Blitz the Ambassador
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Blitz the Ambassador

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
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"Blitz The Ambassador - Dear Africa"

Blitz the Ambassador has dropped off the first single off his forthcoming album Native Sun, entitled Dear Africa. If you can’t tell by the title, Dear Africa is an open letter song to the motherland that shows what man has done to destroy the richest continent. However, the song also makes sure to point out that through disease, imperialism, and other misfortunes, Africa remains one of the most beautiful places in the world. Produced by Optiks and Blitz, the beat is comprised of an ensemble of well-placed trumpets, trombones, sax, and jazz guitar. While the beginning of the song supplies a slower groove that focuses on Blitz’s open letter, the chorus is complemented by Grammy-nominated sisters Les Nubians. Once the sisters join, the beat becomes a lot more upbeat and mixes a good amount of jazz, tribal, and miscellanea of instruments and styles into the mix. If this single doesn’t give you a warm cultural feeling inside, then I’m convinced you might not have a soul. Those with souls, however, will want to pick up Native Sun when it drops May 3.

Read more: http://www.djbooth.net/index/tracks/review/blitz-ambassador-dear-africa/#ixzz1JY0RFlnz
on DJBooth.net
- DJ Booth.net


"Blitz Bazawule – Lyrical activist, lyrical ambassador"

Blitz the Ambassador is lyrically gifted. With the ability to rhyme on a dime (see…he is rubbing off on me already), he raps about issues that make you take a second look–a deeper look–and see what is really there. His album, ‘Stereotype’, was extremely popular. In it he addresses issues that affect us all, and draws us into the parallels and similarities between Africa and the Diaspora. The verbal imagery is powerful, drawing us into the images he paints as he leads us on this musical journey. Jamati Online was able to catch up with him to talk about his latest project, an album and short film called “Native Sun“.
Blitz the Ambassador

Blitz the Ambassador

It was gratifying to see that Blitz is a very humble person, focused more on the purpose of his music, than on the glory of celebrity. He is also a very articulate brother (easy to see why rap comes so easily to him). When asked about how he helps new artists who are trying to make it, he was effusive, mentioning Baloji for whom he provided a platform and band. “It is important to pair with artists who are ready and professional. If they are not professional, then they obviously don’t consider it a livelihood,” he said.

We at Jamati Online were curious to know why he would make a film that complemented his upcoming album of the same name. Was it for marketing purposes or just to add more creative skills to his growing resume. Here’s what we found out.

Jamati Online: Thank you very much for granting us this interview. You have just completed the filming for ‘Native Sun‘ and are just raised money to do the editing. What was the reason for the film?

Well I thought that the album, ‘Native Sun‘ was sonically a bit out of the norm and I didn’t think that people would get it, so I decided to do the film to visually show the intentions of the words.

Jamati Online: You did the filming in Ghana. Did you use a local production team or were they all from the U.S., or was it a little bit of both?

It was a mix of both. The production team was my production team from here in the U.S.–Terence Nance, Shawn Peters and James Bartlett. The actors were all from Ghana and we had one producer from Ghana. It was interesting. We used a little social media, a lot of word of mouth, and folks that I grew up with who chipped in to help. The University of Ghana was a huge help and a wonderful resource. Their dance program was wonderful and we used the dancers from the school in the film. It was challenging, but we managed to shoot the entire film in 10 days.

Blitz opening for Big Daddy Kane

Blitz opening for Big Daddy Kane

Jamati Online: Your style is unique, and seems to be along the lines of the great rappers (Jay Z, Kanye West). Have you been compared to any rappers and do you feel that the comparison is accurate?

I guess I have been compared to some artists. I don’t mind as long as they are good artists who are trying to advance the arts. I think as artists we are all trying to show a new paradigm (like Black Thought from The Roots), and we have the same ideologies. Unfortunately I think that Africa’s story has been lost in all of this. We have been there from the very beginning. We have been in hip hop since it started, singing the songs, and listening to the lyrics. We have also done our own rap although it has gone largely unnoticed. It is gratifying to see K’naan and Nneka become more mainstream and help advance our story but more of us need to go out and tell our own stories.

Jamati Online: Stereotype was an album that talked about issues in general and now you are coming out with Native Sun. What are the differences between the two?

‘Stereotype’ was more about other people’s issues whereas ‘Native Sun’ is more of a personal journey. ‘Native Sun’ deals with the strange place that we as Africans are in, in the Diaspora. It deals with the journey we are on, the open contradictions we deal with, and the fact that we are, in a sense, strangers in both places. As immigrants we are two people and we are always trying to deal with that.
Blitz opening for the Roots

Blitz opening for the Roots

I think that I have matured lyrically and am trying to forge two identities into one–African and contemporary music–and create some great synergy between the two sounds.

Jamati Online: Well, your gift is also in the storytelling. Where did you get that talent from?

I have to credit my teachers in Ghana with that. On days they would have to leave the class, they would pick someone to tell the class stories. I was in front of the class a lot and told many stories. When I ran out of stories, I started making up my own, and embellished them to make them vivid enough to be believable. I also think that the hip hop culture is much like a griot culture, telling stories to help teach and raise awareness.

Jamati Online: Any likelihood that you will be collaborating with some African artists on the album?

(Laughs) I have actually collaborated with Les Nubians (Cameroon), Baloji (Congo/Belgium), Corneille (Rwanda), and Shad (Rwanda) on ‘Native Sun‘. It definitely adds a lot to the album with different formats and styles, and we have Portuguese, Spanish and French on the album.

Jamati Online: We often notice that people from the continent don’t seem to have the same marketing skills that artists in the Diaspora have. What are your views on that?

Well, I have a degree in Marketing from Kent State University, so whenever I put my albums together I am already thinking of additional components that will have strong visual appeal. Most artists are just artists and not business people so they don’t always think of things in that vein.
Blitz the Ambassador

Blitz the Ambassador

The other thing they struggle with is quality. Too often [in the industry]we have people who are looking for reasons to decline a project, and it is easy to use a lack of quality as a reason. We in the diaspora can transfer our knowledge to them so that we can help lift them up.

Blitz the Ambassador will be traveling on several tours. His album, ‘Native Sun‘, is scheduled to drop on May 3, 2011. Visit his website, Embassy Movement, to learn more about his tour schedule and find out where to purchase his new album. He is also associated with Okayplayer, an online community featuring recording artists whose official Internet sites reside there. Social media junkies can keep up on Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter. - Jamati Online


"Kill Your Radio: Blitz The Ambassador Defies Stereotypical Hip Hop"

Kill Your Radio: Blitz The Ambassador Defies Stereotypical Hip Hop
Read More: Global Music, Global Music Corner, Global-Music-Corner, Music, World Music, World Music Corner, World News
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This is HuffPost World's regular feature that highlights interesting musicians and musical trends around the world. Know of a great musician doing ground-breaking work outside the United States? Send us your ideas for bands to profile or up-and-coming musicians to follow. Please fill out this survey form.

by Sam Bathrick

If you went strolling through NYC's Union Square in 2006 and by chance passed the entrance to the now-extinct Virgin Records Mega-Store, you probably crossed paths with a young black man clutching a stack of CD's, asking, "Do you like good hip hop?"

If you took the challenge, he was ready with headphones and a Discman to give you a quick preview--the street press package. Maybe you bought his mix tape, gambled on the chances these days of just about anybody with a laptop getting lucky on a track or two. Maybe you veered to the curb and turned up your ipod, knowing good and well the chances of avoidance were slim. The next corner would bring another MC with the same question.

No matter what you said or didn't say to Blitz The Ambassador, whose August release "Stereotype" hit top ten on the iTunes hip hop charts in its first weeks, the question is now upon you again.

Breathe - Blitz the Ambassador from MVMT on Vimeo.


The recent success of this Ghanaian Brooklynite is evidence of the commercial viability of a well-watered, community-grown self-release model and a testament to the fact that the hustle generation is getting its shit together. For hip hop fans who answer yes, it signals the return of the album that plays from start to finish.

"I tell folks I would not have the album I have without crappy radio," Blitz says, remembering his days in union square. "I was at that point in my life I needed music that could elevate me and get me out of the space that I was in. I turned to the radio and it actually got me really messed up."

On the album's cover, which Blitz designed before he wrote any of the music, a figure with a boom box for a head is blowing his own radio brains out. For the artist, this imagery was a starting point.

While networking with other performers in Union Square, Blitz struck a deal with the Chicago-based Hypnotic Brass ensemble for graphic design services in return for horns on his next mix tape, invoking the barter system of his birth country that would become central to the success of his low-budget operation.

Still, the self-proclaimed ambassador was without an embassy. To build a coalition around his album, Blitz turned to a community of artists and entrepreneurs whose collective talents would form Embassy MVMT, the force behind Stereotype's release. Partnering with marketer, strategist, and entrepreneur James Bartlett, Blitz recalls the conception of a hip-hop product with legs.

"We realized that people are still buying records, people are going to shows. Look, build up a live show that is undeniably the hottest thing you can go see, and then you got that market going."

To meet this end, Blitz began assembling what would become the Embassy Ensemble, endowing it with a blistering brass section, a nod to the Afrobeat and Highlife records his father played throughout his childhood in Ghana.

Blitz

"I put an amazing amount of emphasis on the live element. It was a very organic process. It took me over two years but I think that the band is probably the most essential piece of what I'm doing right now because were able to rock anywhere, everywhere."

Blitz, who composed all the live elements on the album, collaborated with a producer called Optiks, whose inventions span the space between celestial soul sampling and the raw breaks of hip-hop's roots.

With an exceptionally musical rap album in the works, Blitz attracted the attention of some major labels. But with the process dragging, The Ambassador found himself a small fish in the corporate sea. Once again, the crew banked their momentum on the proven hustle of the collective, birthing Embassy MVMT (http://embassy.mvmt.com/) to launch the record with Blitz as its big fish.

"Instead of spending the rest of my career trying to argue why I'm right, I might as well just bring it to the home base and be right," Blitz says. "It's no secret. Everything is on the internet so you might as well just get with it and figure out a team that brings special abilities to the collective and we've proven to be very successful with that."

Simply defined, an ambassador is an authorized messenger between peoples. Blitz's lyrics reflect both an acceptance of this responsibility and his recognition of hip hop as a revolutionary tool. On "Home", one of the album's many gems, he paints an unsentimental portrait of three characters on the fringes of society, each fated by the cycle of poverty. The song meets each character as they depart the world of the living: an old man drowns in Katrina's wrath, a wounded American solider bleeds out on a Baghdad road, a Mexican single mother is struck down by an American bullet at the border. To each, Blitz makes his hook a simple offering: "I'll take you home."

Blitz says he was moved to write the track after watching two documentaries: When The Levees Broke and Why We Fight. Fittingly, it was his cinematic style as a composer that recently landed him a gig scoring the soundtrack for the PBS Documentary Bronx Princess, (http://www.bronxprincess.com/) which chronicles a young woman's tumultuous journey from New York City to reunite with her father, a chief in Ghana.

Though Blitz left Ghana at seventeen for college at Kent State University, he recognizes his unique position as a West African voice in hip hop. When pressed, he respectfully laments the lack of social content in West African hip-hop, which often takes its cues from the bling culture born of American rap.

"We're still dealing with neo-colonial imperialism. We're still dealing with not being the ambassadors of our destiny. I would love to see some of my people address some of the local issues that people over here are pretty oblivious to. That's what Fela did. You know, Bob did it for the islands--to encapsulate all the strife and struggle and put it out in the music and to be an ambassador for that."

The arrival of Stereotype, an album deeply rooted in the musical traditions of jazz, highlife and afrobeat, marks not an end point, but rather a historical landing in hip hop's continual round trip passage between the continent of Africa and the borough of Brooklyn.

As an authorized messenger, Blitz tackles a range of issues from Mugabe's starving of Zimbabwe to American consumerism and the ghetto street corner as a modern-day auction block. In diplomatic fashion, his weapon remains the carefully crafted dissemination of information.

"I see myself as a documentarian," says Blitz. "You gotta know this is what's going on. You can't plead ignorance." - Huffington Post


"Underground: Rapper Blitz Uses Old Tricks For New Pursuits"

Rapper/composer Blitz The Ambassador may be fairly new to the game, but he's got the smarts of a veteran when it comes to branding.

The 27-year-old Brooklyn MC says plenty of times he's walked by people wearing his promotional T-shirt on the streets, which he designed himself. Depicting a suited man with a stereo in place of his head, holding a pistol to it while blood gushes from the other end, the image is the same Blitz -- a self-professed "visual artist" -- used for his latest album cover. "They pass me and they don't even know it's me," he chuckles.

Additionally, Blitz has a backing band, his own independent label, Embassy MVMT, and his very own mascot -- the inspiration behind the T-shirt and album cover art -- who usually appears on stage during their live shows.

While he's indifferent to subgenre labeling and doesn't identify with the 'conscious rapper' label, the unsigned trilingual rapper (Blitz speaks English, French and the native Ghanian Dialect Twi) rhymes about issues that affect him directly and other, more worldly ones. "I don't think just because I don't talk about 'money, cash, hos' that I'm better. I think I'm necessary," he says matter-of-factly. "I try to make music that I would hope that my favorite artists make and it seems to be catching on."

Indeed it is. His third album, "Stereotype," dropped digitally last July and reached the top 10 of iTunes' hip-hop albums chart in its first week of release; he was featured on MTVU's Artist Spotlight video series, "House Band;" he scored the PBS documentary "Bronx Princess;" and has a six-city California tour under his belt. He recently released his latest single, "Something to Believe" (Watch the video to "Something To Believe" below) and will soon release an EP called "Native Son," which features songs written entirely in Twi.



Blitz the Ambassador // StereoLive // Something to Believe feat. Tess from MVMT on Vimeo.






All of these ventures came about the old-fashioned way -- through the buzz Blitz has created for himself via his live shows. He says he's inspired by the worth-ethics of such artists as Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and Public Enemy. "Radio didn't make them, tv didn't make them," Blitz says. "They played shows. That's what's happening with us."

"Us" being Blitz and his band the Embassy Ensemble. Collectively, the group takes to the stage looking as dapper as they can; they rock their shows -- which include an upright bass and emphatic horn section -- suited up and accompanied by Static Stereohead, the boombox-headed mascot. Blitz drew the jarring character "out of straight frustration," he says.

To understand the sound of The Ambassador, it's important to understand his background. An Accra, Ghana native, Blitz was born Samuel Baza Awuley in the nation's capital in 1982. Although he described having very little in terms of day-to-day basics like clean running water while growing up, Blitz says "everything in Ghana is about music: from sports to getting water -- music is always there."

It comes to no surprise, then, that Blitz's music is heavily influenced by Afrobeat and West African Highlife musical traditions -- a notable characteristic of which is evident in the Ensemble's jazzy horn section.

Blitz was also influenced by hip-hop by way of his older brother, who as a teenager managed to get his hands on the tapes of The Juice Crew, Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions and more. "He was always up on what was hot," says Blitz.

Thus, when Blitz moved to the U.S. ten years ago, hip-hop was the tool that spared him from culture shock. "I knew what to expect and a lot of that was through hip-hop. That's one thing about hip-hop that nobody gives it credit for -- it's like CNN, for people who don't watch CNN but like to nod their heads."

Because of his DIY mentality, Blitz says the idea of signing to a major label is not as important to him these days. "I'm very down to partner with whoever, but being signed, you give up your artistic integrity. That's inevitable," he says. "That's really what has crippled the art and what has killed a lot of fabulous artists. I will never sign to a label unless I have my creativity."

Thankfully, creativity is not something Blitz is short of. He wrote, produced and composed the score to "Bronx Princess" -- a doc about a Ghanaian-American teenager spending the summer in Ghana -- in about three weeks. "Her story was very similar to mine -- moving to America and trying to acculturate but still trying to hold onto those elements that made you, trying to reconcile both cultures," he says.

Blitz continues to push his limits by utilizing all of his skills, currently focusing on his "Native Son" EP. "I feel like I'm missing out on communicating with a lot of people back home. Stepping outside my comfort zone keeps me challenged, keeps me working, keeps me busy," he says.

Clearly, Blitz serves as a diplomat for Ghana and hip-hop, but this ambassador remains modest about his ascent to fame. "What's inside of you is what you do," he says. "It's not even a responsibility; I'm just acting out what I know."
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- Billboard


"Audio: Blitz The Ambassador “Dear Africa” featuring Les Nubians"

Blitz The Ambassador plans on releasing his new album, Native Sun, on May 6th. As highly acclaimed as his last album was (Stereotype), I personally think this is Blitz’ finest work to date. It’s music people of all generations can enjoy. Below you can listen to the first official single “Dear Africa” featuring Les Nubians and produced by Blitz and Optiks. “the song is at once an ode to her beauty and history, honest first-hand narrative, roll call of her capital cities and a call for change. Laced with slinky sax, blaring horn lines, west African guitar licks and booming 808s, the song packs a prolific call to the world in under five minutes.” After the jump you’ll find Blitz’ current Euro tour dates, as well as a trailer for the short film that will accompany the album. Make sure to check OKAYAFRICA regularly for more great afro-centric content. - OkayPlayer


Discography

Stereotype (2009)
Native Sun (2011)

Photos

Bio

A blindingly bright clarity drives Blitz the Ambassador. With a spot-on sense of flow, he name-checks Basquiat and Lumumba, evokes lovelorn sighs on Accra buses, émigré alienation, history’s shadows. All set to swirls of brass, distorted guitars, and the crackle and pop of old amplifiers.

With a lightning-fast mind, the political boldness of Chuck D, and the sixth groove sense of Fela Kuti, the Ghanaian-born, New York-based MC, composer, and producer unleashes psychedelic Afrobeat colors and triple-time rhymes on his new album Native Sun (Embassy MVMT; May 3, 2011). The album was sparked in Accra yet forged in the African diaspora.

Native Sun—as both musical journey and a striking short film—unfolds from a kaleidoscope of perspectives, with help from a Rwandan sweet soul singer (Corneille on the track “Best I Can”), from sleek Francophone sirens (Les Nubians on “Dear Africa”) and from Congolese and Brazilian samba-loving MCs (Baloji and BNegão on “Wahala”). Blitz even got a boost—including an invite to play at a packed Central Park SummerStage show—from Public Enemy’s Afrocentric thinker and rapper Chuck D himself (whose shout outs grace “Oracle”).

Blitz grew up when the fierce promise of Afrocentric, intellectually discerning rap was at its peak. In the Accra of his youth, the golden age of hip hop lived on long after rap began to go (Dirty) South in the U.S. In barbershops and on well-loved cassettes, young people rallied around a fresh and defiant expression of their concerns and perspectives.

“When you hear young people have such a command, speaking so assertively about how they feel, it resonates with you no matter where you are,” reflects Blitz. “Especially if you live in a stricter society with strong social codes where young people’s voices aren’t heard, hip hop can be a major outlet.”

Blitz and his brothers and friends became avid fans of groups like Public Enemy, one of the few major hip hop names to tour Ghana. Blitz began memorizing raps verbatim to impress the cool kids at school, making up words where he didn’t catch the lyrics, studying the flow of masters from Rakim to KRS-One.

Yet Blitz was surrounded by a profusion of other music in Accra, from the highlife swaying at a nearby soccer field to the kora and drums played for chiefs and sub-chiefs. Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson, and local reactions to rock and funk all made their mark, spinning on the sometime unreliable family record player.

It all came together, resounding in his head after Blitz left home and began to feel his way toward his own voice and sound. He figured out how to launch a blazing rap in 6/8, a favorite Afropop time signature heard on the track “En-trance,” or effortlessly blend the beauties of scratching with hardcore interlocking melodies (“Akwaaba” and “Victory”). He shifts between Twi, West African Pigeon, and English, between good old R&B and Ethiopian funk jazz (“Native Sun”), without losing a beat.

“It’s easy to throw a bunch of elements together, but you have to find points where they intersect,” Blitz explains. “You have to create something so that you can’t tell where the hip hop begins and where the Afrobeat ends, and where highlife stops and future beats start. You have to create a world of equal parts.”

Refracted by life in the diaspora, the sounds Blitz became increasingly drawn to—starting on mixtapes in college and continuing with his live instrumental hip hop outfit Stereotype—crashed up against the commercial reality of what his favorite music had become.

With the DIY skills of hip hop’s old-school outer-borough instigators and decades of lo-fi innovators across West Africa, Blitz crafts his tracks from scratch, singing reference tracks for every trombone and background vocal, often laying down thirty or more lines for each song. “I don’t have any music theory training. I have no idea what I’m doing,” Blitz laughs. “That means I do things that a trained composer would never do. That’s when it gets interesting.”

This “outsider thinking” also led Blitz to make a short film with director Terence Nance as a companion expression for the album, a shorter take on the larger whole that Blitz fears might get lost in the IPod shuffle. Filmed in Ghana with a cast of 55, it maps the transformation of a boy from marginal village orphan to master of his destiny, with a poignancy and panache rarely seen in music videos.

“Native Sun the album is a journey backwards, back through hip hop, the Caribbean soundsystem culture that preceded it, back to its African roots, with the final kora,” notes Blitz. “The film looks forward, to what could be. Both are about the longing for home we feel in the diaspora, and about letting go of old notions and embracing new ideas. The sound in itself speaks to that.”