Diana De Brito, also known as IAMDDB (I am DDB – get it?), has been making waves in the UK hip-hop and R’n’B scene since her breakout single Shade appeared on our feeds back last summer. Equal parts turn up trap hit and soulful serenade, Shade made us sit up and listen. Now, starting out as a mysterious newcomer to the British scene, she’s set to be one of the most hotly tipped artists of 2018.
Hailing from Manchester via Portugal and Angola, IAMDDB’s sound mixes afro-jazz, soul and samba, creating a trap-infused, synthesizer chill wave style, which she dubs ‘urban jazz’. Influenced by artists like Jimmy Dludlu, Lianne La Havas, Bob Marley and Nat King Cole, her sound was honed on a six-month jaunt to Angola with her sound engineer father. However, IAMDDB knew her place was on the UK scene, explaining to Beats1 DJ Julie Adenuga “Africa was nice, but I thought, nah, I need to smash it in the U.K., I need to do this thing the right way.”
She’s been wetting our appetites for more for a while now, with projects like WAEVEYBBY, Vol.1 and VIBE, Vol. 2, which both received respectable amounts of radio play in the UK. Her single Leaned Out was one of the highlights of these early records, giving us a taste of her rich, velvety vocals and hard-edged sassy lyricism. Now, her latest mixtape Hoodrich, Vol. 3 shows that this rising star is coming into full view.
Beginning with thunderstorms and retro synths, the opening track of the 20-minute tape starts with high energy and trap-inspired rapping, bringing in flavours of Cardi B and Nicki with a British soul twist. The production is flawless, and the tune serves a masterful blend of angst, vulnerability and sincerity rarely seen since the late Amy Winehouse. After the raw aggression of Conjuring, the second track, Running, brings you immediately back down to IAMDDB’s soul foundations. Hazy, sultry and smooth, the break between the two opening tracks creates a gorgeous, disarming contrast.
By the time we’re on track three, IAMDDB brings us back up again with her break through tune, Shade. With the surprisingly slick, silky sound of the hook “Bad bitch, no underwear”, it’s easy to hear why the jazzy vocals over trap synths were captivating us over the summer. This is exactly what’s so brilliant about this record – it’s all about contrast, surprising combinations and experimentation. It’s this risk-taking and authenticity that comprise the crucial elements of IAMDDB’s distinctive style. In a recent interview, the singer commented, “Trust me. It’s so easy to get lost in the sauce. It’s so easy to become just another thing – just another rapper. But you’ve just got to keep it real with yourself. That’s the only thing you can do to differentiate from everything else.”
The first five tracks of Hoodrich, Vol. 3 prove IAMDDB’s rap credentials. After the first half, the tempo changes up again, this time with a more melodic sound. This isn’t to say the transitions are jarring or overly mannered – Trophy retains strings and high hats, but emphasises IAMDDB beautiful vocal range and poetic lyricism. This skill comes to a crescendo in the closing track, More. A deeply soulful love song about a romance that nearly destroyed her, it’s wondrous that someone of the tender age of 21 can write lyrics with such incredible maturity and heart breaking emotion.
IAMDDB’s vocals are exciting to say the least – she’s an artist that’s determined to do things her way. Unafraid to experiment with her voice, sliding and stretching notes with remarkable, soulful effect, Hoodrich, Vol. 3 is as technically interesting as it is compulsive, catchy listening. Outside of the genres of soul, hip-hop and R’n’B and into the mainstream, IAMDDB’s genre-defying style is set to make a serious splash in the coming year. Despite the astronomical success of her breakout single, IAMDDB keeps it refreshingly humble: “All the interest is really flattering, because for them to notice me, it means that I must be doing something good. But right now, my main concern is doing what I’m comfortable doing.”
And it’s this commitment to her individuality that makes IAMDDB such a compelling artist. Looking to the future, IAMDDB says she’s traveling to America to look for some interesting collaborations – which all sounds very tantalizing to us. The future is looking bright for this young Mancunian, and Hoodrich, Vol. 3 raises the bar for British music in a serious way.
IAMDDB – Hoodrich, Vol. 3 Tracklist