Creative Director - Derrick Odafi
Producer - Diego Martinez Chacon
Photographer - Makeda Sandford
Stylist - Shanelle Russell
Paintings - Phil Panza
MUA - Marta Mariotti
MUA Assistant - Alex Pacheco
Hairstylist - Ngozi
Video - Chris Williams
Creative Production - New Wave Studios
New Wave: How are you? How’s life treating you? We haven't heard from you in a while… why’s that?
IAMDDB: Life’s treating me well! I recently decided to move to New York as I felt that I had to continue growing and expanding both as a musician, woman and spiritual being. I felt I had done everything I had to do in London. I came out to New York a few times and loved the energy here so I decided to move here for a few years. I’m the type of person that loves to grow and put myself in uncomfortable situations because that’s where I create the best work and become the best version of myself.
I’ve been through a lot in terms of the music industry as I was stuck in a really bad deal with my previous manager. I had to take a little break in order to restructure my business and vision for myself. The things I wanted in 2017 are definitely not the same things I want in 2023. I’ve spent the past three years building in an authentic way. For me, growth is about the internal, intimate experience with yourself. I wanted to present the world with a version of myself that’s aligned with who I truly am. I haven't dropped since 2019 so my fans have been cussing me out online like ‘Where’s this girl? Where’s the music?’ I think my listeners will really be able to appreciate the growth from 2016 until now, lyrically, spiritually and sonically. I’m just excited to present it! I’m ready now.
NW: How would you say the city of Manchester had an impact in your mentality as an artist and individual?
I: As an artist, I wasn’t known at all. I was just a broke student, inspired by the musical community that existed in Manchester. Back in 2015, everybody was so invested in one another. Even though no one was doing massive gigs, if anyone had a show we’d all pull up and support. We created a safe space for artists to explore their musicality. That environment really helped me to be fearless in expressing my individuality. At the time I didn’t know that I was good at what I did but I always knew that I loved music. Manchester also taught me to have no filter. We Mancunians will say it as it is and if you’re offended that’s your problem!
Shoes, SERGIO ROSSI
Nose Ring, ARTIST’S OWN.
IAMDDB Rediscovers Her Love For Art And Her Inner Strength.
Where has IAMDDB been? It’s the question that’s been on the lips of experimental R&B music enthusiasts' lips after years of projects which were, in hindsight, way ahead of their time. It’s been four years since the release of IAMDDB’s album Swervvvvv.5, which featured the iconic song ‘Urban Jazz’, a unique genre description that the artist has assigned to her music.
Exuding a calm wisdom during our chat, it is clear that the artist is at peace with herself on both an artistic and spiritual level, with the focus of her three year hiatus being to return and show up as a higher form of herself. Having had negative experiences with her previous label managers due to being ‘stuck in a really bad deal’, she felt her creative freedom was stifled. IAMDDB’s new project introduces listeners to her new era for the artist who is now releasing albums via her own label WAEV entertainment.
After making her mark on the music scene in 2016 with breakthrough single ‘Leaned Out’, the artist continued to release music that stands the test of time today, from the vibrant and playful ‘Bubble Tea’, to soulful trap sounds on ‘XOX’. As we talk, we notice how reclaiming artistic control has been a catalyst for her personal growth over the last few years, ‘I can really feel through the music I’m making now that I’ve grown, healed and matured.’ IAMDDB maintains that connection to the higher power is the highest form of self-love, expressed through her single ‘Where Did The Love Go?’. A love-letter to herself and her fans on the power of inner strength.
Having opened shows for the likes of Lauryn Hill, the multi-disciplinary artist has solidified herself as one of Manchester’s greatest, a rare gem within the music industry.
WORDS Evie White
"I’ve spent the past three years building in an authentic way. For me, growth is about the internal, intimate experience with yourself. I wanted to present the world with a version of myself that’s aligned with who I truly am. "
NW: Honesty is the best policy!
I: Right? I do keep that within the core of who I am, not only as a musician, but as a person. What I was going through externally with my old management put me in a space where I couldn’t create how I wanted to. I didn’t even want to sing. There was so much frustration and anger in me that I channelled through my art. I was raging for two years! It was fun and a great way to express those emotions in a healthy way, but now I’m in a space where I’ve grown so much. I’m finally able to get back to my roots which is Urban Jazz and it feels great!
NW: What type of child were you growing up? What are some things you have held close to you since those days?
I: I wasn’t as outspoken but music was the one thing that was a constant because I grew up around it. Unless it was about music, I was super shy and reserved. I would only be outspoken if I felt I was in a safe environment so my parents saw that side of me. People used to think I was a quiet child. As I grew up, I realised that I was a cool person and it was OK if people didn’t understand me. One thing I’ve tried to keep at the core of my music is staying true to myself. Not everyone will like that but I know that the right people will understand my intentions.
NW: How would you describe IAMDDB’s music to someone who had never heard one of your songs before?
I: I would describe my music as fluid because urban jazz applies to many different mediums, so it does feel quite genre-less: I can do everything! It feels a bit cliché to say that because a lot of artists describe their music the same when it doesn’t really land, but when I do it, I think it bangs every time. I’d tell someone to be open-minded before listening to my music. You have to be in a hype mood to listen to an IAMDDB trap song, but when you’re in a down mood you can listen to the more soulful tracks. I feel that I cater to people’s emotions: I don’t cater to genres. In the studio, I like to bend and stretch genres as much as I can but put my Urban Jazz twist into it. That’s how I find my authenticity.
NW: Songs like ‘Shade’ and ‘More’ are special moments in your career… What do you feel when you listen back to those songs?
I: I feel so much! Especially when I listen back to Volume 3 because that was the project that put me on the map. It's so crazy … I always perform ‘Shade’ because that’s my biggest song and everyone expects to hear it. When I listen back to that tape I can hear how I was feeling, how unsure I was of myself. Sometimes it's kind of painful … I understand why some artists don’t like to perform their old stuff because they probably feel the same as it takes you back to how you were feeling at the time. It sounds crazy but I didn’t even realise I was on the come-up at the time because I was so busy creating and elevating. I’m definitely proud of myself for finding music as an outlet to express myself but at the same time I can hear the pain. But, you know, sometimes pain creates the best art!
NW: You’ve self-described your music as ‘urban jazz’ in the past. Do you stand by this in terms of the recent music coming out?
I: 100%. Since 2020, I took a break and was experimenting with different genres. The way I was releasing songs confused my listeners because they weren't used to that version of me. On Volume 6, I’ve made sure to honour every side of me, from the different vibes on ‘Urban Jazz’, ‘Pause’ and ‘XOX’. Every version of ‘DDB that you’ve known so far is featured but in a completely elevated way. I had to make sure that I put ‘Urban Jazz’ on Vol. 6 because that’s really who I am in my spirit. Every other track from reggae, to drum and bass to afro-latina vibes is to show the world how multi-dimensional I am. I’ve never been an artist who’s featured on many things so I think people will be surprised at some of the artists on the new album! I’m honouring my past whilst stepping into a new phase and version of myself.
NW: You recently went fully independent. What are the best and worst parts about being an independent artist?
I: I always wanted to be fully independent. Coming from a background of being a financially unstable 20-year-old, I was offered so much money that I knew I could help my family with it so I ended up taking the deal. At 27, I’m much more aware of what I’m doing business-wise. Being independent is a way of life for me. I love going against the grain and throwing myself into the deep end. I also love creative freedom: I don’t ever see myself being a mainstream artist. I just want to make music that feels good to me and that I enjoy. I don’t want a label breathing down my neck telling me what to do as it takes the fun out of the art. I love financial independence. That knowledge of how things are going down is so important because without knowledge you end up getting finessed.
NW: Your recent single ‘Where Did the Love Go’ has a nice jungle feel to it. What inspired you to make this song?
I: The whole intention behind this beat was going back to the beginning of my music journey. One of the first songs I did was with Lenzman (Feeling High) who’s very much focused on liquid drum and bass and jungle beats. I wanted to go back to a place that was nostalgic and familiar, to reintroduce people to the new IAMDDB in a way that they could understand.
NW: What are some of the pictures you are painting, thematically and sonically, on the new project ‘Volume 6’?
I: Volume 6 is a reflection of how hard it is to express love in a way in which the world understands. I have a tattoo on my arm that says ‘Love is war’ because everything I’ve ever loved, I’ve had to go to war for. Unless you’re willing to go to war for the thing that you love then you will be consumed by the world. This new project is a reflection of me being a warrior and never giving up, just getting back up and carrying on going. I don’t know how to give up and can't accept defeat, it’s not part of my destiny. It's my message that after being kicked down so many times, I’m still here and I’m even better than I was before. It’s a reminder to all my fans that I never went anywhere: I was always here. The only difference is that I was muted before and now I can speak freely and stand in my truth. I’m incredibly excited for people to digest Volume 6 as it's such a re-birth moment for me and a conclusion of all the previous Volumes in an intricate and detailed way.
“ One thing I’ve tried to keep at the core of my music is staying true to myself. Not everyone will like that but I know that the right people will understand my intentions.”
NW: Your style is a vital part of your creativity, Could you walk me through some of your favourite looks?
I: My look for the British Fashion Council in 2021 with David Koma was so iconic! I had red hair and nails and an all black outfit. It was so beautiful and tasteful. David Koma gives elegance and high fashion. I featured in a series for Amazon the same year where I wore this fluffy, lime green dress for the screening … That was so gorgeous. I love any brand that helps me to embrace my feminine energy.
NW: You have an ‘ART’ tattoo on your chest and our shoot had a heavy art influence. What other forms of art are you into besides music?
I: I’m definitely into visuals such as cinematography and colour grades. Accentuating the beauty of black skin through colour grades is so important. I’m really into directing and the importance of portraying a story. Every visual that comes out, I make sure that I’m involved in the colour grading and editing process. Another thing that's very therapeutic is painting … I really admire the work of painters. A lot of my paintings are based around astrology and element painting. It has humbled me and made me appreciate art so much more as you can say so much with a painting that you can’t always say with words.
NW: This Issue’s theme is The Performance Issue, what does that word mean to you?
I: To me, performance is all about how I’m going to present myself to the world. A big part of performance is preparation. What are you doing when you’re by yourself to be the best version of yourself and show up for others? I think about the actions I’m taking to be the best version of myself on stage. Some people are born with that natural ability to perform well and others need to put in that work. When you can find the right balance of both elements, that’s what makes a great performance.
Top and Bottom, RAFAIEL
Shoes, SERGIO ROSSI.
Nose Ring, ARTIST’S OWN.
“To me, performance is all about how I’m going to present myself to the world. A big part of performance is preparation. ”
Dress, TRACY CUI.
Ring (Right Hand), KHIRY
Rings (Left Hand), AGMES
Nose Ring, ARTIST’S OWN.
Top and Bottom, NO SESSO.
Nose Ring, ARTIST’S OWN.
NW: How would you describe your relationship with performance? What forms of performance were always a part of your story?
I: When I was in high school I studied Drama and Music. It's always been in me as a child - I used to be so dramatic! I was always doing the most so it was definitely always my passion. There’s videos of me singing into a wooden spoon at five years old at the top of my lungs. My mum would record me and be like ‘This girl has to sing - she has way too much energy!’
NW: Performing alongside a legend like Lauryn Hill is a huge accolade. What did you learn from that experience?
I: Even hearing you say it is so crazy! At the time I was still with my old management. I remember that she looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘D, you need to make sure your team is not finessing you. You need to make sure they’re working for and not against you.’ I was going through a similar situation to what she went through so I think she could sense that. Opening up for Lauryn Hill was pressure. When I got the call I couldn’t believe she even knew about me, let alone wanted me to open for her. I’m very grateful to her as she helped me expand my audience. To be recognised by someone of that calibre really solidified to me that I was truly reaching all kinds of people. It taught me that honouring who you are means the right people will gravitate towards you.
NW: If you could describe the era of IAMDDB that we are about to enter, what would you say?
I: I would describe it as a rebirth. It's about looking at the bigger picture and watering the garden from within. This next phase is about letting go of fear: courage arises when you stop fearing things. I’m in a space where fear no longer exists in my world and I don’t allow it to stop me doing things. I’m always looking at the bigger picture and trying to be inspired by my ideas. I also try to carry my life lessons with me so I can move forward in a constructive way. This new phase is enlightenment: it feels light, warm, nourishing and tender. I want to bring the turn-up vibes whilst also staying vulnerable and catering to the whole spectrum of emotions.