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Blitz The Ambassador | Native Sun

Album review by John Powell

Blitz The Ambassador | Native Sun

Every so often a hip/hop artist turns out an album so in tune with itself and the world around it that anyone doubting the genre’s place in music has nothing to argue about. With Native Sun, Blitz the Ambassador’s fourth release, he has created a cohesive soundtrack to the Times, to history, and to culture. Most importantly, Blitz has done this with a live backing band, and a bunch of guest performances.

Let’s start with the live band. For Native Sun Blitz wanted to utilize West African musical influences to diagram connections between its sound and that of modern hip/hop. The result is afrobeat/ 70s funk instrumentation, from horns to turn tables. Each song has a different grouping of musicians, but the band is the same across the album, notably Jonathan Powell, Ron Prokopez, Ezra Brown who make up the glorious horn section. Another nod belongs o Raja Kassis on lead guitar, giving the tracks an old school Fela Kuti style.

Native Sun is really an album experience. Certainly some of the tracks stand alone. It’s safe to say Jay-Z’s not doing anything on the radio level that Blitz isn’t mastering on an indie level. From start to finish Blitz has made what could be considered a thesis project- an organized arch of music and history that was studied and planned.

“En-Trance” begins with an airy trumpet, like what a documentary would sound to simulate the sunrise over the African heartland. The poly-rhythmic beat is slow, with sax soloing low. Then there’s a flip and Blitz enters, singing in his native tongue. He lives up to his name, firing out flow effortlessly. He namedrops Public Enemy, and says, “Top ten on iTunes/did it without a deal.”

“Akwaaba” has a similar feel, built on layers of percussion and more native tongue vocals. He also just raps like it’s off-the-cuff and totally second nature. The best part of this tune, however, is DJ GI Joe’s scratching. It offers a lot of energy and texture without being overbearing or the center of attention.

Having mentioned Jay-Z, “Best I Can” has a glistening synth and a mean hook by Corneille that J-Hova would have loved for his own record. Minimal in an album of mostly full-sounding instrumentation, this song makes a bed for Blitz to launch off of and he shines, living up to his name. He’s so quick! Yet, you can understand everything he says. I truly appreciate how clear his vocals are.

A key track is “Dear Africa”, arguably one of the best hip/hop songs recorded in the last ten years. This isn’t an overstatement at all, by the way. Pick Blitz’s lyrics, (“You be proud to know I never stopped reppen’ you/every track, every show/every last interview”), the music, (starting with a slinky beat, falling into a female backing vocal bridge, and euphorically expanding into Toubab Krewe-esque guitar strut with horns as fast as Bltiz’s raps), or the layout, (composed like an actual letter to Africa)- anyway you slice it, Blitz has his finger on the pulse. At the end, Bltiz even says, “Signin’ off/ sincerely/it’s your native sun.”

That brings me to Bltiz’s smarts. The double meaning of “Native Sun” (native son) is just the start of his usages of phrase to procure thought-provoking images. Take another key track, “Free Your Mind”, a jazz-infused minor key sprint. “Whatever they do/we do/whatever they think/ we think/ it’s so insane,” Blitz shakes his head about African government. It’s just one verse bookended by crescendo-ing horn rolls.

Then there’s Chuck D’s appearance on “The Oracle”, a minute long “PSA” where he says, “It’s not where you’re from; it’s where you’re at.” These words ring true with Blitz, taking his title as ambassador seriously. His job is to draw lines between modern hip/ hop and African music influences throughout the past 50 years. He does this flawlessly. Whether you like hip/hop, funk, or afrobeat, Blitz is an underrated artists that now has Native Sun, a legacy to be proud of, from ancestors to future generations. It’s an example of how music is art and how art doesn’t mean weird or offbeat. Art means on track, focused, and made to make audiences think.

Bottom Line: If you don’t get what hip/hop is all about, learn a thing or two from Blitz.


 

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