Blitz the Ambassador during his Brooklyn gig
There are few who embark on tours with the gusto of Blitz the Ambassador. The name ‘Blitz’ fits him very well indeed, for the man is tireless. He has been on a ferocious international tour since the beginning of May, delighting fans with his amalgamation of funky Ghanaian infused hip-hop, and he's done this without airplay - a mighty feat if you stop to think about it - yet he is drawing larger crowds than many artists on major labels. I know this as I have seen it firsthand. Your favourite rapper probably doesn’t have the ambitious tour schedule Blitz does.
There are only a few dates left in this summer tour, and his only stop in the US was at the BAM R&B Music Festival in Brooklyn, on Thursday August 2nd. Considering it was right in my backyard, it would have been foolish not to attend.
I’ve seen Blitz perform before. In fact, I even saw him earlier this year when he performed at Webster Hall. I know what to expect, and he never disappoints. Backed by his band The Embassy Ensemble, Blitz roars through song after song, with little to no downtime. The Embassy Ensemble has 3 horns (trumpet, trombone and tenor saxophone) that complement and accentuate the lightning pace of Blitz’s thought provoking lyrics. The horn players move, groove, slide and kick like you wouldn’t believe. Yes, that tenor sax player (Ezra Brown) really did kick his leg nearly chest high. That is just par for the course for The Embassy Ensemble.
Blitz and the Embassy Ensemble take you everywhere musically; from highlife, afrobeat and African classics, to renditions of hip hop classics from the likes of Nas and Eric B & Rakim, to name a few. He takes you on a musical journey to let you know how he became the musician he is today. It really is a marvel to see. There aren’t many concerts where you’ll witness a brief homage to Nas, and then minutes later, the crowd is chanting ‘Wahala’ along with Blitz. For does that don’t know what Wahala is, it means trouble in various Pidgin dialects spoken in some West African countries.
The show wasn’t just on the stage however. The audience was just as animated. At any show with African music, it’s natural for people to dance. Blitz himself even instructs the crowd to dance, telling them that they have to “get down”. He directs them through a little two step. As Blitz is from Accra, Ghana, you can always count on an African contingent in the crowd, and you'll spot them immediately. If the attire, accents and distinct dancing don’t give them away, then the money spraying will. Yes indeed, there were women tossing money on the stage, along with scarves and assorted trinkets. This is no big deal to people in the culture, but as usual, some non-Africans were confused by it, which never ceases to be amusing.
Some of the criticisms often leveled at hip hop are that it lacks originality, that it's about bling, that it’s misogynistic and violent, that people don’t play instruments, etc. I could go on forever. The fact that people continue to use paint an entire movement and genre in broad strokes is troubling, but uninformed people usually have the strongest opinions. The fact of the matter is that there is a lot of fresh, original and downright amazing hip hop out there. Unfortunately, the airwaves are probably the last place you’ll hear most of this. Blitz the Ambassador doesn’t let that curtail his movement. The radio won’t play his music, so he brings the music to you instead. He isn’t restricted by boundaries. As long as there are people there, he’ll be there with his band. After his Brooklyn show, he'd be heading straight for JFK airport to catch a flight to France for his next gig.
If you’re looking for fresh music, then join the Blitz movement. Pick up Native Sun and his 2009 album, Stereotype. Your ears will thank you.
Check Blitz the Ambassador on Facebook for remaining tour dates/locations.