Interview: Blaze The Emperor — AmmoNation’s The Team

Feature, Interview, Music
Joe Blaze

Blaze The Emperor —AmmoNation Artist

Blaze The Emperor, who’s birthday falls on new year’s eve, is a 23-year-old African rapper from Hamilton. A part of the AmmoNation collective up and coming from the 07, Blaze explains that after meeting Raiza Biza post leaving his Auckland crew, Beneath The Hype, he was recruited to AmmoNation and has been recording music under their umbrella since. Still on its way to the masses, AmmoNation are releasing a mixtape this summer. With Raiza Biza putting down foundations for his team, it’s an effort not lost on Blaze who says he is still emerging in terms of his artist voice. One of the few tracks he does have out, titled Green Land Livin, is reminiscent of a Lupe Fiasco or Kendrick flow. Having been in New Zealand since 1998, the hook goes, “I just wanna smoke with my peeps man, and live my life on this green land, I think we could all just agree man”. Recently performing with David Dallas on the Hamilton leg of his Falling Into Place tour, Blaze explains on Green Land Livin, though choosing music for a career is a slow grind, alongside his team — that have voices consisting of talents  Jane Deezy, Munashe and Raiza with producers Haan-808 & Crime Heat Beats, the future’s looking good for Blaze and his music.

Blaze will be dropping an EP this summer, there’s also a track called ‘Vibrant’ with a video out next week, performing at the Hype Da Mic event at Studio in Auckland Friday Nov 1st with Derty Sesh, The Doqument, Raiza Biza, Cruize Klokstad aka Ice Man, MASO Gang Music, 805 Music, EMG and more. Also look out for the AmmonNation mixtape coming out this summer.

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HH: Where are you from? 

B: I was born in Rwanda, Central Africa, spent about five years there travelling around Africa and stuff with my mums…Not sure if you heard about the Rwandan genocide that happened there, so yeah that’s the reason why we left then we journeyed to New Zealand, came to Wellington, did my thing in Auckland for awhile, then moved to Hamilton; I’ve been here ever since.

HH: And you’re with AmmoNation right? 

B: Yeah, definitely, AmmoNation is the team and the collective that I fall under along with Raiza Biza, Munashe — a pretty talented young dude man, Jane Deezy, Haan-808, and of course Crime Heat Beats. [When Blaze joined AmmoNation] I was with my rap group called Beneath The Hype and Raiza Biza was just around.  He really liked the music, our group went different ways, I started rapping solo then he was like, ‘Yo, word, I’m making a collective with a bunch of guys and so, yeah, I basically jumped in there and I’ve been writing ever since’.

HH: Is the commonality of AmmoNation that you’re all from other countries? 

B: As in foreign? [Laughs] Yeah actually our producer, Crime Heat Beats is a Kiwi…But yeah, we are quite diverse in culture and stuff. But we still consider ourselves Kiwis. I definitely reflect on the motherland and what not. Definitely on that track Green Land Livin I’m specifically talking about coming from the motherland to New Zealand and just doing my thing over here, wanting to chill with my people on this green land and stuff so I do touch on being a Kiwi coming from Africa.

 “I’m my biggest critic so I’m always criticizing my own music.”

HH: Do you consider yourself a rapper or an artist?

B: First and foremost I consider myself an artist, I don’t really like to call myself a rapper per say — cause I just like to create vibes and feelings — moments, instead of focussing on making a rap record or anything like that.

HH: So being an artist from Rwanda living in New Zealand, does that give you a different standpoint to other artists here? 

B: I mean I haven’t quite embraced it in the full extent but I am definitely going to start approaching that later on when I start doing an EP where I have to construct stories and make a body of work. For now I’m just making feel good moments and stuff like that, you know, but I’ll definitely touch on that later.

HH: Where would you say you’re at in your artist career right now? 

B: I can’t even say that I’m popping off or anything like that. I’m just starting off really. I have only got a couple tracks that are available for download and I’ve kept it that way. I have got about 20 songs that I’ve got written and recorded just sitting on Crime Heat’s computer but it’s about just finding the right songs to release. I’m really picky with stuff like that. I definitely have a direction that I want to take my music and career path but it basically comes down to that fact that I’m such a perfectionist when it comes to… like I really think about how other people will embrace the music and that kind of has held me back for a bit, but I’m starting to get over that — I’m my biggest critic so I’m always criticizing my own music.

HH: What track do you have out that you are most proud of at the moment? 

B: I would have to say Ambience, the most recent track that I’ve dropped featuring Raiza Biza is actually my favourite song. I was going to do a second verse but then the bro came in and he heard it and was like, ‘Yo man, let me hop on the second verse, that shit’s gonna be epic’, so yeah, I mean that’ll be my favourite track thus far. The track that a lot of people really like is my first song I ever made independently which is Beats, Rhymes x Papers and I always perform that at big shows, start off with that and a lot of people like that — it’s kind of like mixed signals because they’re two type of different tracks.

 “I love listening to ignorant music, the most ignorant shit — but I also love to make like boom-bappy tracks so I’m just trying to fuse that.”

HH: Is that just you representing the moment you’re in, the mixed signals, or is that you finding your way as an artist?

B: It’s a bit of both ae. I’m still finding what I like to listen to and then like to make, record and listen back to — it’s two different things. So I’m still trying to find out what direction to go, I don’t want to be the guy that makes the music that everyone’s off, you know what I mean. I’m trying to stay ahead of the game and stay true to myself at the same time. I haven’t really found that balance yet so I’m trying to find a real mellow balance between ignorant music — I love listening to ignorant music, the most ignorant shit — but I also love to make like boom-bappy tracks so I’m just trying to fuse that at the moment and take that somewhere.

HH: When did you fall in love with hip hop? 

B: When I first heard Biggie is when I fell in love with hip hop — Juicy.

OuttakesHH: Okay if you could have a dinner party with five guests who would you have? 

B: Wiz, I’d get Curren$y over there — definitely have a smoker’s section, I’d get French Montana, Nelson Mandela because he’s a revolutionary guy you know and I’d get the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame [laughs] — interesting dinner party.

HH: What’s your death row meal?

B: Oh man, steak. Just steak by itself, I love meat. Medium rare.

HH: If you had to take one song to a deserted island what would it be? 

B: Max B — Goon Music. You gotta know Max B he’s a pioneer of the wave.

HH: What would you explore first the ocean or space? 

B: Space. ASAP.

HH: What’s the best advice your mum’s ever given you? 

B: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, I always remember that one.

HH: What’s your most common reoccurring dream? 

B: Running and going nowhere. Yeah I’m like running from something but I never seem to be going anywhere, it’s weird…it’s weird.

HH: Evolution or religion? 

B: Evolution.

HH: Halle Berry or Hallelujah? 

B: Halle Berry all day, I’m sorry.

HH: Favourite gangsta movie? 

B: Training Day.

HH: Okay. Bong, pipe, bucky, spots or vaporiser? 

B: You missed out papers, I definitely go for raw papers.

HH: And what’s your hood like? 

B: My hood. It’s pretty chill. We gotta lot of pretty cool people out here, it can get real rough if you take the wrong left but otherwise it’s pretty chill.

Review: David Dallas — Falling Into Place

Editorial, Music, Review

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He’s done it again. David Dallas, with his new album Falling Into Place — presented as an official body of work that’s as tight, if not tighter than The Rose Tint.

Where the Rose Tint, at the time it came out in 2011, was an album to jump up and down about because of its intelligence, dynamics in a Kiwi setting— freeness. Falling Into Place serves as an album to think to, get motivated with and keep on keeping on with whatever your hustle is. Having also released Buffalo Man last year for free, his patience has paid off and Falling Into Place now sits at #1 on the NZ iTunes Hip Hop list for $17.99. Opening with a feature from Ruby Frost with ‘The Wire’ the album’s impact reveals a more thoughtful Ddot. It’s ethereal and sonically maturer, more internationally sanctioned, perhaps, as he aims to tour America and cross markets; there are sounds and lines on the album reminiscent of Drake — the other non-American cracking America.

Billboard.com has asked if the world is ready for a ‘Kiwi hip-hop star’. It seems if they aren’t, Dallas is ready to do it anyway. Signed to American label Duck Down Music he’s got what he needs to go forward. With Fire & Ice duo taking care of production bar two tracks by Nick ’41’ Maclaren the album moves fluidly and logically from start to finish. “That’s just how we do, how I’m raised, Island roots, Auckland raised,” goes the hook on ‘Follow’. And that’s the most uplifting part of this release.

As Ddot on the album’s first single ‘Runnin’ states, he aims to carry New Zealand on his back to the States and beyond, on ‘Follow’ he raps, “I got that laid back Island genes, I don’t need no drama — in my ie lavalava listening to Dear Mama”. It’s the type of flow we fell in love with when he was Con Psy. Clever, slick, effortless. He’s still that afakasi boy from Auckland, repping for his city — Check ‘Southside’ featuring Young Sid and Mareko.

It feels like Dallas lets you into his personal space more on this release. Perhaps he himself is more at ease with who he is. On Buffalo Man he announced a proposal to his girlfriend. So here, there’s a tinge of pain and sacrifice on the last track ‘At The Gate’ with Ruby Frost — as he bids his fiancé farewell at the boarding gate. ‘There’ll be no tears at the gate,’ they sing. It’s clear, as he leaves the one he loves behind, there are responsibilities he harbours as a man that force him to leave and succeed. As Ruby’s voice echoes through the verses the feeling imparted would hit home for anyone familiar with the gut-wrenching ins and outs of loving a busy man or woman. In interviews he’s said that when he started out, “I wasn’t even trying to make good songs when I started out, I just wanted to be good at rapping” — It’s his third album in and he’s out doing himself — the M O of an artist on top of his shit.

Other featured artists include Spycc, Freddie Gibbs, PNC.

Newness: Pilots- Jay Knight x Diaz Grimm x Raiza Biza

Interview, Newness

Tomorrow morning Wellington-based, Young Gifted and Broke producer, Jay Knight, will release his latest single ‘Pilots’ featuring Diaz Grimm and Raiza Biza. Having received a preview of the track, whendidyoufallinlovewithhiphop.com spoke to Raiza Biza about their production process at the Red Bull studio in Auckland, and the main point in the song, which is the message. In it, the three artists call on people to make better efforts to understand new implications surrounding the recent passing of the GCSB bill. In an effort to rark up everyone,  but particularly the youth,  they rap: “Maybe we should throw away the Key, before they throw away our future for a monetary thing. Maybe we should throw away the key, before they beat us to it, and they throw away we”. The sound and beat itself is in typical Jay Knight fashion — first-class. When talking to Raiza Biza he explains he was invited by Diaz and Jay to feature on the track and record at Red Bull. He says the GCSB was already an issue he’d been following, so naturally, he felt the urge to feature on-track. He said that being from Africa he knows first hand what it means to lose a ‘freedom’ as important as personal privacy. He feels that once it is gone, it is very hard to get back; therefore people need to appreciate it now.

“Too many believe that someone else will do something, well you are someone else. Well you are someone else” – Diaz on ‘Pilots’.

HH: What was the inspiration behind the track Pilots?

R: It was due to the climate around the time that the GCSB law was being passed. Diaz and Jay came to me with the track. Diaz had his verse and I had a listen. It was something that I had been following too so I decided to give my input. But I guess it was just something to get people talking about it and get the young people to perhaps look into it and see how it was going to affect them.

HH: So you recorded at Red Bull in Auckland?

R: This came about because Diaz had a relationship develop with someone at Red Bull and they’d organised for him to be able to use the studio; so it was a good experience in that sense… they just have top of the line everything; the best people behind the desks, so just pretty much, it’s as good as it can be.

HH: What the working relationship like between you and Diaz?

R: Well you know he’s a very creative guy and the way I like to make music is to bounce ideas back and forth until the concept is there and you know he was very prepared.  He had a vision for the track and he already had his part ready and made my job easy so he’s a great guy to work with and he’s a nice guy.

HH: And what are you hoping people receive from the song?

R: You know I just wanted something….just the act that shakes things up a little. I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion as far the law goes. But I think it’s something that people should be talking about and that’s something that Diaz brought up, you know, it’s just about getting people talking about it. I heard David Cunliffe saying today that if he got into government he would repeal that law and change it. So you know, those are things that people need to have opinions about.

HH: And what’s your main concern with the GCSB now it’s gone through as a New Zealand citizen?

R: Well you know being from Africa, I’ve seen countries, you know once you lose those basic freedoms — the freedom of privacy; being able to communicate with people without being scrutinised at every move, it’s really hard to get that back. I think people, sometimes when you have it, you take it for granted but…it’s an important thing so that’s the angle that I was looking at it at.

Interview: ‘Eat People’ – choiceVaughan feat Tyna Keelan and Tom Scott

Interview, Music, Vote

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Hailing from Lower Hutt, Wellington, Aotearoa is choiceVaughan. Having finished up his début EP, due out September 1st, he checked his inbox one day to find Tom Scott of @Peace and Home Brew had sent him back one of his remix beats with the lyrics to ‘Eat People’ on top of it. The poetry in the lyrics make a rap fan want to go recycle something or rally those assholes hunting animals for ivory to fuck off and get a grip. Including Kiwi maestro Tyna Keelan as ‘glitter’ to the re-worked beat, which originally sampled Floetry’s It’s Getting Late, Eat People was born. The boys are going for theaudience.co.nz grant this month. If successful they’ll win $10,000 to make a music video. If we’re lucky and vote daily perhaps we’ll see Tom eat a person in it, but who knows what they’ll come with visually unless we vote. Whendidyoufallinlovewithhiphop catches up with creator Choice who explains he isn’t a go into the studio and come out with five beats guy. He’s a marinate on it and see how it feels in a few days guy. This fine-tooth-comb attention to detail doesn’t go astray in his production quality. ‘Eat People’ as a track melts over you. The layers of the track alone dance with each other — and then there’s Tom’s intellect and Tyna’s ‘glitter’. Listen for yourself and vote for Eat People HERE .

HH: Describe your process as a beat maker and creator of art.

C: It usually all starts with a sample. I’m lucky that I’ve got almost a terabyte worth of old soul, funk, jazz and R&B discographies just sitting there on my iTunes, so I don’t really have to go out and physically dig for records. I just trawl through until I find a break that gives me the sour-face, and try to make something nice with it. It’s gradual for me though. I’m not one of those guys that can lock themselves away and come out with like five beats in a day. Sometimes it clicks and I’ll finish it within a couple of hours. But most times I’m still going back and adding things like 1 or 2 weeks down the track. But yeah, I know what it should sound like. It’s just a matter of getting that out into audible form. I like to take my time.

HH: Who do you look up to music wise?

C: When I started really getting into beats, I was listening to a lot of Little Brother. So 9th Wonder really fathered my style. His stuff is so soulful, and that was the direction I knew I wanted to go in. Both Apollo Brown and Oddisee are definitely two producers I look up to in terms of the quality of their music and their work ethic, and I was lucky enough to meet them both and pick their brains. Ta-ku is nuts for how prolific and consistently dope he is. He makes me want to quit sometimes. Of course there’s Dilla. My favourite producer is 14KT though. His album The Golden Hour is incredible.

HH: Where are you from?

C: Lower Hutt, Wellington, Aotearoa/NZ

HH: What would inspire you to produce a beat?

C: Moods, man. It’s however I’m feeling. Usually it’s something that I’ve been listening to that makes me feel some type of way, then I’ll sit down and try to recreate that feeling that it gave me. Music’s powerful like that. There have been some songs that I’ve had on repeat for literally an entire day, and never got sick of them because of the mood it put me in. That’s the sort of music I try to create.

HH: If your music was to be represented in a holder full of paraphernalia, what items would be in there?

C: Some car keys with a dope key ring. Cocoa-butter skin moisturiser. An array of mixed spice. Some papers and a lighter. A bottle of pinot. Two Fruju Tropical Snows. Cottage cheese mixed with crushed pineapple and frozen blueberries. And one of those flick-knives that’s actually a hair comb.

HH: How did ‘Eat People’ come to be?

C: Originally Eat People was a remix I had made to what’s in my opinion one of the best late night slow jams on planet earth – “Getting Late” by Floetry. That song is… man. There’s a reason its close to seven minutes long let’s just say that. Anyway, I had done my thing with it and sent it, along with the drafts of what’s going to be my album, to a bunch of people and forgot about it. I checked my email one day and there’s one in there from Tom, with a song attached. I opened it up and he’d rapped Eat People over the top of the remix I’d made. Like, rapped over top of the singing on the entire song. Which buzzed me out because I wouldn’t have thought anyone would want to use a song with lyrics already on it. But Tom’s verses were c-r-a-z-y, so I got to work re-arranging the entire song to fit his raps, to make it his own.

HH: What was the process like getting Tyna on the vocals and Tom writing lyrics?

C: I’m just blessed to have two of the most talented people I know on the same song, man. They made it easy. After I’d arranged the song to fit Toms verses, there was a bit of room for some glitter on top. I was back down in Welly to see family, and caught up with Tyna in the studio while I was there. Dude’s an amazing all round musician in his own right, it just made sense to let him jump on and do his thing. He recorded a bunch of guitar licks and vocals and sent them through, and I chopped them up and mixed them into the song and that was that.

HH: What can people look out for from you in the future?

C: I’m looking to drop an EP on September 1st as a thank you for everyone putting up with us spamming the shit out of them to vote for our song everyday. (..Which you can do here http://www.theaudience.co.nz/p/8vB/). The EP is the first in a collection of four projects that are all tied together. I realised that the type of music I was listening to at any given point was somehow influenced by the time of day it was… So I wanted to make a project that reflected all of that. I split it up into four parts – There’s The Reverie-mixes (a short collection of remixes to daydream to), An Evening With… (An LP for your evening wind-down), Late Night Delights (some slow tempo jams to play with your significant other) and finally, The Morning Funk (to get your ass out of bed and into a new day). So yeah. Keep an eye/ear out for them.

HH: When did you fall in love with hip hop?

C: Me and my mate used to pretend we were skaters back when we were like 12. We’d skate up and down my mate’s driveway and blast the P-Money Big Things CD my mate’s uncle got him for his birthday until we got told off because it had swears – haha. That was my first introduction to hip hop ever. I liked it so much I ended up stealing the CD off my boy. So peace to P-Money.