Amanda Diva: Do You!

Amanda Diva’s been around long enough to debunk Andy Warhol’s famed 15-minute theory. But the singer/rapper/jill-of-all trades has endured several years in the music industry with jobs ranging from spoken word poet (Def Poetry Jam) to journalist to radio music host and even representing Hip-Hop as a talking head on VH1’s humorous series “Best Week […]

Amanda Diva’s been around long enough to debunk Andy Warhol’s famed 15-minute theory. But the singer/rapper/jill-of-all trades has endured several years in the music industry with jobs ranging from spoken word poet (Def Poetry Jam) to journalist to radio music host and even representing Hip-Hop as a talking head on VH1’s humorous series “Best Week Ever.”

Over the last few years, Diva, a native of Orlando, Florida, has quietly added another skill to her resume—emcee. She has released acclaimed mixtapes like It’s Bigger Than Hip-hop, The Mixtape: Vol. 1 (2004) and Still Sucka Free Vol. 1 (2007). Furthermore, the entertainer Amanda Diva has delivered her skills on stage and studio with the likes of Q-Tip, Questlove, Chamillionaire, Kwame’, DJ Green Lantern, and Marsha Ambrosius of Floetry. The Floetry Remixed Tour produced some weird results when Diva joined Ambrosius for 20 dates. Some fans were looking for the group’s other half Natalie and got a young, fresh Hip-Hop chick. Butt according to the 26-year-old, the newly christened group may never happen.

Taking a journey in all directions, a thoughtful Amanda Diva discusses the controversy that was Floetry Remixed, the lesbians that she attracted on tour and how she intends to win fans over by telling her Life Experience with three EP’s (the first installment can be bought on

).  She is doing it her way…barring nothing. Who are you? I mean, some people know you as a poet. Some people know you as a TV talking head. Some see you as an MC.

Amanda Diva: I am all of those things. I consider myself a jack-of-all-trades. At the end of the day, the music is my passion. I enjoy, and I respect and I put the most into what I do, be it poetry or hosting [events] or on the radio, etc. But everybody knows that when it comes to Amanda, I am this music head to a tea. For me, making the music is what defines me most. We just did a list of the top actors-turned-rappers. I could be wrong, but I think you fall in that category, right?

Amanda Diva: I guess in a sense. That’s what I was doing originally. I went to the Dr. Phillips Performing High School in Florida. I started out on Nickelodeon. To my amazement, people still recognize me from the show “My Brother & Me,” which was on back in the 90’s. I came to [college] as an acting major. I left the acting conservatory at SUNY Purchase after my first year there and I ended up creating my own major in Black Studies and that’s how I got into poetry, which in turn got me into rap. Wow, so you’re educated, a trait not always associated with rappers.

Amanda Diva: [Laughs] Yes, I have a Master’s Degree as well from Columbia University. It’s the most expensive piece of paper I own. How hard was it to make the transition from slam poetry to Hip-Hop, because there is a serious difference in terms of delivery, performance and even content.

Amanda Diva: It was really hard, man. I couldn’t rhyme on beat for dumb long simply because I was so used to defining my own rhythm. And then there is a certain style of delivery that comes with doing poetry and it’s hard to completely leave that behind when that’s how you found your voice in rhyming. Its definitely been a journey in finding my voice in the mic as an emcee. You have been closely affiliated with certain rap collectives like DJ Drama’s Aphilliates, The Roots and even Duck Down out of Brooklyn. Are you down with any of them now or have you broken off?

Amanda Diva: I’m still affiliated with The Aphilliates. Drama and them are my homies. As for Duck Down and The Roots, I’m real tight with Questlove – that’s my dog. Dru Ha and Buckshot [of Duck Down] are my boys too. But it’s funny. Through the history of Hip-Hop, any chick that’s worth something, she always has to be co-signed by some dude. And it seems very important for me to establish myself by myself. And of course you want folks to co-sign in the sense of, “Yeah, she’s dope,” but you don’t want it to look like they brought you up. Even Lil’ Kim to this day is like “I was doing my thing and Biggie just helped me out, but he didn’t create me.” Whenever you come out of a group of dudes, that’s how it looks. It’s very important for me to establish myself as Amanda Diva. How do you describe your style? The audience is getting more and more fickle about what they purchase.

Amanda Diva: I describe my style as a little bit of Lauryn [Hill], a little bit of Kim with a B-girl twist. The way I look at it is I’m your regular chick. I’m not from the hood, but I’m not rich. I’ve had ups and downs like everybody else. As for the marketing aspect of it – it might sound real corny – but if its good music it will get heard. With being a female MC, it almost seems like it’s a 100% boy’s club and women are shut out unless you are a video vixen.

Amanda Diva: It definitely is difficult, but the thing is I’m not just a rapper. One thing Shawnna [formerly of DTP] had told me, before I even decided I was going to pursue this music thing…I was talking to Shawnna and she was telling me, “Amanda, you should be doing this, because you love the music so much.” I was like, “Nah, because I don’t want to get caught up in the bulls**t.” She was like, “Listen, it’s different for you, because you’re not just a rapper over beats. You’re an actual artist – you sing, you know arrangements.” I don’t feel like the only tool I have is to rhyme over beats. My stage show is crazy, I sing and…I’m pretty smart. Lets talk about smart. That whole Floetry Remixed thing with Marsha Ambrosius …it seemed like a good idea, but it appeared to get funny with the fanbase. They seemed confused.

Amanda Diva: As they should have been. Floetry was brought to me like, “Natalie has left the group. We want to replace her. We want to keep the brand going and we want to do it with you.” In that respect, I said, “Let’s do it.” The way I understood things though, we are going to go on this tour and we’re going to put the word out that Floetry has changed, Natalie has left the group and there is a new look. But Marsha’s management didn’t want to do that. They didn’t want to tell folks up front that Floetry had changed. I think they felt that folks would be shocked and wouldn’t support.

What it did was put me in an awkward situation, because people are automatically looking for someone to blame for coming to a show not seeing Natalie [and] they blamed me. I didn’t kick Natalie out the group. I didn’t book the shows. I just showed up to do what I do. At the end of each show, those fans that came and were shocked [left] pleased.

About six shows in, Wendy Williams had been talking about it a lot on the radio. And I just want to thank Wendy for giving it so much exposure and for not throwing me under the bus. It exposed people to it and it made my life easier, because people were coming to the shows and saying, “Lets see what this is about.” Are you still down with the Floetry project?

Amanda Diva: [pauses] You know…I don’t know. I haven’t talked to Marsh in a while, but I also haven’t

been told, “No, things are not what they are.” Me being the person that

I am, I’m not going to sit and wait for folks to determine my career.

When we came home, I understood we would be in the studio recording the

album, but then it just kinda didn’t happen. So, I said, let me make it

happen and keep my productivity up and here we are with Life Experience, my EP. Don’t try to segue into Life Experience…you know we’re not done.

Amanda Diva: [Laughs] That was a nice lil’ segue, son! Seriously, you and Marsha didn’t bond on the road on a personal level? You did like 20 dates.

Amanda Diva: When we got on the road, I think this [Floetry Remixed] situation was thrown into Marsha’s lap…and…she wasn’t really committed to it, for whatever reason. There was a time, for a minute there when there was a wall…a wall. I think she wanted to make it work, but with the opposition of the people…you know it’s hard to get on stage and just have people like, “Get that skinny b*tch off the stage.” To give her the benefit of the doubt, I think that was very jarring for her and I think she was concerned that she was losing her base. Once we got to Atlanta it was like “We’re in this for the long haul.”

Then, Natalie went on Wendy Williams [radio show] and was talking a lot of crap like she was coming back to the tour, which made me like, “What’s going on?” So we had this big discussion and everything got out in the open like, “OK, we’re gonna make this work.” From that point on, that’s what it was.

[From them on] we burn it down and the shows were phenomenal and I felt like..we made it. It is surprising to me that I haven’t heard from Marsha for like since a week after the tour, because I feel like we had been through some sh*t together. I’m not going to harp on this Floetry stuff, but I have have to ask did you have a lot of lesbians coming at you since they are a strong part of Floetry’s fanbase?

Amanda Diva: [Laughs] OK, let me change that. How many came at you?

Amanda Diva: More than any in my life prior to [the tour]. And will Marsha ever drop on Aftermath? She is a great singer and we’re waiting.

Amanda Diva: It’s like, we did some records that she did with Dre on the show, but, in my opinion, whether you are good or not isn’t anything when you are on Aftermath. Look at Stat Quo. It’s not anything against [Dr.] Dre, but he has his timetable of when he puts artists out. Marsha is an incredible singer. I learned so much just being in the presence of her talent. You opted to do an EP, why not an album?

Amanda Diva: It takes a certain amount of money to make an album; money wise, marketing wise and there’s a certain level of exposure and demand for the album to do what it should. I just don’t feel I am there yet. And mixtapes are so disposable, they’re not what they used to be. So I’ve been seeing people put out EP’s a lot over the past couple of years. And I wanted to do an event…I wanted to build…you know, set myself up for the next 12 months. I wanted do a trilogy. So I came up with this thing called the Experience Trilogy. Folks are just becoming abreast with me [as an artist.] The first one is called Life Experience. Second is Love Experience and last will be Live Experience, which will be a live recording. Anyway final words?

Amanda Diva: There is this stigma that if you aren’t signed to a major label that you don’t matter. I’m really thankful for the Internet and the digital medium. I’m also thankful for the open-mindedness of the fans, because they are the ones making that change. Lest we forget, Jay-Z started independent, 50 started independent and look at where they are now.

See Amanda Diva’s new video “SupaWoman” below.