on what you’re playing on the radio. Second, you don’t have the money from labels throws another swing on that. But at Sirius on Hip Hop Nation, it’s just about the best hip-hop that we can bring to the nation as a whole. Instead of one specific market, you have to make it good for the Bay, Houston, Detroit, and Canada, and that creates a challenge, but when you are on and you’re bringing people good music, and you don’t have the limitations that the regular radio and the FCC, you can really create room for something great. Also, the fact that I can say whatever the fuck I want is different from regular radio and also creates a whole new set of rules and a greater forum for the artist to get their point across.
WHO?MAG: How did you get your position on MTV2? AMANDA DIVA: I was performing at a show at the Nuyorican Café and was introduced to the host of the show. I approached him like “Yo, you’re the host on MTV and I need to be on MTV. We need to stay in touch”. At that point, we did literally keep in touch for the next two years. I went to a Kanye West concert that I had actually went through a lot of bullshit to get into the concert, but it all paid off because I ran into him at the concert and was like “Yo, what up? I haven’t spoken to you in a minute” and he was like “oh my god! They are casting for MTV2 at this very minute. Let me see if I can get you an interview” and two weeks later I had the job.
WHO?MAG: Can you tell us about your mixtape “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop Vol. #1” and what it means to you? AMANDA DIVA: It was really an experiment because I really love poetry and I really love music so it was like “how can I melt these two words together”. How can I help push the envelope to bring hip-hop to something new and take it into another direction. I’m really all about change and I also want to bring something new to the table. I feel that I have that and this is my first real attempt to take at trying to try to take that as a thought in my head and express it in a much more cohesive way. To me this is really just a platform for me to jump off of. I am at a point in my life where I am not really looking at things as training, but as things I need to apply training up to this point. I look at it as I have to do it and not try to do it. That mixtape was a huge part of that training. It helped with the recording, writing, vocals, and I really enjoy making music. I feel that I really have a special ear for music and working on my own stuff helps really for my own growth in being able to work with other people and on a different level. It helps me to bring other good music to the table.
WHO?MAG: If you could change one particular thing about the entertainment industry, what would that be? AMANDA DIVA: Fakeness. I’m a real muthafucker. If I don’t like you, I don’t like you. I’m not going to smile in your face or pretend that I like you. My degrees of like vary, but this shit is really about personal relationships and people are sensitive, and men having vaginas and people are so fake and phony and two-faced that you can’t really show your true feelings because they will want to use that against you later. It really makes it a challenge to be a good person, but then again I guess without a challenge, it’s not worth it. Keep it real! It’s such a cliché phrase, but it can work wonders when applied correctly.
WHO?MAG: What advice can you give an upcoming entertainer who lacks the formal education in the arts? AMANDA DIVA: This is America and everyone can go to college, point blank. There is always a way. It may take a little more investigating or a little longer to get to the exact point where you want to get. You may have to go through Community College or you may have to go through another major first, or you may have to take out loans which you may not want to take or you may really have to search out scholarships, but in America, anybody can go to college. If you really don’t believe me then my other option is to learn how to not be selfish with your creativity. What I mean by that is you get wrapped up in your own shit. You want to make my shit blow, I want to make this part work, but when you really learn is when you take in the work that others do. You really open yourself to be able to connect with other artists and how they express themselves. For me, sometimes that is a whole inspiration to my art. That way not only do you learn more about yourself, but you learn about learning about other techniques and how to improve your craft. If you want to keep your art education growing, you need to be around artist in the same genre as you. Like if you’re a dancer, go to jazz dance classes or other art things because it all ends up intertwining and it’s really what you make it. The sky can be the limit
WHO?MAG: What do you feel was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in your career? AMANDA DIVA: Self doubt. Self doubt because I know I got it, but I don’t know if it’s because I’m a cancer or what! Sometimes I’m like “I don’t know if I got it!” It can really sell you out and it takes a lot of patients to work through that. It does take a certain level of belief in you and it ends up in a conflict. Like “I Believe in me, but why can’t I get this doubt thing out of my head? Why do I keep questioning my abilities?” When it comes down to it, the powers to do it really does lie in my hands so I guess the obstacle for me to not do it lies in my hands also.
WHO?MAG: What’s next in store for Amanda Diva? AMANDA DIVA: I’m hosting the VIBE Magazine Yardfest at Texas Southern University, North Carolina Central, Tuscany U, and Clark Atlanta. All of their homecomings. I am also part of a DJ crew called The Affiliates. I am really trying to take that name and make it even bigger. I am trying to step up my DJ skills and my songwriting. I hope to get in further to the game with those things. And I started working on a new mixtape. The “It’s Bigger Than Hip-hop Vol. #2 Filling the Void”. Those are things that are on my plate. I am also doing my college shows and I am available to do poetry always. That’s what’s important to me. No matter what the future holds for me, poetry will always be on the menu. I also am trying to help hip-hop go beyond just music.