Music Issue 2016: A Q&A with Betty DawL aka TRAPFØNE

MEMBERS: Emmy Pankau (writing, vocals, production); Jordan Patrick (beats, production, TRAPFØNE arrangements)

Betty “Emmy” DawL is a turntable commander and galactic rap goddess of style who has a distinct K-pop-meets-trap swagger — her voice is sweet but fierce against thick bass-heavy hip-hop-rooted productions. Her latest TRAPFØNE album, PROB JUZ SUM SHAPES, finds an open, mature and confident Betty DawL assuming “more of a fantasy, synth-pop” character as accompanied by lush production from friend/collaborator Jordan Patrick. Between producing, writing, performing and DJing, Betty is a server at Anise in downtown Tampa and shares a big house in Ybor City with four girls, two guys, several cats, and a puppy. She was adopted at birth, but both parents passed away when she was young; her friendships and art have been crucial to her healing process.

Next show: July 28, CINQ Show, Anise Global, downtown Tampa.

RIYL: Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, Doja Cat, Kendrick Lamar

Self-Styled Sound: It’s astral, spacey. A lot of the themes for TRAPFØNE are pop all the way; I think about going viral and touring in Japan. My other stuff [Poetic Resume, 2015] is…I don’t know, it’s astral rapping. It’s astral rap.”

Themes of PROB JUZ SUM SHAPES: The “evolution of self,” removing ego and creating positivity through acceptance. Also pride in her native state, which she shows in lines like, “For the record, Florida been the way/bitches taking longer ‘cause we live chiller days/I mean what is time anyway?”

The story behind the track, “Breathe”: “I was in a place in my life where I was overwhelmed…Girl, I was going through it. I really felt that in the moment and sang it. The next day, I had the vision for a music video of my girls being in their space and being themselves. Those are my best friends, it’s a memoir I can share with them.”

When did you get serious about making music?: “I’ve been writing my whole life; I was always really into poetry. But finding beats on the internet and starting to DJ started with me buying my own table in 2013. That’s when I got serious. I bought my first little table, a small pioneer beginner USB DJ table. I had a USB mic and started playing in my room.”

What’s your process?: “I drink a lot of hot tea, it’s my meditation. I have a clean workspace, I built a studio in my room. I literally work in my space. I sample everything, I’m making my own beats and it’s changing my life. I am really evolving; I feel like a kid again. I have never produced before and I’m getting really good. I’ve never been this inspired before.”

You wrote poetry growing up, do the words come first for you?: “I’m a writer before everything. Definitely. I was dealt some crazy cards as a kid and an adult. I went through a lot at a very young age so I started writing young. I found an old drive with word documents that have pages and pages of journals. I was going through some really dark shit.”

How do you build a fanbase?: “It’s about going to shows locally, it’s about showing face. When I blow up, and I’m definitely going to, I want to be known as someone who stayed true, who stayed in Tampa. I’m not someone that gave a show and ran away to New York. I want to make it here, I was born here and started here. It’s important to me.”

Hardest thing about making a career in music: “Girls are really competitive and guys, they don’t even care to listen to your music. It’s always, ‘Look at you,’ trying to hit on you. It’s not like that all the time but I’m really trying to work. It’s about unification for me, about us all being here together, there’s more power within that unity.”

Ultimate goal as a musician and artist: “I want to build my own empire. I have friends that are creative in different ways, I want to go on an art tour and have installations with performance. I want to be something people can’t find on the internet; they have to be there completely. No phones, no barriers.

“By the time I’m 30…no, 40, I want to have enough money to build a self-sustaining commune in Costa Rica. I want artists to come there with their children and raise our families together. My biggest dream is to be a Mom; I don’t want kids right now. Right now, I want to meditate in India, touch and hug strangers, bring that back to my community to raise children together. I don’t want to die thinking I settled for whatever bullshit the United States is feeds us.”

The most positive response you’ve received from your art?: “When people tell me that my song made them cry. It’s hard to create a platform for a human to cry. People don’t cry, they cry when they feel they can’t take it anymore. To have that power to open up a stranger like that, someone who never met me, that was very empowering.”

Favorite local artist: “Samurai Shotgun performed at my house at an after-party and fucking killed it. QueenofEx, her performance and energy as a true hip-hop artist. Also, Mike Mass kills it; he’s got the juice. I don’t feel competitive; it’s all daps and hugs.”

Favorite show in recent memory?: “Wine in Rhyme in January first time I felt out of body, holy shit, hardest I ever went, hear it my voice and see it my face, spiritual to be in that state in that many people it was really cool.”

If you’ve toured, favorite town you’ve played?: “I haven’t yet, but I can’t wait.”

Favorite venue/home venue?: “Honestly, my first show that I threw, in the Basement at the Social, dark, low ceiling, lots of lights, real packed. I wish the Social was still open on the bottom level.”

Any big news? What’s coming up?: “I feel like my life is going to change in the next month and I’m trying to be humble and grounded. Revolt T.V. asked me to DJ “Women on the Rise,” in Miami. I’ve been throwing these shows where I pick a color and build a concept off that color, we have one more in July; we’re doing rainbow to benefit the employees at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. [This past Sunday] I threw my first self-produced show, “DAWLULLABIES,” a cellphone-free zone, healing experience that I hope grounds people. I want people to feel it inside themselves.”

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