Actress, comedian and literal hip-hop scholar Amanda Seales will be in Houston for a one-night-only stand-up performance at Bayou Music Center this Friday, September 30 as part of her current run of shows: The Black Outside Again tour. The Insecure star is preparing new material for the purpose of filming a follow-up to her 2019 HBO special I Be Knowin’. Ahead of the show, Seales spoke with Houstonia about her time as an MTV VJ, how Houston’s brand of hip-hop culture found its way to her, and how some of your favorite rappers are big fans of musicals.
What kind of music was in the air growing up in Florida?
If you were in Florida, Miami Bass was just around you. I have videos from when I was younger that literally have Miami Bass playing in the background, but I would say I was just more of a nerd and an athlete.
You were in the theater in high school, so musicals were big for you. How happy does it make you feel that Method Man quotes Mary Poppins on the song “Method Man”?
Listen, I remember when I was doing MTV and radio in New York, I was really cool with Lloyd Banks and G-Unit. We were friends, and he revealed to me that The Wizard of Oz is one of his favorite movies of all time.
Wow. Not The Wiz, The Wizard of Oz.
The Wizard of Oz. Like, [sings] “We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz!”
Is there a difference in how music allows you to express yourself versus comedy, or does it kind of feel the same to you?
It feels different. With music, you're not expected to make people laugh. There's a next step with standup. I’ll have something in my head that I may think is intriguing, but it may not have come to my mind through humor, so then if I want to make it funny, I have to take the next step to figure out: how do I make this funny?
The irony is that when I was doing music, the dream was to have people sing my lyrics; then fast forward to, as a comic, having people reciting my jokes or having people finish my phrases when I'm on stage is incredible to me. It blows my mind.
Did you ever visit Texas growing up, or did that not happen until you were an adult?
I feel like the first time that I ever visited Texas was when I performed at Texas A&M University as a poet, during my senior year of college in 2003 or 2002. I went to A&M so many times to perform that I had a legit boyfriend there.
Can you remember when your early awareness of Houston rap music came to you?
That was when I had a man at A&M. He made me a CD called “Texas Jointz.” Joints was spelled J-o-i-n-t-z, of course. That's how I learned about Z-Ro and ESG and UGK and Lil’ Keke. That’s how, to this day, I'm like, [sings] “I'm chillin’ with my [broad] and you already know and if you wanna reach me hit me on the down low. And if I don’t call back, don’t put on a shoooow.” I still have the CD. That was when Lil’ Flip was starting to emerge, so I have old Lil’ Flip freestyles over Screw beats. That's when I learned about DJ Screw.
I feel like I was late to Houston, but then once I was put on, I was immersed. The people I was around when I would come to Texas, these brothers loved music. Then I ended up being on Slim Thug's album, Already Platinum, on the song “The Interview.” I remember having the opportunity to be in the mix when Houston started really poppin' because I was on MTV at the time. That was when Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, and Mike Jones started movin’. It was really dope to just be there and see them emerge on a national scale but still stay authentic.
It was amazing to be a teenager then and have all these rappers we already knew about taking off the way they did. Usually, a city only gets one or maybe two rappers to come up simultaneously.
Yes! It was wild. Shortly thereafter, I was hosting on MTV and there was, like you said, this whole Houston movement. It was like, “this is now the next spot where we are getting a whole different style of music.” And mind you, that style had been cultivated for years and years and years and years. But it was cool to see that it wasn't a cherry-pick; it was the whole city that was put on.
Can you talk about the show you have in Houston on Friday? How will it be different from Smart, Funny and Black?
This is a straight-up stand-up show. If you like my HBO comedy special, I Be Knowin’, then you should love this because I am back on the road for the purpose of getting ready for another special. We've seen so much happening this damn year, day-by-day, that I have no shortage of material.
I feel like I'm the kind of voice that a lot of folks in Texas would want to hear right now because there's definitely a narrative that everybody in Texas is a Republican and is a gun-toting MAGA-head. And anybody who knows the people of Texas for real knows that that's not the case.