On Thursday, Blitz the Ambassador will be spending all day in Durham speaking his mind.
First, the Ghanian-American rapper, an artist-in-residence at Duke University, will speak at The Forum for Scholars and Publics at noon, talking music with N.C. Central University visiting professor Dr. Yaba Blay. Later that evening, Blitz will have the stage all to himself over at Motorco Music Hall, performing his music for a likely packed crowd.
But whether he’s spitting rhymes on stage or dropping knowledge in a sit-down Q&A, Blitz (real name: Samuel Bazawule) is always ready to give audiences his perspective on issues (immigration, gentrification, cultural identity, etc.) that seriously need discussing. He’s even more vocal on Twitter, where he’s been commenting lately on the water crisis happening in Flint, Mich.
“For me, I try to discuss as many things that are affecting poor, black and brown people,” says the Accra-born Blitz, 33, on the phone from his Brooklyn home. “I mean, because clearly, that is a very marginalized group of people. And Flint, Michigan’s problem didn’t just start with this water. I mean, we know that level of poverty in the Midwest – the black parts. I went to college in Ohio, so I know what it looks like in places that have been completely underserved and just have a working system that doesn’t get fixed.”
As someone who has toured and performed around the world, Blitz has found that audiences, either home or abroad, can relate to the issues he brings up in his music. “It seems that, wherever you go, you find these similar problems, where the system seems not to work and a lot of it is intentional,” he says. “So, yeah, I try to do all those parallels in my work. And, so, when they occur in real life, I have no choice but to point them out.”
But Blitz doesn’t consider himself just a socially conscious MC. He’s also a visual artist, coming up with vivid, insightful productions to accompany his work. “I drew and painted throughout my elementary school life and all the way through secondary school, which is high school here,” he remembers. “So, for me, that was kind of my first foray into expressing myself.”
For his latest project, “Diasporadical,” scheduled for release next month, he directed the “Diasporadical Trilogia,” a trilogy of music videos shot in Brooklyn, Accra, and Bahia, Brazil. According to Blitz, when you have both an eye and an ear for creating art, it’s best to have them working in tandem.
“You can’t really separate your branches of art,” he says. “You can’t say, ‘I’m gonna make music and I’m just gonna approach it from an audio perspective.’ It’s impossible. If you’re a visual artist naturally, and you have a foray into another extension of art, you will find yourself approaching it from a visual, sonic perspective.”
Blitz is looking forward on Thursday to not only creating a dialogue with people on relevant subjects, but also showing that a guy from Ghana can come to America, make hip-hop his calling card and still be connected to his African roots.
“My background has highly informed the work that I’ve done, and I think that the only idea is just to show that, in a lot of ways, the African diaspora is connected,” he says. “And hip-hop music is merely a continuation of our sonic language that we’ve always had. And if you think about even the way the culture was born here in America – coming from Kool Herc, who was a Jamaican immigrant – should explain to you how diaspora the culture is.
“So, I’m just fortunate to be part and contributing and adding that voice, and my goal is always to try to reach back and use much from home. And, then, mix it with my experiences globally and communicate the same experiences that I heard when I was a child with Public Enemy or KRS-One or A Tribe Called Quest.”
Who: Blitz the Ambassador
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Motorco Music Hall, 723 Rigsbee Ave., Durham
Cost: $22 ($15 ages 30 and under; $10 Duke students)
Info: 919-901-0875 or motorcomusic.com