Blitz The Ambassador, on Disaporadical, sold the African story; our history, struggles, determination, joys and spirituality.
Perfection. It’s a long walk to arrive at that destination. It takes sweat, brains and brawn to reach that point where you can finally sigh, not out of frustration, but more from satisfaction. For rapper Blitz the Ambassador, it’s taken him four full length albums and a couple of EPs to perfect the sonic sound he has been chasing since his career began. His over 2 month old album, Diasporadical, reflects that sound – hip hop beats synced perfectly with lovely highlife/afrobeat influences.
Diasporadical, for those who have followed the career of Blitz, leans towards his favourite themes – Pan-Africanism, Ambition/Success, Love, Black excellence – and beats; a mash of afrobeats, hiphop, soul/blues. The album is arranged in three Acts; each act, like a play, touching on a subject that advances the coherent narrative that Blitz is sharing with the world.
An important and distinguishable thing about this album is the Diasporadical Trilogia short film that it comes with. The film, an amalgamation of the music videos for the songs on the album – ‘Juju Girl’, ‘Shine’ and ‘Running’ – is an aesthetically pleasing one that perfectly augments the audio component of the album. The themes explored in the film – from Maame Water to ancestral spirits and gentrification – encompass the album’s thematic concerns, aid to add more intensity to the message, and ultimately, show everything Blitz the Ambassador said this album would be, some two years prior to its release: ‘Deeply spiritual. Cosmic. Mystical. Political and above all, DIASPORADICAL.”
The album’s ‘Intro’ is fashioned like an announcement to an audience: Out comes a single guitar chord and a voice introducing him to the listener (audience). The beat is boom bap (in relaxed mode) seasoned with electro-synths elements. Martin Luther King’s words ‘as we have to do at home, learn to honour our black heroes’ situate the album in context.
As is customary in Africa, a visitor to a house inquires about the lives of everyone in the household. This concept underlines ‘Hello Africa’. With its bubbling beats punctuated by horns and drums, Blitz takes a tour across Africa, hi-fiving folks and places across the continent whiles asking ‘hello Africa, tell me how you doing?’ Hello Africa has a cheerful ring to it, compared to “Dear Africa’ off Native Sun, which carried a somewhat painful weariness (People think that Africa’s synonymous to charity). Blitz, like on ‘Dear Africa,’ takes a tour across African capitals on Hello Africa. But this time, he paints very descriptive pictures of some of the landmarks and traits of the cities: pull up in Lagos, cruising my okada, Ikoyi to Ikeja the traffic is wahala.
If there’s a song on the album that captures the sound Blitz has been honing over these years – a perfect blend of heavy hip hop beats and highlife (afrobeat) grooves a la Reggie Rockstone’s Keep Your Eyes On The Road, then ‘Shine’ is that song. Against Sahelian kora grooves and North Africa hand drums, Blitz regards himself a metaphor for Africa (one that can’t be ignored). Making references to being ‘baptised in the river’ and ‘they’ll try to change you’, he reflects the tenacity of the African (himself) to ward off forces of negativity. The sampled voices of the female singers (is it Les Nubians?), gives the song an enchanting feel.
The hip hop beats break, paving way for organic and mellow palmwine highlife and big band horn grooves when Blitz shares a tale about love on ‘Juju Girl’ (Juju here representing an unshakable feeling of affection). Crooning, he details in vivid terms, how her beauty and ‘the way you dance, got me in a trance’. Despite the piano chords handing the track a haunting feel towards the end, Blitz’ attempts to hit the low-notes betrayed him as a no singer. His singing on ‘A (Wake)’, “a ballad for Tamir Rice,” which could also rightly be considered a solemn requiem for murdered blacks across the world, was better rendered. ‘How many people would have to cry for us to see there’ll never be peace till we are all free?’ amidst paying tribute to the ‘black bodies in Brooklyn, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Joburg and Port Au Prince, broaches on injustice and how it can’t be overlooked.
The hard thumping hip hop beats, horns and messages of economic hardships, corporate fleecing and corruption is intense on the Tumi assisted ‘Heaven’ where Blitz reminds us of heroes – Ken Saro Wiwa and Steve Biko – who were killed for standing against oppressive, exploitative systems (our leaders aint loyal, they sell us to the highest bidder, giving up the soil). Tumi aced on this track with his brilliant anecdotes which related survival tales of Africans, immigrants and blacks in US, and how to overhaul the system (find a way to overthrow tyrants with a code that’s so silent). Blitz samples Fela Kuti’s 1971 song ‘Why Black Man Dey Suffer’ on this joint.
The theme of asserting once freedom and striving for excellence is further explored on ‘Ogya’ (fire) which features poet/rapper Akua Naru and Kamau, a Paris based rapper. The hook of Ogya is a reworked version of a well-known Osibisa song. And on this track, both artistes took turns to talk boldly and proudly about their formidable qualities.
Blitz taps M.anifest for ‘If Them No Know’ where they put the spotlight particularly onto Ghana, touching on issues of corruption, dumsor (power cuts), abuse of power, and the irony of African artistes bragging about BET awards that are handed to them backstage. M.anifest (who grew up with Blitz in Madina) leaves us with this head scratching words ‘imports and generator generation, how can you be great with a pissed poor imagination’. The two expressed their views about the country unapologetically.
‘Running’, the almost 8 minute long closing track is a composition of many popular Ghanaian interludes soaked in infectious highlife and splashed with raps by Blitz, highlighting the ills of The Empire (you built your empire stealing people’s damned soul). The song is spiritually toned and one can hear the crashing waves of the sea-water – the linchpin of the album as the waves took our ancestors to the Americas and other continents. Blitz has been pretty consistent in including reggae influenced song on his albums; and on Diasporadical, ‘Long Time Coming’ featuring Patrice is that track. Jazz singer Somi also makes a short yet noticeable appearance on ACT III where she lay vocals over a horn driven instrumentation.
Diasporadical feels like it’s the final page that ends the story Blitz has been chronicling since his debut project ‘Stereotype’, through to ‘Soul Rebel’, ‘Native Sun’ and ‘Afropolitan Dreams’. His utterance during the album listening session for Diasporadical, that his focus is now on film making and would return to music if inspired, left people like myself with the belief that, a new tape from Blitz shall take a while. If that’s the case, then Diasporadical is a befitting swan song (for the time being). The album’s strength lies in its production – the fusion of banging hip hop beats with afrobeats laced with other influences. However, the content-themes addressed on this album isn’t new despite its truthfulness.
Blitz The Ambassador, on Disaporadical, sold the African story; our history, struggles, determination, joys and spirituality. Stories that are familiar with the aboriginal African, just as much as they are with Africans in the diaspora.