IAMDDB: Heart and Soul
Diana Debrito, aka IAMDDB, has just arrived on set straight from Amsterdam. Despite only catching a few hours sleep, she is positively bouncing off the walls of the London studio, rapping along to the songs she’s playing off her phone and screaming in appreciation at her favourite bars. In the age of Instagram and Snapchat stories, it’s become almost cliché to describe an artist as being authentically themselves. But IAMDDB is the real deal.
Make no mistake: IAMDDB is a star whose rise has been powered by social media, with her personality naturally shining through the iPhone lens. Her Instagram is built with photos of her looking incredible while jet-setting around Europe, inspirational quotes about positivity and loved-up couple shots with her boyfriend of three years, fellow Manchester artist Sleazy. “Having the internet, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, whatever, has helped me connect with so many people across the world. People in Italy, Russia, Switzerland – how the hell would I ever have known them if it wasn’t for the internet?” she concedes. “But with everything it’s yin and yang. Living up to expectations and portraying a life that isn’t true to your actual real life, that can cause a lot of insecurities and self-doubt, which is what we’re trying to avoid.”
“I wanted to make something that the mandem can feel, and the girls can feel it. It has to be for the club, for the hood”
IAMDDB has achieved a great deal in a short time. Her come-up has been, in her own words, a “crazy journey. I’m just trying to keep up with the pace.” Having studied performing arts at college, she took a series of retail jobs before focusing seriously on music just two years ago. Last year finished with a string of accolades – from the BBC Sound of 2018 longlist, to support slots for Bryson Tiller alongside headline dates across Europe. At the age of 21, IAMDDB is a force to be reckoned with.
In terms of genre, IAMDDB has described her debut EP Waeveybby Volume 1, as “urban jazz”; songs with a spiritual leaning that you can jam at home and smoke a joint with your friends to. But many of the songs on 2017’s Hoodrich Vol 3 – including breakthrough single Shade – had trappier leaning for the turn-up. “I wanted to make something that the mandem can feel it, the girls can feel it, but it has to be… not mainstream, but for the club, for the hood.” What inspired the switch in vibe? “I just reached a point in life where I had had enough, and I was like ‘if one more thing falls apart I’m gonna fall apart, then we’ve got a real problem!’ It wasn’t a nice time in life so instead of just wallowing and feeling sorry for myself I was like ‘nah, you’re gonna use this, you’re gonna talk about it, you’re gonna manipulate it into something positive’, and here we are.”
“I’ve done been insecure, I’ve been put down so many times and told I’ll never make it, and now I just catch joke”
IAMDDB grew up listening to a lot of Afro-soul, Afro-jazz and kizomba – her dad is also a musician and is in a band in Angola – along with the likes of Nat King Cole and Whitney Houston. Now, she mostly listens to US rap, citing Jay Critch, Future and Rich the Kid as current playlist favourites. Her musical hero, however, is somewhat unexpected. “Bob Marley was my inspiration,” she reveals. “Lyrically, in harmonies, in rhythm, in everything he did and represented. His music to me is almost higher powers saying it’s fine to have emotions, it’s fine to be emotional, it’s fine to fall apart but you’ve gotta forget about that and come back stronger.” And although their music might be worlds apart – “Bob Marley weren’t out here shouting ‘bad bitch no underwear’,” she laughs – IAMDDB hopes her fans will have the same soul-stirring feeling she experienced when listening to her biggest influence.
“I hope they just feel and hear honesty for starters, and then to just be content with the person that you are,” she tells me. “I’ve done been insecure, I’ve been put down so many times and told I’ll never make it, and now I just catch joke – look at me now! We all go through intense feelings and intense experiences and shit, and if my music can help somebody get through something, then my job’s done. I’m just a vessel to make people feel better.”
Photography: Jackson Bowley