Big in Japan
Hate if you want, but Amotion, the petite white girl from Boston, is putting B’More rap on the map—across the Pacific
“I hear things,” the 23-year-old, baby-faced Boston native says nonchalantly, her 5-footish frame swimming in an oversized football jersey. “People don’t say it to my face, but I hear through the grapevine that people are talking about me.”
The problem: She’s white. And female. And you’d be lying if you said that seeing her fronting Deep Flow didn’t make you feel some kinda way. When the tight-bodied brunette delivers her rhymes, winding from ghetto ridiculous to thoughtful introspection, backed by a stage full of black guys in jerseys and hoodies, you’re thinking, OK, now I’ve seen everything: Christina Aguilera fronting the Wu-Tang Clan.
Before Eminem kicked down the door, a credible white MC was a mythical thing—he was at best a contrived commercial cash cow (Vanilla Ice) and at worst, well, Vanilla Ice—but it’s been years since hip-hop was merely a regional form of expression. And while doubts persist about any rapper until skills are proven, white rappers and female rappers raise the most eyebrows. Far too often, female hip-hoppers “making it” means getting signed by a label, being on the tube for a hot minute, and dissolving into obscurity faster than you can say “my neck, my back.”
So here’s this white girl, Amotion—the first letter of her real name, Amanda (she declined to disclose her last name), and her emotional nature—who, at first glance, is being dismissed before she even opens her mouth. People’s assumptions are “a problem, but [they’re] a problem in reality, not just hip-hop,” she says. “It’s in life. Some people are gonna be ignorant and figure it out for themselves and some people are not. [But] I have to do this. There were times when I felt like I wasn’t cut out for this, especially when I started managing other artists and groups. But I can’t work a 9 to 5. I’m a free spirit, [and] I have to have my own company and do my own thing.”
It’s Amotion’s role as a businesswoman that makes her more than just a marketable dreamer with a pretty face. She started Deep Flow Studios in late 2000, and since then has trained people in recording and working with other artists and hired employees, growing slowly and organically as the work came.
“I think it is important to understand [that] Deep Flow is an entrepreneurship,” she says of her Glen Burnie-based business. “[It’s] where the most money comes from right now, selling studio time and video production. But the label is where I expect most of the money to come from later.”
Getting there is gonna take some time. And Amotion has already overcome some obstacles to get where she is right now. Check the résumé, because, as cliché as it is, Amotion graduated from the standard Knuckle Head University to back her every rhyme: Juvie.
In December 1998, her parents, fed up with her shit, gave the 17-year-old Amotion a choice. Either she could enter a western Massachusetts private juvenile correctional facility, or they would tell her parole officer that she had violated her probation and she could go to a state facility.
She voluntarily chose the private, lesser hell. “There was a lot leading up to [that],” she says. “I had gotten kicked out of high school, I was a running away a lot, I was selling drugs at an early age, fighting. [My parents feared] I was homicidal and bipolar. That’s when they put me in a juvie correction [and] therapy facility.”
She entered the 18-month program and soon grabbed a pen and pad out of sheer boredom. “They took all our music from us,” Amotion says. “They had, like, one room with a radio and they was like, ‘No hip-hop.’ We’d have to listen to James Taylor and stuff like that. I was missing hip-hop, so I wrote poetry and I realized I could rap a lot of these poems.”
While there she earned a high-school equivalency diploma, and seven months into her stay, after she turned 18, she left and moved to Annapolis with her mom in the fall of 1999. “I don’t like talking too much about all that because I don’t want to embarrass my parents anymore,” Amotion says. “It was a this really big, complicated thing.”
She learned her lesson, though, and made a promise to herself: never let the streets get the best of her again. “I had to cut a lotta people off,” she says of her move to Maryland. “I have too much to lose now. Before, when I was getting in trouble all the time, I didn’t have anything to lose. I feel like now if I fell back into my old ways it would be a smack in the face to God because he’s given me so much.”
Freshly motivated and in a new place, Amotion attended Anne Arundel Community College and parlayed an affinity for filmmaking—she had played around with camcorders since her father bought one when she was 8—into a four-month course certificate from the Connecticut School of Broadcast in Arlington, Va. Film/video “was a hobby, and I was actually an on-air personality for a local news show in Boston,” she says. “I wrote my own stories and did the video work, so I didn’t really learn that much [at Connecticut School of Broadcasting], but now that I had the certificate people took me more seriously.”
DJing at clubs in Odenton led to paying gigs at house parties; Amotion stacked that dough to buy studio equipment. As the equipment evolved, and with the income from her manager gig at an urban wear store, in early 2001 she began selling studio time.
“I just started meeting as many people as I could, putting myself in as many scenes as possible,” she says. “[I] started meeting hot artists and would just be like, ‘Let’s work together.’ And as my equipment got better, I met a lot more people. The people who were really down for it stuck around.”
And she worked her ass off. This past January she started hosting Elements TV on local-access cable channel 5. Occasionally, as with her club-inspired “Max It Out,” she has produced a track, shot the video, edited the video, and then played it on the show.
“I like to cut out as many middlemen as possible,” Amotion explains. “I don’t want to wait for something to get done when I can do it myself.”
Last November, she appeared on She Flipped It: Vol. 2, an all-female mix tape hosted by Rane from Washington’s WPGC Jamz (95.5 FM) and Internet radio show host Cha Ross-Estes from Why? Entertainment. Amotion went on to record a promo for the station’s “Home Jams” segment. And that relationship led to her biggest exposure—in Japan.
Indie Internet radio station Urscene.com happens to be popular in Japan, and when listeners hear a song they like, they can push a button that lets the station know they like it. The Landover-based station uses these responses to shape its playlist.
And Japanese listeners were digging Deep Flow—so much so that the group was soon in steady rotation, and listeners nominated Deep Flow joints for Urscene Radio Indie Awards for 2004—specifically Best Album (its debut, Multiple Personalities), Best Club Song (“Max It Out”), Best Hip-Hop Overall Artist, and Most Meaningful Song (“So Young”)—and earned the group a spot on the station-sponsored 17-city U.S. tour this November.
And Amotion is branching out even more. Deep Flow recently teamed up with the local hip-hop trio Feeloadas to form Coalition Records, and the label’s debut, the compilation Modern Art, drops this summer. She hopes to move herself and her studio to New York this October and keep the marketing and management side of Deep Flow down here. And from beatmaking to producing to songwriting to booking, she juggles a little of everything with at least 15 different artists at a time.
It’s a huge leap for someone who just a little more than three years ago was spinning at the Sports Zone in Fort Meade, and if she’s in over her head it’s hard to tell. “I need distribution and marketing on a national level,” Amotion says, as if she were saying that she needs eggs from the market. “I’m trying to get a deal like Russell [Simmons] gave to Roc-a-Fella Records.”
So the gossips and haters can say all they want about the young white-girl rapper. She’s not taking the bait to bite back. Amotion chooses instead to let the music do her talking, and people are listening. And if you don’t like her sound, she doesn’t care. She’s blindered by her business, and anyone not feeling it barely registers on her radar. “If you listen to my music, believe it,” she says. “If you don’t wanna listen, whatever. Do what you do.”
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