Some people never find their life's calling. By the time she turned 13, Amanda Beale had three.
Beale started taping radio shows on a karaoke machine at the age of 6, shooting video at 8 and recording music with her older brother's mixer a few years later.
"I was never a one-job person," Beale said.
Today, Beale, 27, channels her three passions into the local music scene. A consummate multitasker, she has embraced technology and become a pioneer in the local hip-hop community. Her childhood loves have blossomed into a full-time career as a recording studio owner, radio programmer and videographer.
"If the music scene in Baltimore was a bicycle, she'd be the chain," said Juan Donovan Bell, one-half of critically acclaimed beat-making duo Darkroom Productions. "You can always count on her."
Beale, who goes by the name Amotion, owns and operates Deep Flow Studios in South Baltimore; it's the headquarters for the rest of her operations. There, she programs Deep Flow Radio, the oldest continually operating online hip-hop station in the city, and oversees a public access television show. The award-winning show, called Deep Flow TV, is generating interest from TV networks.
As technology evolves, so does Deep Flow. Beale was one of the first in the city's hip-hop scene to capitalize on Internet radio and online video. A decade ago, independent MCs had far fewer outlets for their work. They jockeyed for radio play on FM hip-hop stations and space on retail shelves. Deep Flow Radio and TV offers them new alternatives to present their music to a broader audience.
"I'm definitely a creature of change," Beale said. "I do best when things are changing."
Change has been a constant in Beale's life. Raised in Boston, she was a delinquent teenager who, she said, spent several months in a private juvenile correctional facility in Massachusetts. Diagnosed as bipolar, she started taking medicine and vowed to turn her life around. She checked out of the facility when she turned 18 and followed her mother, a teacher, to Annapolis in 1999.
Once in the area, Beale started making inroads with the local hip-hop community. She DJ'ed at clubs in Odenton and worked in an urban clothing store while saving money to buy recording equipment. She founded Deep Flow Studios in 2000 with a mixing board, two turntables and a microphone. She operated the studio in her apartment, charging local MCs $15 an hour to record.
"I didn't waste any time," she said.
Evicted from her apartment (she said neighbors thought she was a "drug lord"), Beale found a new home for Deep Flow - a narrow storefront on Hanover Street in Baltimore's Brooklyn neighborhood.
Whether as an MC or studio owner, women have a tougher time breaking into the hip-hop world, said Al Shipley, a Baltimore-based music blogger.
"Women are held to a higher standard," Shipley said. "You've got to work twice as hard as a guy to get to the same level of recognition and be taken as seriously."
At first, negative rumors flew about the young white woman trying to establish a foothold in the city's hip-hop scene. But Beale dismissed them.
"Guy, girl, black, white - it doesn't matter what you are, if you show and prove," she said. "I don't talk. I just do it. It doesn't matter what I look like. The proof is in the work."
Beale's work ethic is undeniable. Bell and his co-producer, Jamal Roberts, recorded the Hamsterdam albums at Deep Flow Studios. Music from the albums made it onto the HBO series The Wire and helped launch their careers.
"We're really comfortable there," Bell said. "Everything about it - the atmosphere, the professionalism. ... That's my second home."
Once Beale had a home for Deep Flow Studios, she quickly branched out into other mediums. Deep Flow Radio went online in 2004 a couple months after she moved into the Brooklyn space.
At any given hour, about 600 people log onto Deep Flow Radio, Beale said. Occasionally, that number spikes to more than 1,000, depending on the day and the buzz independent artists get. A majority of the listenership is based in Baltimore, but people tune in from as far away as Tanzania.
About 70 percent of the music on Deep Flow Radio comes from independent artists, Beale said. Listeners grade new music, and if a song rates low for three consecutive weeks, she yanks it from rotation.
Beale uploads new tracks a few times a week. If artists record a tune at Deep Flow Studios, they get free radio play. Otherwise, it costs $10 to air a song. For a fee, local MCs can host their own shows.
The radio station is the only wing of Deep Flow that doesn't consistently turn a profit. Last year, the U.S. Copyright Office levied royalty rates on Internet radio stations, which doubled Deep Flow Radio's operating costs to about $200 a month. But even with the increase, the station is essential to the business, Beale said.
"It's so important that every time someone comes in the door they're hearing the music being played in here," she said. "People can try it out and see how their music is being graded, and independent artists can be heard."
Independent artists are also spotlighted through Deep Flow TV. The show started airing online and on a cable access channel in 2005, and now she has four videographers filming for Deep Flow. Last year, they shot 50 episodes and won a local media award.
Deep Flow TV features interviews with established and up-and-coming rappers, as well as coverage of local hip-hop events. The show lends credence to the city's growing hip-hop and Baltimore club scene, said Shawn Caesar, co-founder of the local label Unruly Records. Beale's work is helping to put Baltimore on the map, he said.
"Having it on video legitimizes it," Caesar said. "Seeing is believing, and documenting it like that is vitally important."
Beale shot a pilot episode and shopped around Deep Flow TV to networks. A couple expressed interest, but she's waiting to hammer out the best deal. If picked up by a network, the show would center on her and Deep Flow's clientele.
"It's about the souls and the lives of people struggling to make it in the music business, and a female struggling to run her own business and make it happen for those people," she said.
Beale still struggles to grow Deep Flow, but she has had her fair share of success. That original studio rate of $15 has more than tripled. Profits from Deep Flow have helped her buy a house and a car, and she recently moved into a larger studio space on East Patapsco Avenue, also in Brooklyn.
"I'm doing really well," she said. "In the scheme of other 27-year-olds who went to college, I don't know about that. But they're probably not having as much fun as I'm having."