While most ambassadorships are one-way streets—“American ambassador to Switzerland” or whatever—Blitz the Ambassador cuts both ways. Born in Ghana and now based in Brooklyn, Blitz bridges the gap between classic American hip-hop moves and African musical traditions. On his latest release, Blitz outlines his world as spanning from Brooklyn to Kingston to Salvador in Brazil to Johannesburg, where the borders can change depending on the color of a citizen’s skin. The record’s title is Blitz’s life: Diasporadical.
By now, with his Jakarta Records-released fourth full-length album, Blitz has an established recipe: sample Golden Age African riffs, build up to a big, classic Golden-Age hip-hop back beat, punctuate with African horns and ripping chorus. Make no mistake—this is a great formula.
This time around Blitz memorably uses lamellophones and Bembeya Jazz National guitar riffs to create music in an American form that nonetheless reads unmistakably as African. This ties up thematically with Blitz’s rapping, which draws parallels between the continent and the treatment of black bodies in America and across the diaspora. “Jo-burg to Ferguson,” he spits on “Heaven,” “it’s all the same system.”
The subject matter and the production put him in good company with people like Kendrick Lamar or A Tribe Called Quest’s latest album: big, open production, naturalistic sounding samples, with mostly unaffected vocals mixed pretty far out front. The social commentary is unmistakable on a song like the somber “A(wake)” which has been around for about a year and was originally dedicated to Tamir Rice.
There are interjections in “Hello Africa” that are reminiscent of Port Arthur, TX duo UGK, but it’s striking how Blitz doesn’t sound much like his contemporaries in Ghana and Nigeria, where glossy pitch correction and bigger synth hits are the norm.
And maybe that’s what he’s after: injecting African sensibility and sounds to rap, and bringing that classic style back.