Published Apr 23, 2011There's African hip-hop, there are African grooves with rapping on top and then there's Blitz. Native Son is one of the very few records ever released that thoroughly muddies the waters between live band dynamics, hip-hop aesthetics and non-North American musical ingredients. Blitz spent 18 years in Ghana and is going on ten in Brooklyn; he'll inevitably be compared to K'Naan despite having arrived to North America under vastly different circumstances. Blitz's rapping style is absolutely contemporary; he doesn't sound overly metric. At the same time, he totally sets if off when he starts verbalizing in 6/8 time, bringing a new level of depth to these extremely well executed, funky, Afrobeat-esque tracks. He's also a capable singer and knows when to let the musicians and samples stretch out, most effectively on the Bembeya Jazz-biting "Accra City Blues." Most prominent are his affecting tales of immigrant experiences, from vignettes about African kids catching hell in school 'cause their lunches smell funny to having few employment options other than slinging Subway sandwiches. Very little of this ambitious album rings false ― perhaps only an overly showbiz-y turnaround in a song or two. Whether in English or in Twi, Blitz the Ambassador delivers a new message.
These songs go on journeys. Do you find that post-Kanye, people are more receptive to ambitious song structures?
When people like Kanye and Jay Z expand the way in which music is going from the highest point in the game, if I'm expanding in similar ways, obviously I'm going to benefit from the precedent that they've set. However, I also recognize that what I'm doing is unique and not necessarily everybody is ready for the specific blend of hip-hop music and so-called "world music," or music that isn't American in origin. So I'm cognizant of that.
You rap in 6/8. Have you heard anyone do that before?
The 6/8 rap style is the most challenging part of this project. That is very typical of African music ― our time signatures are crazy, off-the-wall stuff. But when it comes to hip-hop, that's not the way folks count it at all. So that was a major challenge, but when I started doing it, it was natural. Those rhythms were in me already; I knew where to start and where to end with those lines. No, I don't know anyone else who raps in 6/8. Who knows? Maybe I'll start a trend. (Embassy MVMT)