AJ Mamba - 10 Questions Music Interview
AJMamba is an hip-hop lyricist, content creator, wrestling personality and actor based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has a Bachelor's in Theater Studies from Montclair State University. He is currently signed to Estabrook Road Records, with his 1st EP under the label scheduled for release late January 2021.
AJMamba has been creating hip-hop music since 2010, but only started gaining momentum in 2017, when he started going to Rotation Records to have his music produced professionally. Regardless, AJ kept quiet on his musical exploits until 2020, releasing music for the first time, publicly. He is now looking at 2021 to be a year where he releases a huge backlog of music under his record label.
As an actor, AJMamba has performed in over 300 productions, mostly in theater under the stage name AJ Dwayne. AJMamba is also the co-owner of Loud Stone Entertainment, a web-based entertainment company that produces podcasts, as well as video game, wrestling & anime related content on YouTube primarily.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I remember being in College. I wrote verses here and there, but never took it seriously. Then Jay-Z's "The Blueprint III" came out and everyone I knew loved it. I did too. Of course. I'm a Jay-Z fan since The Blueprint. The beats were so great I went onto YouTube to find the instrumentals and, next thing I know, I end up writing and recording my 1st mixtape "Nerdcore Blueprint"...which was HIGHLY illegal now that I think of it. I showed it off to everyone in my school's theater program...Yes, I was a theater kid...and they told me it was trash. Ever since then, though, I've had this desire to constantly improve my approach to hip-hop. Ten years later, here I am, on my first record label, feeling like I finally found my stride.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
The craziest thing happened in 2013. I'm living in Los Angeles and I released a mixtape on Datpiff called "I Am AJ Dwayne" as I use to go by AJ Dwayne as a stage name for Theater and Film. It kinda blew up locally in LA. I remember getting gigs every day for two weeks performing on multiple stages. I thought this was it! Then, because I didn't know any better, I had a famous rapper (who will remain nameless) approach me and told me that, because I'm using other people's beats that I ripped from YouTube, he's gonna inform them and shut me down. I didn't know any better at the time, so I just shut down the music career from that point. I should have just kept going though. Who knows? But I didn't understand copyright at all at the time.
What has been the high point of your music path?
Honestly, signing with Estabrook Road Records this past October. I never thought it was attainable for me to work with a label. But I think, especially this year, I've found my creative spark again...which admittedly I lost over the past 4-5 years from various failures with Theater and Film. I just did music as an escape; a chance to be myself. A buddy of mine, Kendall Miller (RIP) told me that I need to embrace myself more. Stop hiding behind this facade that people will push onto me or that I'd put onto myself to not come across as threatening or incapable. Just live in being myself. I think just being myself has made 2020 my most successful year as an artist, ever. Who knew the world had to end, huh?
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
Theater has helped me exponentially with my creative process in everything that I do. Through theater, I learned that I'm very reactionary to what a person, place, thing or idea gives me. I like to say I'm reactionary to nouns. And my inspiration can come from anywhere. I just need to get inspired by a feeling. For example, I remember listening to my spotify playlist while I was driving, and this song by Jonwayne came on, called "City Lights." I immediately noticed the time signature was different from most songs. It was in 10/4. And then Jonwayne, with his self-reflective yet addicting flow about wanting and needing to be better than he was in the past, while maintaining accountability for his past transgressions. I immediately pulled over. I'll never forget it. I was on Blue Route heading to Conshohocken, PA for a job interview that I knew I wasn't getting. Sat in the car, and in 20 minutes, I wrote the lyrics for "This is 30" seven months before I turned 30, 3 months before I had a beat for it. And it was quick too. I don't like to revisit lyrics often, because, even though I don't freestyle, I believe that creativity in the moment means a lot. And if I'm overwhelmed with a creative spark, I need to address it in that moment or it will be lost forever.
I'm like that with a lot of creative aspects of my life. I write plays. I write scripts. I write lyrics. I write stand-up comedy sets that I probably won't perform. I don't always write the best stuff in those moments, but I appreciate those moments for helping me grow as a person, while I dive into my psyche to figure out something about myself, creatively. And I think that's fearlessness for an artist. To address how you really feel and be honest with yourself is the toughest thing anyone can do, because you're the only one living with that person looking back in the mirror at you.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
Honestly, I think it's just staying true to yourself. I think being yourself is the toughest thing you can do as an indie artist, unless being yourself aligns with what mainstream is currently pushing at the time. I lived a life as a failed actor who may of had 3 callbacks in his life outside of school, professionally. But I was liked for being "AJ Dwayne" this variation of myself I would be in front of people just so they could cast me as an extra in a film. But I never got that success because people can tell I wasn't truly being myself. I think, personally, I'm having more success now, being myself. To be fair, I haven't auditioned for anything professional since 2016, and society can change a lot in 4-5 years.
But when you look into hip-hop today, seeing who's successful, naturally you're gonna compare yourself. And the temptation is real to try and bite what they're doing so that you can have success. But that's why I'm glad I'm a little older at this point, and have a better understanding of who I am. Because I'm not trying to be the most successful rapper ever. I'm trying to be myself, while maximize my success as myself. Maybe my ceiling is low or high. Regardless, I'm still me, no matter what.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
J. Cole. Honestly, as a performer and as a lyricist, he's very underrated. He's one of my top 5 lyricist today. I'd also want to share the stage with someone I could learn from, who sets a great example of being innovative and fearless in his approach to his craft. I've also been told I might be a Dreamville type of artist, too. Maybe I'd want to share the stage with Cole to see what people mean by that, first hand. Also, just to share a stage with Jay-Z would be dope, too.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
I've started the process of rehearsing recently. I use to just put myself in situations, like open mics, and just see what happens in the moment, cold. I've had plenty of performances in the past that bombed, and I loved it, because I want to know what it feels like to fall on your face. If I can get use to that, I've eliminated the fear and can just have fun with the performance. It's kind of like how stand up comedians prepare their comedy routines. They'll get in front of a small audience and say...damn near anything. They'll see what doesn't work, deal with that feeling of failure live in front of people, move on and learn from it. It's reps. I need reps, because rapping in my house is one thing, but the nerves of other people watching you rap is another. And I was always someone that performed better as an actor with the red light on, anyway. I think the pandemic has robbed me of that. I have this intense desire to perform live again, as I'm sure most artists do, but I think patience is still a virtue in this world. One day, the world will re-open again, and I just want to be ready to go out there and perform as much as possible. I get called Allen Iverson sometimes at my "apparent disgust" at the idea of practice, anyway.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
I wrote a song called "Bottled Letter" which will release on my upcoming EP late January. Jason Payne, the CEO of Estabrook Road Records, sent me a beat and it was that spark I got that inspired me to go deep with this song. There was a point in college I always said to myself I would go back in time and warn my younger self about a few things that I was naïve about. Looking back at it, I really needed a mentor to stay on my ass at the time. I went to a school on top of a mountain, miles away from family, with the only adults I could talk to being theater teachers who just didn't have the time to really help this clueless kid understand what he was getting himself into. And honestly, without going into detail, that was a very traumatic time that I had trouble revisiting until I went to therapy earlier this year. So because that bet awakened all of that within me, I ended up writing an actual letter to myself from over 10 years ago, specifically January 22, 2009. I'll probably never release the contents of that letter, but lyrically it allowed me to access the words I needed to say. Honestly, today, I am not the man my younger self wanted to be, but for the first time in a long time, I'm back on track to becoming just that. And Bottled Letter is a song that serves as an advisor to my younger self...the advisor that I desperately needed at the time.
What's coming up in the future?
A lot is coming up in the future. I have an entertainment company, called Loud Stone Entertainment. We're really into video game content, as well as producing podcasts and YouTube machinima. We're reconfiguring our platforms so that January 2021, we can start to produce more content in a way that will combat YouTube algorithms. I'm also involved in Independent Pro Wrestling. I'm looking to expand my training as an announcer, interviews, manager and content producer in 2021 in that realm. I started a twitch a few months ago, planning to play 1st player story based games starting in January once a week...especially now that I've built a Gaming PC for myself. As for music, I plan to release a huge backlog of music that I have sitting in my systems. Starting with an Upcoming EP releasing late January 2021. I also have some exciting collaborations on deck, as I'm looking forward to 2021 being a statement year for AJ Mamba in all aspects, but especially music.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
I'm available on all streaming platforms, although I encourage people to follow my Spotify
I'm also available on social media, follow me and hit me up!: