you were part of Amanda Blank's crew in high-school, you probably weren't twiddling your thumbs in study hall. "I was totally uninterested in school, I didn't want to go to high school parties, I completely bailed out," Blank tells me over the phone, while she finishes up touring with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. In fact, most of her stories start with "I was cutting school to go hang out with Ryan Kattner (frontman of Man Man)," or "My older sister DJ'ed, so she would sneak me into clubs and shows before she even had a fake ID." You get the idea. "I went through a lot of the growing pains that angsty teens go through," she says. "I just didn't give a fuck."
Blank may have come out with her long-awaited debut album, I Love You (Downtown Records), just a couple of weeks ago, but the Philly rapper has been romping around the city's club scene and spitting brazen lyrics since before many people her age went through puberty. With good friend Naeem Juwan from Spank Rock's encouragement, she went from working an assortment of day jobs (Blank once worked at Urban Outfitters, of which she said "I don't know how I didn't get fired") to building a career off of writing rhymes. Before I Love You came out earlier this month, her raunchy verses could be heard on many of Spank Rock's records, and she had collaborated with the likes of Ghost Face Killah, Santogold, Diplo and M.I.A.
Blank is also learning how to hold her own and get taken seriously as a sexual, in-your-face, skinny, hipster, girl rapper. "The whole music industry is like a major boy's club. That's why I kind of stick to hanging out with a lot of girls and gay boys. There's a certain sense of camaraderie, a genuine feeling of wanting our girls to be successful," she says. "We could either fight each other, or we could be like the sickest group of girls that no one can fuck with."
Blank looks up to MCs like Missy, MC Lyte, Foxy Brown, and Lil' Kim for their lyrical styles, but holds a high esteem for Peaches and her lewd stage antics and unorthodox career trajectory. "Peaches had a big influence on my sense of womanhood, and performing it," she says. "The first time I saw her live, she blew my fucking eyeballs out. I was like damn! I want to be that."
While Blank has always had an instinct for debauchery, she also isn't embarrassed to cop to a love for hardcore pop. She cracks up telling me about the time she and her best friend scored free tickets to Britney Spears' 2001 tour. "We were walking to the venue and we both realized we could totally scalp these tickets and spend the money on clothes and booze and drugs for the night," she recalls. "But then we both looked at
each other and were like "Nah, we need to see Britney!" And we totally sang and danced like dorks. But I mean, it's Britney, BRITNEY!" She even recorded a remix of Britney's hit "Gimme More."
Before she was let loose on the electro-rap scene, Blank was busy garnering a rep as the baddest chick in the third string of her middle school orchestra. Raised in a family of classical musicians, Blank grew up playing piano, guitar, and she says. "I used to go to my recitals and curse." When I ask her if she would ever consider showcasing her flute skills on a record, she responds "No! Oh my god no!," but her debut album is decidedly her most instrumental and melodic work. Though the album features XXXchange, Diplo, Chuck Inglish, and Spank Rock in bass-heavy bangers like "Something Bigger, Something Better," and "Lemme Get Some," it also shows versatility; TV on the Radio's David Sitek produced some tracks and Blank showcases her first melodic writing and singing efforts in "Leaving You Behind," which features LykKe Li. "I'll always make club tracks, I'll always make mixtapes, but I needed to do something different," she says. "It was pretty natural for me."