Blitz The Ambassador: Last Line Of Defense
On the West African coast, Ghana is one of those places. There, a young Blitz The Ambassador eagerly awaited the arrival of Public Enemy. Not the "Fight The Power" P.E. or even "Shut 'Em Down" P.E., but the mid '90s evolution of the group, when touring started to overwhelm radio singles. The experience meant everything, and as Blitz grew, he chased the band and Hip Hop, opting to move to the United States above Europe to live.
In his time in the States, balanced between a college education in Ohio and now living in Brooklyn, Blitz has met his dreams head-on. Opening shows for Akon and Snoop Dogg - as well as Rakim and Chuck D, Blitz The Ambassador is bridging the gap between the Hip Hop of then and now - and always, night to night and show to show.
With his debut album Suicide Stereotype being a two-and-a-half-year creation, Blitz hasn't sprinted for success, he's earning his stripes slowly. Working towards "Bono status," the emcee/producer and graphic designer has bold views on the culture he's chased the last 15 years. To HipHopDX, he explains his love of ambient music, his hit "Hands of Time," and what a label needs to do to get him to raise an eyebrow and even consider "putting rims on the whoopty."
HipHopDX: How old were you when you left Ghana?
Blitz The Ambassador: I left Ghana when I was 17. Im 25 now.
DX: What brought you here?
B: Family, number one. Education, number two. Hip Hop music, number three. Most of my family moved to Europe after we moved here; I was one of the only ones who stayed. My journey was always Hip Hop. It was my beacon of light. Ive been following it since I was 10. I knew that there was no way Id survive in England somewhere, not being as close to Hip Hop as I wanted to be.
DX: Hands of Time, Ill go on record as saying its one of the five best songs by an unsigned artist in Hip Hop right now. How did it come to be?
B: Hands of Time is my chronicle. Like I said, Hip Hop has always been this beautiful thing. In hindsight, I can sit back and look at how fortunate Ive been in being outside the looking glass, wanting to participate in something so far away. The closest I came to Hip Hop was in 93 when Public Enemy came to Ghana. That had never happened before. Records like Fight the Power were huge, and that was the closest Id ever been to that. Im able to look at and participate in Hip Hop, still from the fans perspective. I feel like thats what a lot of artists have lost over the years. Hip Hop is a very egotistical art. It really is hard for artists whove been doing it for a long time to be fans of the art. They dont want to say they love somebody. I dont know what it is, this deformed sense of vulnerability that a lot of artists have.
I think the reason why that song resonated with a lot of people is the fact that people are fans. At the end of the day, Talib Kweli or Mos Def was a fan of Rakim before they even picked up the pen. Unless youre the beginning of this shit and even those guys were fans of whatever else they were listening to. Its a never-ending cycle of fans who are fortunate enough to participate in the art that they love. Thats just an overview.
As far as the record goes, I just wanted to do a dope, reminisce record. Ive often not been happy with the way people have done that reminisce thing. Its always been very one-sided. So what I wanted to do was talk about my life, from the perspective of the soundtrack that I was listening to. The first verse of that song is my earliest beginnings in what really got me close to Hip Hop. The second verse goes from being attracted to trying to participate in it, but its not easy, cause you dont have access to instrumentals. We never had those CD singles with instrumentals. We had to improvise. One of the things we did comin up was taking the last five or 10 seconds of the beat running out, and with two tapes, dub them back to back so you had two minutes of instrumentals to spit over. Its that kind of all, by all means necessary typeI knew cats who breakdanced on gravel. Cardboard boxes and all of that shit, those are luxuries. The third verse is me now, being able to open for my heroes. This summer I just did gigs with Rakim, KRS, Chuck D. Chuck D brought me out and introduced me to the crowd like, Yo, this kid is the future. I told Chuck D, Yo dont even believe B, I was 10 or something when you came to Ghana. Id never seen Hip Hop. I cant mask that Im a fan.
DX: You also just performed with Akon, A-Trak and Kid Sister. How do you balance those crowds with the KRS-One or Chuck D crowds?
B: Im very neutral. My background itself makes me very neutral. [I did a] show with Akon, and the next day I did a gig with Rakim. Being able to survive in all these worlds at the same time is just a function of hard work and having a very distinct identity. The crowd that I rocked to at the Akon show was nothing like the crowd that I rocked to at the Rakim show. Those two people might never even interact in life, but the bottom line is, its the essence that we bring. This shit feels new and it feels like the future, so all sorts of people take what they will from it. With Akon, I did a nine-piece band. Three horns, a string section, craziness. Thats the background Im from. Theres no way I can write it without performing it. Its very audience-friendly. Records are made to be performed. This is why my album has taken me two-and-a-half years to complete. Why? Because I have to make sure the records are resonating.
DX: Is this what makes you The Ambassador?
B: Yo, I think so! I never really thought about it like that, but now that youve mentioned it. I honestly feel like my presence in music generally, Im an ambassador in music on a little different levels. One, being foreign and bringing an African perspective to the game. Two, my general identity. Im fortunate enough to have something that I can actually call my own. My overall goal is to play with a 50-piece ensemble. The type of shit, that when you set up, people know its Super Bowl status.
DX: On your Myspace page, youve got a bit of a shrine to some influences. How is Bjork an influence?
B: Aw man! Shit! I love Bjork. She is fuckin fabulous! Shes from Iceland somewhere, which is dope. Music is a function everything around you is what ends up in your records. Shes in Iceland, fuckin with an 808 and a crazy MPC joint, making fabulous music. I love her sound; her voice is insane. That influenced me to a write a song called Suicide Theme. Its actually the title track of the album, highly influenced by her, Portishead, Radiohead the ambient musicians the ones who go out there and do what they feel. I pay real money to see these people. I want to know how Radiohead rents a studio in the woods to record. Thats interesting. I want to do that. I want to know how Bob Marley and Peter Tosh did it; I know how these guys [rappers] do it. Its obvious. They dont put no thought into it. Smoke a couple blunts and press record. I feel like thats not working. My level of sophistication wont allow me to respect it. I have friends who never dreamed of being artists today, being artists, because of how low the bar is. As Chuck D told me, "Youve got to put the 'awe' in audience.
DX: You said the album is two-and-a-half years deep. When its done, what kind of situation are you looking for, or are you going all out independent?
B: We are. I have been operating for years, independently, putting myself on the road, touring. None of that shit is ever gonna stop. My machinery is well-oiled right now. Ive got the hooptie. If they want to throw some rims on it, thats cool. Ill take some rims. If they wanna give me some gas money, Ill take it. But I definitely know where Im driving to. Nobody is getting into that drivers seat by me. Thats how Ive looked at it for years. Its definitely tough to compete. Lets be clear too, this is a competition. Every time I get to play an Akon or Snoop Dogg show, somebody is not getting to play that. So I have to treat it as a do-or-die situation. You have to get it cause its yours. If I dont get one of these [label] situations, the record is the record, and the record is good. Its just a ratio thing. If it gets exposed to 100 people, 90 people will buy it. If it gets exposed to 100,000,000 people, 90,000,000 will buy it; thats my outlook. I just have to make sure that Ive made the best product possible. What I aim for is definitely high, definitely huge, and I need a home to understand that this is international, and we can be Bono status.
DX: What kind of time-table?
B: My goal is to put it out this fall. Im done recording. Im done with the initial marketing to start circulating a single. Weve started multiple campaigns. Im targeting different regions. My goal is for the fall. Tour throughout the summer; Im hoping to do Rock The Bells, do a small tour with either The Roots or Common. Hopefully, by the fall, Ill have a single that circulates well enough to have an album out by the end of the year.
To hear Blitz' music [click here].