By Janine Coveney
Amanda Diva is grabbing the spotlight. The multi-talented hip-hop innovator creates organic rhymes and soulful grooves that cut through the party anthemics and gangster posturing of rap. “I’m about representing for the individuals who are regular but have extraordinary abilities-- extraordinary thinkers, extraordinarily aware of going on, and extraordinary women, of whom there are millions,” says Amanda, who will release her EP Life Experience on iTunes December 18th.
With her 2007 Foreplay Mixtape and the upcoming Life Experience, Amanda Diva offers her unique perspective as a female MC. Tracks “Heart Of The City” and “Windows Over Harlem” are the performer’s love ballads to urban reality, while “Supa-Woman” tells her own story: “Woman with a plan, that’s me/ Southern-bred blood of the Caribbean Sea ... To be a dope MC devoted my time/ To writing and reciting rhymes/ But before I break the notebook’s spine I have to break the box and open up my mind.”
Her prowess on the mic also attracted top talent for Life Experience, which features collaborations with producers Green Lantern, James Poyser, DJ Spinna, E-40’s son Droop-E, and possible tracks with 9th Wonder. One longtime friend is former A Tribe Called Quest member Q-Tip, who invited Amanda to guest on his upcoming solo CD The Renaissance, out November 4th.
Born Amanda Seales to Grenadian parents in Los Angeles, Amanda was raised in Orlando, Florida, where she attended a performing arts high school (where membership in the school clique the Divas led to her moniker). “Theater has always been a part of me I always wanted to be an MC. but I could never rhyme on beat,” she says of her early career. Amanda intensified her media presence, writing for XXL and AllHipHop.com, hosting Sucker Free on MTV2 and her Breakfast at Diva’s on Sirius Satellite. She performed at poetry slams, appearing on two seasons of HB O’s Def Comedy Jam and releasing the poetry tapes It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop, The Mixtape: Vol. 1 in 2004 and Still Sucka Free Vol.1 in 2005.
It wasn’t until she was paired with a band at an early 2006 show at New York’s famed Nuyorican Poets Cafe that she realized she could match the rhyme to the rhythm. “I’m doing my poem and I realized I was on beat. Eureka!” she laughs. She and the musicians went into a Harlem studio and began recording, and she released the single “For The Love.” Subsequent demos and powerful live stage shows earned Amanda the lyricist role in Floetry after Natalie Stewart departed. Performing on the 12-city Floetry Remixed tour in 2007 was much-needed exposure, but a promised Floetry CD failed to materialize. “I was like, well, I’m not gonna let that buzz just die,” she explains. “I decided I was going to put a trilogy of EPs out.” After Life Experience bows in December, Love Experience and the live concert set Live Experience are planned.
Amanda Diva signed on with SESAC in 2002, while still performing as a spoken word artist. “It was an immediate ‘this is where I should be,’” Amanda recalls. “It was smaller than it is now, and it had a ‘you’re a name, not a number’ sensibility. It’s been a really great union having SESAC on my side, because every artist needs encouragement, especially from folks that they deem credible and legitimate in this business.”
Fans in New York can check out Amanda Diva’s monthly live show, Spectrum Funk at SOB’s. For more, go to myspace.com/amandadiva