Introducing ‘Notes from Mr. Sandman‘ – a column slapping a spotlight on lyricists overlooked, under appreciated, or just plain criminally slept on. Or like a man named Nas once said, “I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.” Enter Mr. Sandman with what y’all missed while chasing the REM dragon.
Amp Fiddler is the Joe Dumars of R&B, a soft-spoken superstar whose championship formula can be found all over Detroit. Some of Detroit’s most influential producers cite Fiddler as an inspiration, everyone from Black Milk and Moodymann to J-Dilla has tipped their cap. Even now, a new generation of artists look at Amp Fiddler as a sage, a benevolent uncle whose insight has been invaluable.
Many of Fiddler’s projects fly below the radar because they’re too innovative for the mainstream, often times so far ahead of the curve that he has to wait for the rest of world to catch up. Waltz of a Ghetto Fly was the album that hip-hop heads gravitated towards, and it’s what introduced him to what his now his core fanbase. It combined the depth of underground hip-hop with the rugged, yet sophisticated soul of Detroit.
“I Believe in You” was a crossover hit; a silky, Funkadelic-like song that melded funk and soul into a nasty brew. His scratchy voice sails across the bubbly beat with supreme confidence, true to himself even when facing rejection: [LISTEN]
Fiddler is known for his writing, but he’s also a skilled producer. Like a master sculptor he manipulates funk, r&b, hip-hop, and house into a distinct sound. The ability to interpret many styles has led to collaborations with everyone from George Clinton and the Detroit Experiment to Sly & Robbie. It’s not exactly an original formula, but it’s one that is ingrained into his marrow and something he does instinctually well.
Amp Fiddler’s third solo album Afro Strut has him running on all cylinders. His confidence was at an all time high and he didn’t have to press, only channel what was already there. He kept exclusively to soul and r&b, but polished it in such a way that had him soaring. Instead of overdoing it and playing to his success he scaled back and settled into what would eventually be his signature sound.
Amp Fiddler is continuing to make music, this time influencing a whole new crop of musicians. As a testament to his timelessness, it’s not Fiddler who is having to adjust but his collaborators. They’re seeking out his sound, which is now considered a staple in Detroit. His unorthodox songwriting and golden touch behind the scenes is why Amp Fiddler is still jamming. He may not be at the forefront, but like Dumars his work can be felt all over the league.