A downpour ensues as I walk briskly up to the marble-framed glass doors of a ritzy boutique hotel in the heart of Kensington while ruminating over what to expect from Diana De Brito – known more commonly under her apt moniker, IAMDDB. The singer has a knack for portraying various depths of her personality through music in a way that captures the current cultural zeitgeist and empowers her listeners simultaneously. In pairing this with her mesmerising persona and superb song-writing skills, it’s easy to see why IAMDDB’s sound has cultivated a worldwide appeal – gaining her recognition in Forbes’ esteemed 30-under-30 list, and an invitation to support Lauryn Hill on tour earlier this year. With this in mind, I’m keen to sit down with the Mancunian to better understand her essence, influence and creative process.
Born from Angolan and Portuguese roots, her father was a jazz musician with a home studio that allowed De Brito to foster a passion for music in her most formative years. “I was always surrounded by instruments and different musicians coming in and out of the house or just in the studio with my dad all the time, listening to music,” she recalls as she sits opposite me, curled up on a luxurious red leather sofa in a quiet corner of the hotel lobby.
Having studied music through college, De Brito took some time away in Angola before embarking onto university. This trip would instead prove to be one of the most influential experiences of her life, as she spent the following months playing time-honoured jazz music with her father’s band around the country. “Angola unlocked a fire inside me to do music!” she states passionately. “The discipline of being in the studio, doing rehearsals and shows – that pattern was important for me to realise what it actually takes to make good music. I remember thinking to myself, ‘if I can do this here there’s no reason why I can’t be lit in the UK’, so I came back and just started grafting. God willing we’ve been able to do what we’ve done.”
It is indeed remarkable what IAMDDB has achieved in the time elapsed. Though modest about the matter, her steady organic rise to popularity over the past couple of years can be somewhat attributed to her versatility and wide-ranging appeal. With her most recent project Swervvvvv.5 being arguably her most experimental volume of music to date, I’m curious to understand whether this is a premeditated plan of action or something more fluid and instinctive. “I just do what comes naturally to me, but I’m more tuned in with the frequencies of current music,” she tells me, nonchalantly playing with the strings on her hoodie. “I didn’t feel like my first project was an album, or mixtape or an EP. It was just a collection of music, so I thought to make it a volume. By the time I got to the third one I was like ‘yeah, I’m gonna make five of these, then I know I’ll be ready for the album.”
(LEFT) All clothing AREA, shoes BALENCIAGA, all jewellery BULGARI
(RIGHT) Corset THE DOLLS HOUSE, top ELISA POPPY, all jewellery BULGARI
All clothing AREA, shoes BALENCIAGA, all jewellery BULGARI
Corset THE DOLLS HOUSE, top ELISA POPPY, all jewellery BULGARI
With each volume of music holding its own distinct atmosphere and direction, it would be easy for these changes to feel forced. Conversely, De Brito manages to glide effortlessly across genres, often marrying silky melodies and cruddy raps into the same instrumental. “Hoodrich Vol. 3 is a great interpretation of when trap was really beginning to bubble in the UK,” she explains. “That was the grungiest [project], and I understand why people liked that one a lot – it’s the frequencies, vibes, energy and delivery that people are gravitating to[wards].”
“It’s just a matter of tapping into different personalities, spaces or experiences in life,” she continues, “once you have a pocket that people gravitate to, you should run with that. I’ve been fortunate that people are connecting with the various different genres I’m making – now it’s just a case of tuning into the ones that can make me go global. Either way I’ll always keep it true to me and return to my roots.”
As you’d expect from a multifaceted musician, IAMDDB draws influence from a myriad of sources. That being said, more often than not those sources will be of decades gone by: “These days I only hear new music through other people playing it,” she admits. “I feel like a part of me does this on purpose because I don’t wanna know what other people are making, I just wanna know what I’m making.” Delving deeper, we coincide on the great jazz trombonist Hiroshi Suzuki – a mutual favourite. “I love him! There’s a tune called “Romance”, which I feel is one of the maddest sonic experiences I’ve ever had. I revert to old jazz instead of listening to what’s current, sometimes it’s just too ignorant you know?” She laughs. “It’s not everyday trap. I just don’t feel like that all the time. Sometimes I just wanna sit down with a cup of tea, light a candle, and relax.”
On the subject of inspiration, Lauryn Hill is a name that inevitably arises. Having been personally handpicked by the legend herself to support a European tour was most certainly a dream come true for IAMDDB, who gushes about how “the whole thing was so surreal to me,” her proud grin almost infectious. “That tour showed me that if you’re true to yourself you’re patterned. You’re gonna attract the right things. The industry’s funny in the way that some people are so set on forcing certain points, which may work to a certain extent, but it will only ever work to that extent,” she deliberates.
Ultimately, IAMDDB isn’t an artist who’s spent years chasing hits or cultivating an aesthetic, yet it’s partly for that exact reason that she’s enjoyed such an organic rise to popularity. Keeping true to yourself is the main objective for the Mancunian, and each milestone she surpasses is a reminder of that. “I just wanna stay lit and be the best version of me I can be. I don’t care about charting or the Grammys; if I’m making good music that I rate and people are connecting to it on a global scale, what else is there to say? The art will speak for itself, so it’s really just about being the best I can be.”
Dress ELISSA POPPY, shoes MANOLO, all jewellery CHANEL
Dress ELISSA POPPY, shoes MANOLO, all jewellery CHANEL
Issac V. Poleon using Got2b
Hila Karmand at One Represents using AlumierMD and Anastasia Beverley Hills