ON ‘BEST I CAN’, BLITZ THE AMBASSADOR REFLECTED ON THE PAST, PRESENT AND THE FUTURE

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In the June 2011 edition of the now out of print DUST Magazine, the then editor, Kobby Graham (KG) wrote an article on New York based Ghanaian rapper, Blitz The Ambassador. Contained in the introduction of the article were these incontrovertible truths: Blitz is an artist at the crossing of several paths. America and Africa. Past and present. Hip-hop and highlife. He is not confused about where to turn though. He stands instead as a messenger between worlds, as fluent in one reality as he is in the other. The kid once called Baza on the streets of Accra has grown to become its ambassador. In his own words: “You have to be good at home first before becoming good elsewhere.”

For Ghanaians unfamiliar with the name, Baza featured on Obrafour’s Who Born You By Mistake and Deeba’s hit single Deeba in the year 2000 (check out YouTube if you are too young to remember). After making an impression on rap fans, he moved to New York and what followed, has been an incredible exhibition of form and growth- the growth which, in the words of Franklin (), has transformed Blitz into a formidable rapper capable of standing mic-to-mic with your favourite rapper.

Blitz remains one of the few African artists in the diaspora whose connection with his ‘roots’ has not been corrupted. His music reflect, unashamedly his origins. He expresses his ‘roots’ through the incorporation of African, mostly Ghanaian rhythms of highlife and afrobeats into his music. His choice of themes-Pan African consciousness, freedom and empowerment are not lost in his compositions either. One album that truly reflect these elements is Native Sun. The album is an epic representation of what a modern afro hip hop album should sound; largely due to its perfectly authentic experimental sounds.

I decided to return to the album a couple of weeks back. Running through Native Sun, one can’t but bestow on it the ‘classic’ tag (that adjective has suffered abuse in recent times). The 12 track album still sounds fresh; the themes still evocative and relevant; the production on the album; sophisticated. From the opening track ‘En trance’ to the closing ‘Ex itrance’ and songs that lie between, the album speaks to the listener on many fronts. It also offers you a peek into the state of mind of Blitz, his ambitions and values.

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Songs like Dear Africa featuring the amazing Les Nubians with its ‘people still that Africa is synonymous to charity’ reminder; the soulful grooves on Accra City Blues provokes a sense of nostalgia; Victory and Wahala carries an ebullient feel and Native Sun; with its soothing bluey charm captures the life of immigrants in the diaspora.

One song that really caught my attention, the first time I heard the album, and still remains a favourite is the Corneille assisted Best I Can.  From the very beginning of the song, you feel its charm. The chiming sound, the guitar baseline, the drums, the horns, all assembling together into one ball of beauty. By the time Corneille’s emo-filled voice permeates the beat, one is already enamoured. What Blitz does on Best I Can is to speak of his past, present and the future. He sells his story and his musical influences to the listener and his achievements in two verses.

On the first verse, Blitz talks about how it all started for him- Accra (Accra city, my city where we go hardest/ survivors the fact that we never had much). With Rakim and Reggie Rockstone as inspiration, he ‘dreamt of making it out here, take it back home’ whiles bridging the gap between the past inspired by Fela Kuti and Hugh Masekele and the future.

On the second verse, Blitz laid down his future dreams-the dreams which continues to fuel his ambitions towards greatness (the Best I Can). He also describes himself again, picking from an earlier line in the first verse: I just wanna be the bridge between the veteral old heads and the kids/Folks on the continent (Africa) and the kids’. He also defines what poverty, in the African context means as ‘when we say that we are poor, it ain’t cos we can’t afford a new Jordan’s/More like having nothing to eat all morning’. Such depravities leads to these kids indulge in ‘click clack’. He draws a line between the ways of these kids to Pacquaio’s ducking style and his own rap flows to the paintings of Jean Michel Basquiat.

In the words of Jay Z, sometimes kicking knowledge in rap isn’t profitable (truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common (sense)/ But I did 5 mill/ I even rhymed like Common since). In hip hop culture, rapping about drugs and gangbanging seems to be the pathway to success. People want to hear an artiste’s street hustle or credibility. But Blitz doesn’t subscribe to this notion. For him, (a) true artists must be real: ‘A true artist, you pretend to be a dope dealer’ and his realness and authenticity would see him on ‘stage at Bonnaroo, Coachella with a live band’.

For those wondering how he would end up on these two big festival stages, Blitz hands them an answer: And they still wanna know who the best is, without a record deal, a mill and a platinum necklace? Well, I am him’.  Blitz didn’t stop there, he compares his fine run to ‘Ali running lapse in the streets of Zaire/like bomaye/ my people got me’. He even appealed to ‘somebody to please Dave Chappelle back’ on TV and guess what, Mr. Chappelle is back to regular programming. And this was a wish Blitz made in 2011 (futuristic? yeah).

Those who have seen him perform live on stage would describe him as a performer. And those who have heard his music would appreciate his passion and intelligence of wax. Both ways, one finds something appreciating about the artist called Blitz whose 2009 album Stereotype topped the iTunes International charts.

As the hook of Victory aptly put it ‘It’s not where you from but where you got’. On the second verse of Best I Can, Blitz emphatically made that very clear.

Blitz The Ambassador’s (sounds like “I’m-Bazaar-Tho”?) new album DIASPORADICAL is set out now. Get your copy here

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