Santa Cruz rapper/singer Amplified is a deeply introspective artist with a zeal for lyrics and life. His new album Middle Ground showcases Amp’s skills as an emcee, singer and songwriter. Amplified and collaborator Brandon Scott are currently on the Vans Warped tour as part of the Yo! Bring it Back stage.
I caught up with the rapping/singing duo during the Warped tour’s recent Chicago stop to discuss their participation on the Yo! Bring it Back Stage, their musical inspirations, and their plans to record a joint album.
Sherron Shabazz: What’s it mean to you to perform on the Warped tour?
Amplified: It means everything. It means the opportunity to connect with our generation straight forward and be who we are every single day as artists. There is no sugar coating. I don’t need to put on a different character to promote myself out here. I just need to be myself because I fit right in with everybody else.
Brandon Scott: For me it’s a privilege and an honor because we’re not known artists all over the country. We’re small town local performers from where we’re from so it’s a blessing and a gift to be out here. We’re using it to our full advantage and trying to create a fan base in every city.
SS: Have the audiences been receptive to you guys?
A: The audiences have been phenomenal. Like Brandon said, we are blessed to be out here. We connect so well with this audience and this generation of kids. A lot of these kids come from musical backgrounds of all sorts. Being this abstract act with Hip-Hop, Rock & Roll, Jazz and Blues makes us versatile and we fit right in with this versatile audience of people.
BS: We’ve gotten some really good feedback from crowds. Today we had a really big line of people buying our CD’s. It was the same in Portland and St. Louis – a lot of cities. We’ve been killing it pretty hard which is good. I’m glad people like our music – that’s what’s up.
SS: Why is it important to have the Yo! Bring it Back tent at a festival like this?
A: Because it gives you that grassroots feeling that you won’t get anywhere else. You’ll get the independent, “I started this from the ground up” feeling that is not anywhere else on the Warped tour and not at many other events. There is no connection that’s right on concrete. Everyone is elevated and it creates this ego of, “Oh, they’re musicians, they’re artists.” It dehumanizes them so for us to be on the ground level it shows that we’re people just like you, but we’re showcasing what we have to offer for the rest of society.
BS: For me it’s a platform. Shout out to Fritz, he’s been building this for years. He’s given kids all over the country a platform to show their talent, their skill, and their music and fans respond to it.
SS: Are there any acts that you’ve discovered on this tour that you’re a fan of now?
A: Oh yeah, definitely. Bad Rabbits, they’re awesome. They’re this neo-soul, funk, amazing band that really connects with the audience. They’re awesome to jam and vibe out to. It’s an honor to be on the same tour with them.
BS: Bad Rabbits is my number one band on Warped. I’m loving Air Dubai, I just found out about them. I’m a huge pop punk fan so The Story So Far. I’m into metal so I’ve been listening to Chelsea Grin, and Volumes and checking them out. There are so many talented musicians out here it’s crazy.
SS: Who inspired you to want to be an emcee?
A: It was really just the art of expression – there was nothing else like it. Hip-Hop was a counterculture to me. It was the only counterculture that I was ever introduced to. I was introduced to it in high school through a Hip-Hop club called “Strictly Outspoken.” My history teacher invited me to go in at the Hip-Hop club and it was the only art form that resonated with me. I was always good at writing and I just turned into rhyming every single day and it helped me express my thoughts. I adopted the characteristic that he showed me through history and documentaries. The way you can express yourself resonated with me. It’s so versatile that it hit me on all different functions of my brain.
BS: I never thought I was going to be an emcee. I’ve always been a producer. I got Pro Tools when I was 13 and started producing. I loved composing music. I would always freestyle with the homies. We would sit in the basement and freestyle and I’d make the beats. There was no one rapping over my beats so I started recording myself. Since then I’ve been doing it.
SS: What inspired the song “In My Own Words”?
A: It was a time in life where I just graduated high school, I just turned 18, and I had to grow up. I had to write everything that was on my mind in one giant three-minutes of a log. “In My Own Words” represents the soul being expressed to its full capacity. I’m Amplified and this is me amplifying my soul and it’s an expression. It’s the long way to express what that name really means, but “In My Own Words” was my way to grasp who I am as an artist and what I had to say and basically what I stand for and showcase it. It’s basically who am in my own words – no plagiarism, no copying anything, I’m just going to be me, be original, and be the best artist I can possibly be for myself and the rest of the world.
SS: What’s next up for you guys?
A: We’re trying to stay on tour. We’re going to make a project coming out together. We only released one single on tour and it was called “All Night” It’s kind of one of our biggest hits. It’s the first song that we perform in our set every day.
BS: We’re open to anything right now. We’re trying to plan tours, we’re trying to get producers to work with us we’re trying to get funding on Kickstarter or indiegogo to raise some money so we have a budget to work with good producers. The music is going to come easy for us. We work so well together writing and making music. It’s getting the money and the right producer to work with us.