As someone who was born in Raleigh, raised in Apex, lived briefly in Chapel Hill and now resides in Durham, Benjamin Ward – better known as Azon Blaze – is all about repping the Triangle. But he also wants to rep talent in the Triangle.
About five years ago, Ward formed Spring Hill Music Group, a company/collective which, among other things, helps those in need – whether they’re artists looking for services or people who need something to eat.
“I wanted to have an organization,” says Ward, 28, while killing time at a downtown Raleigh watering hole. “It’s a music group, but it’s also bigger than a music group.” Ward mentions that Spring Hill has also helped organize food and clothing drives. “Basically, Spring Hill – it’s a community. It’s just a gathering of people that wants to help others – wants to spread positive energy, positive vibes.”
Ward is always willing to shine a light on artists who want to get noticed, both figuratively and literally. Along with Spring Hill, he and fellow rapper K-Hill host a bi-monthly showcase, titled “Power of the Tongue,” at Deep South the Bar in Raleigh. And afterwards, if any of those performers need shows booked for them, music that they want recorded and mastered, press kits assembled or someone to shoot their music video, that’s when they come to Blaze.
“We’re basically just expanding into this big network,” he says. “Anything an artist needs, we can supply it for them, at a minimum to no cost at all, just off the resources I’ve built in the past two years.”
But, in order to further other artists’ careers, Blaze and Spring Hill must let everybody know they’re out there as well. Which is why, earlier this week, Blaze released the “Spring Hill Compilation” mixtape. Available for download on springhill.bandcamp.com, the mix features music from Blaze and his crew, including his Blaze the Sky partner SkyBlew, L.A.-based MC Poc-Logic and R&B singer Lindsey Whittington (who is Blaze’s fiancee). Producers on the collection include D.R.U.G.S. (50 Cent, Ludacris), Germany-based Robot Orchestra and W2 (who is Blaze’s little brother).
With the way Blaze continually lets listeners know who he is, where he came from and what he and his friends want to establish in this rap game throughout the compilation, a better title should have been “Advertisements for Myself.” People still don’t know who I am,” he says. “It’s like people don’t know things that we do behind the scenes. So, this compilation is an introduction to what we’ve been doing the whole time.
“It’s not so much like, ‘Listen to my music! Listen to my music!’ But it’s so much like, ‘Look at the scene! Look at the positive energy! Come to the shows that we’re doing! Come experience this! Come get some of this here energy that we’re giving out because everybody that I work with is talented.’ ”
People can get some of this energy when Blaze performs at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro on Friday night, presenting tunes that he hopes will make people get on the Spring Hill bandwagon.
“It’s raw, classic-sounding music,” he says. “We wanna give timeless music, timeless hip-hop, timeless R&B – that’s what it is.”