There's little doubt that Amanda Blank
is her own woman. A torrid rapper and inventive lyricist, she lit up the Baltimore club scene during 2005-2006, and her closing verse on Spank Rock
's "Bump" provided a highlight to one of the best albums of 2006, YoYoYoYoYo
. With so much talent on display already, the only concern leading up to the release of I Love You
was whether her jump from featured artist to top billing could avoid the usual wide-distribution pitfalls. Blank
proves mostly up to the challenge, floating a few great tracks and plenty of pounding productions, despite sounding familiar to fans of M.I.A.
. The similarities begin with "A Love Song," where it's easy to see the roots of M.I.A.
's "Paper Planes," which is just as reflective and just as reliant on an '80s pop touchstone (here it's LL Cool J
's "I Need Love" instead of "Straight to Hell" by the Clash
) -- and, not coincidentally, just as produced by Diplo
. Elsewhere, she spends a lot of time jump-starting a party, recalling Santigold
's pop version of club music. The best tracks here feature her excellent rapping skills over productions from XXXChange
, and the one where she sounds the most natural is the Spank Rock
co-feature "Gimme What You Got.")