Not content to let their pop passions go unloved by the masses, Loser City staff have banded together to provide Pop Rehabilitation to the works that have been unjustly maligned and forgotten. This month, Nick Hanover wonders whatever happened to Amanda Blank, and why her shouldabeen breakout album I Love You didn’t click with audiences but now fans are buying Iggy Azalea’s watered down pap by the boatload.
The war between professional irritants Iggy Azalea and Azealia Banks really only interests me in that it provides a reason to revisit Amanda Blank. As Iggy continues to assert inexplicable chart dominance, matching records by the likes of the Beatles, it’s easy to understand the ire aimed her way, and my love for Amanda Blank’s album I Love You should by no means be seen as a dismissal of complaints about white intrusion on hip hop. But seriously, I think we could have avoided this whole fiasco if everyone had come around to Blank sooner.
Blank first really caught traction with her appearance on Spank Rock’s “Bump,” a standout from his still unmatched Yoyoyoyoyo that had Blank matching wits and libidos as well as mic prowess with the then white hot rapper. A sleek, finely tuned track that gets major mileage out of its repetitiveness, “Bump” seemed to indicate Blank was on her way to being a major threat, the kind of woman rapper who could come on as both nasty and sweet and flexible long before anyone knew who the fuck Nicki Minaj was. It immediately landed her a deal with Downtown Records in 2007 and she spent the next couple years acquiring collaborators for her first solo album, including Spank Rock producer XXXchange (the mastermind behind “Bump”), Diplo, TV On the Radio’s Dave Sitek and vocalists like Santigold and Lykke Li. When it was unveiled in 2009, though, all that hype and a critical need for a new, poppier MIA seemed to doom the album, leading to it falling out of rotation before it could crack the Billboard 100 despite Downtown’s attempt to boost its commercial impact with a questionable pairing of the saucy, raunchy Blank with McDonald’s.
Five years ago, there were ample thinkpieces predicting MIA had sparked a complete overhaul of the hip hop world and we would soon be seeing an armada of intelligent young women who weren’t afraid to speak their minds. So it won’t come as too much of a shock that tastemakers like Pitchfork slammed the album and most mainstream outlets just shrugged their shoulders, mostly complaining about the failure of the album to live up to some lofty expectations rather than any actual deficit. That isn’t to say the album doesn’t have its flaws– that McDonald’s appearing track “Make It, Take It” sounds like Santigold-lite, and “DJ” can’t really make its mind up about whether it’s a house anthem or not– but listening to it today, it seems obvious it would stand out far more in today’s pack.
Not long after “Make-Up,” Blank offers up “Lemme Get Some,” a more traditional hip hop production that today actually might have been sold to Iggy Azalea. But Blank tackles it like Azealia Banks, immediately starting at full nastiness, hissing at the listener and demanding “lemme get some” rather than letting some pop starlet to steal the spotlight with a hook. And then further on, Blank proves she doesn’t need an education in hip hop history by merging LL Cool J’s “I Need Love” and K-Otix’s “Love Song” with Santigold’s “I’m a Lady,” the sonic stew ultimately sounding both current and fully vintage.
That trifold collaboration (which notably debuted on a Santigold & Diplo mixtape) also provided a glimpse at what Amanda Blank’s post-I Love You future would be like, as in the year since her output has mostly been restricted to appearances alongside other artists. Even at the time of I Love You that was standard for Blank, as she provided features on Major Lazer’s mixtapes as well as French electrohouse producer Yuksek’s debut album. But last year, Blank reappeared in a big way, guesting once again with Spank Rock on the Kid Kamillion and Boys Noize-produced sissy bounce tribute “Assassin.” Where its predecessor “Bump” had Spank Rock and Blank positioned as equals, there’s an insatiable hunger on Blank’s verse in “Assassin” that allows her to not only completely wipe the floor with her collaborator, but also hint that her years away from the spotlight have been spent not licking critical wounds but zeroing on every remark by her detractors and removing every weakness in her artistry. The track has been oddly slept on, but take a glimpse at Blank’s ferocious contribution, a headspinningly fast onslaught that puts her far enough away from Iggy Azalea that she ends up closer to the dissociative mayhem of Nicki Minaj:
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Loser City as well as Ovrld, where he contributes music reviews and writes a column on undiscovered Austin bands. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover