Jazz-based hip-hop has been around for more than 20 years. Whether it was the sample-based sounds of Gang Starr and A Tribe Called Quest, or the live instrumentation of The Roots, jazz music figured prominently in the development of hip-hop music and culture. But while modern rap trends favor drum machines and synthesizers, Blitz The Ambassador’s Stereotype is out to kill preconceived notions about the genre.
Armed with an iconic and symbolic album cover showing a boombox committing suicide, the mostly instrumental “Prelude” sets the experience off: Fiercely plucked upright bass, moody electric piano chords and warm horn arrangements introduce listeners to a powerful album dominated by in-your-face political raps and impressive, complex musical arrangements.
Blitz, born in Ghana and educated in the U.S., brings a worldly political perspective that, paired with his gruff voice, is reminiscent of Public Enemy’s Chuck D. He tackles African poverty and American consumerism in “Something To Believe,” Hurricane Katrina and Iraq in the smooth sax-dominated “Home,” and slavery in the Spanish guitar-tinged “Ghetto Plantation.”
Musically, Stereotype is just as worldly and layered as its subject matter: The seven-minute “Remembering The Future” weaves syncopated drums and dense horn arrangements, while the funky “Breathe” is a danceable jam blending cymbal-heavy drumming, blues guitar and swirling trumpets.
Stereotype proves Blitz the Ambassador is a force to be reckoned with: Between his fiery rhymes and co-production with beatmaker Optiks, he proves to be a well-rounded musician unafraid to take hip-hop in a different direction.