“Pain is such a strange thing but we need it. Without it, there’s no growth.”
Twenty-one year old artist IAMDDB is sitting on a rooftop in London, ruminating over the steps she’s taken in the past couple years to become one of the UK’s most exciting young prospects. Some could say it’s the universe calling; others might see the process as one of undeniable strength. For her, it’s somewhere between the two, a strong self-awakening into her true destiny.
Though she’s riding on a crest of attention, the result of previous releases ‘Waeveybby Volume 1’ and ‘Vibe, Volume 2’ – plus an infamous Colours session to boot – it’s this new Hoodrich EP and the journey leading to this point that solidifies IAMDDB as one of this generation’s most self-aware artists. By soul-searching, feeding the result back into her music, she’s an undeniable artist – one naturally balanced between the yin and yang of the intrinsic human experience.
As she says though, there’s been some growing pains. “I was a dark place after college, I’d come out of a toxic relationship, I didn’t know what to do.” The answer? Heading home to her motherland, Angola, where her father was currently based. It’s here that she first started to dabble with music, performing with jazz bands – eventually playing for the President’s daughter – and finding the way into her craft. ‘You have rappers, producers – and then you have musicians,” she says of this experience and how it shaped her sound, which she describes as “urban jazz”.
Still, something wasn’t right. Africa changed IAMDDB’s perception of life, brought light into her past, but she missed home. When she returned to the UK prematurely, things went south once again as her and the partner she had been living with broke up. Staying rent-free in a friend’s house for three months, IAMDDB began picking herself up – applying for university while also bringing the skills she’d learned while away to her producer friend’s tables, carving out her sound.
On the first day of university she reached a turning point. She could continue education for a year; or she could drop out and pursue the beginnings of her career, with that first university lecture coincidentally being on the same day she released one of her biggest singles, “Leaned Out”. “I went to university for an hour, thought the lecture was sick – I’m going to apply it to life – but I’m leaving today,” she says proudly, aware of how that bold decision came to shape her future.
But what about money? “That’s the stage I started jumping from job to job – Selfridges, River Island, every retail place you can imagine I’ve been there and been fired,” she explains. “I didn’t know how I was going to eat, pay rent, get to work. Some hours I would wake up two hours early so I could get to my job. I didn’t know what the universe was trying to teach me, it was fucked up.”
Slowly though, the wheels she’d set in motion became locked on a pathway toward success. She started getting booked for shows in Manchester and London. Then agents came calling, A&Rs, necessary tools for pushing forward. Eventually everything was set: IAMDDB had arrived. That’s how she finds herself today, sitting on a hotel rooftop, discussing her past so she can move into her future.
‘Hoodrich’ is rooted in this story, its seven tracks based on what IAMDDB describes as “a phase of life, of making everything possible out of nothing.” Lead single “Shade” is equal parts a turn-up anthem as it is soul food, coated with IAMDDB’s natural talent for harmony and need to send a message. “I had enough of guys calling women bitches,” she says about its chorus (“I get bitches too, Uber Uber everywhere”). “I was like: cool, if that’s what you want to hear and say, I’ll do my version too.”
Similar messages of self-empowerment and ownership sit at the bedrock of ‘Hoodrich’, which is about “a female who has had enough, but told from a male perspective”. That perspective leads into the EP’s direct and blunt sound, unconsciously injecting consciousness into the listener. “Even when I’m saying ‘I take my bitch everywhere’, that’s a concept of loyalty. To ride or die with your people,” she says. It’s an EP that deserves to be peeled apart, deconstructed into each of the elements that make up the experience, all of which lead into a deeper, reflective meaning.
Initially kicking off with a sound that leans more toward trap, the closing two tracks on the record give a sense of the urban jazz sound IAMDDB is talking about. She explains: “Sometimes you have to throw yourself into the deep end of what’s different, then bring people back into what you want to do”. It’s a statement that brings awareness to the vision IAMDDB has for her career, of how she’s always thinking two steps ahead – something she’s been doing since returning to the UK a few years ago.
“This time last year I was flat broke,” she says. “But each and every one of us has that little glimpse of hope and as long as you have that, you’re alright – you just have to keep pushing through the bullshit”. If there’s one closing message to everything, one grand takeaway, perhaps it’s best said with a line from the track ‘Running’ – “Didn’t like me then now they’re trying to know me / I stay on job until they can’t ignore me”.