Download: Blitz The Ambassador's Sun-Drenched "Best I Can"
"It ain't where you from, it's where you at," intones Chuck D himself on the fourth album by rapper/producer Blitz The Ambassador. Blitz is originally from Ghana's capital city of Accra, and currently resides in Brooklyn, but the otherworldly rhythms and triple-speed rhymes of Native Sun (Embassy MVMT) are a lot harder to pin down. Lurching hip-hop tracks spiral off into explosive afrobeat codas, tracks are just as likely to lean into melancholic Ethiojazz or Carribean-inflected booty-movers--like he says, "you might need a passport just to rock with it." Even wilder, his unique, rapidfire flow--although formed in Africa and fueled on New York rappers like Rakim, KRS-One and, of course, Chuck--sounds like it actually came barreling and sputtering from the Project Blowed L.A. underground, where 6/8 rhymes often cause delirious polyrhythmic pile-ups over 4/4 beats (and occasionally his native language of Twi). Native Sun's best track, "Best I Can," combines the sunny, washed-out feel of UGK's "Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)" with the sweet luster of Rwandan neo-soul singer Cornielle.
What inspired "Best I Can" musically?
My co-producer Optiks and I worked on the beat. He began with the vocal sample and drums and I added the guitar and bass. When we were done it sounded too much like a Southern bounce beat so I added the congas and djembe to give it a West Africa lean. I added my signature horn lines are that sealed the deal.
In the track, you talk about listening to rap as a kid in Africa. How did you discover hip-hop music?
Most of my peers at the time were into hip-hop culture in one form or the other, but most of us had limited access to the music. I was lucky that my older brother was in secondary school at the time and he brought home tapes that his friends dubbed while they were visiting America. These tapes could be a whole day of radio or Yo! MTV Raps. We used to huddle around a TV or stereo and try to emulate whatever we saw. Public Enemy, KRS-One and Rakim were our favorites. We spent hours memorizing their lyrics.
How did you start rapping fast?
I just got bored rhyming in regular 4/4 time signature. Maybe it's the African in me, but I started rapping in double time and then I started switching to 6/8 and so on. In jazz and other music styles, different time signatures are used to keep things interesting. I think its fresh to introduce that to hip-hop.
How was performing with Public Enemy at SummerStage?
Performing with Public Enemy was a major highlight of my career. It was even more significant because Chuck D personally asked that we I open for them. Being that Public Enemy was the first hip-hop group to come to Ghana in 1992, It was a monumental moment for all my people both here and back home. Public Enemy's show in Ghana was a major turning point in my personal life. It was a true honor.
What's your favorite place to eat in New York?
I am a bit biased to Ghanaian food so I have to say Papaye Restaurant in the Bronx. They call the area Little Ghana and the food is superb.
Blitz The Ambassador plays at the Brooklyn Museum--for free!--on Saturday, June 4 as part of Target First Saturday.
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