Amaarae, born Ama Serwah Genfi, is a Ghanaian-American singer with a secret weapon — her vocal tone. The singer, whose name derives from a mixture of her real name and Corinne Bailey Rae, was born in a Ghanaian family that moved from New York to Atlanta to New Jersey. This constant uprooting of her life gave the artist an advantage and an openness to the world which grew into her experimental mind that concocted out of these city’s different musical subcultures. Wherever Amaarae lived influenced her attention to the innate expansiveness of art.
“I actually used to sing with my chest voice when I first started singing and when I was making mixtapes and rapping all over,” Amaarae says to AP. “One of my favorite artists at the time I lived in New Jersey was Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He had this raspy tone, and I spent a lot of time trying to emulate that.”
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The 28-year-old’s ambidextrous approach to sound is what makes her spellbinding singing slide with fluidity between tracks. Her debut album, The Angel You Don’t Know, feels like a coastal breeze of an album as she sonically cruises with ease. The LP is full of West African drums and instrumentation with electrical pulses. Her breakout dance 2020 hit, “Sad Girlz Luv Money,” featuring Moliy (and later Kali Uchis), electrified the untamed energy inside hot, lit-up clubs in Los Angeles, London, New York, Ghana, and beyond.
With the release of her sophomore album, Fountain Baby, Amaarae regrouped with frequent music producers Kyu Steed and KZ Didit, remarking that their collective synergy is similar to the hit-making fluency shared between “Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis” during their globally successful run over the sultry and soulful reinvented category of R&B in the ‘90s.
After inking a deal with Interscope Records, Amaarae’s Fountain Baby was a creative endeavor that took three years to follow the release of The Angel You Don’t Know. The 14-track album boasts without features that delivers an orchestrated Afrofuturistic take on cyber-pop with infusions of worldwide beats and percussion. “Justin Timberlake with Timbaland in FutureSex/LoveSounds is an album I take inspiration from as far as sonic textures,” Amaarae says as she runs through her personal upbringing with the music that she was drawn to inside her household and neighborhoods. “‘What Goes Around…Comes Around’ is a song that inspired ‘Angels in Tibet’ and ‘Disguise’ as far as the Eastern intonations and the use of orchestra across, but I wanted to make my own version and meld those two worlds together.”
A new Nigerian producer Tochi Bedford created the plush instrumentation experienced in “Princess Going Digital” and the punk-rock bridge in the latter part of “Sex, Love, Suicide.” “He surprised me the most because he was this producer that was sending me crazy beats based in Scotland. He created some of the coolest elements and moments in Fountain Baby — the three-punch hit on ‘Wasted Eyes’ that goes boom, boom, boom and he did the intro to ‘Disguise’ as well.” Other zappy tracks like “Counterfeit” employ Chinese bow violins layered on top of empowering bass that Amaarae would hear often in Atlanta rap.
Following a collaboration with Mugler and embarking on a Europe/U.S. tour in September, Amaarae is now able to enjoy the pouring abundance her career has brought. “A fountain baby in my eyes is really just a person with endless charisma,” she explains. “Someone that is abundant in their blessings and ultimately a blessed child of God.”
After all, Fountain Baby is an extraordinary album to experience that you may have to take pauses in between each song to gather yourself. The tracks are speedy and Amaarae commands attention while the songs evolve. In 2023, Amaarae was enlisted to sing for Disney’s Wakanda Forever track and has jumped on lyrical stanzas with Janelle Monae, Amine, Kaytranada, and more.
With a cherished collection of artists that she listens to in order to get her mind into a generative place, the confident performer will shuffle between Anthony Kiedis, Freddie Mercury, and the inimitable, Young Thug. “He is very special to me,” Amaarae admits nervously. “I love the tone of his voice and the way his voice is able to stretch. I definitely feel like I’m one of those babies that is always trying new things with their voice and he really broke the fourth wall for me.”
The singer-rapper is very perceptive to the inner world she builds for herself and has an eclectic array of musical idols from various genres, countries, and languages that she holds dear to her heart. Amaarae’s crafting abilities in the studio parallel a scientist experimenting with highly potent (and possibly dangerous) chemicals. Her discography is so sonically broad because she is a raw example of not straying away from instruments that may sound foreign to those who didn’t grow up immersed in another realm of music where everything goes. Amaarae finds intrigue in the musical landscape of the uncharted and unknown, with a magnetic voice that keeps listeners in her orbit.