Local rapper does ‘double duty’ in final Kent semester

Jeff Schooley

Credit: Ben Breier

Most students come to college looking for an education, but few end their four or five-year term at Kent State with the ability to say this is where they found themselves. These are the exact sentiments of Sam Bazawule (said: Ba-Za-Wool) – better known around campus and throughout Northeast Ohio as rap artist Blitz.

“This is where I found Blitz. Prior to my Kent State experience, I was just an emcee. I was just out here rapping,” he said. “I was talking about what everybody else is talking about. Until I take certain classes – Oscar Ritchie Hall, freshman year – and I get hit with so many facts that I could have, should have, known coming from where I come from.”

He is from Ghana. He began a non-profit organization, Re-Educating Africa’s Diaspora, and finds material for his music in the beauty of Ghana’s culture and the despair of a struggling country with a 5 percent infant mortality rate.

Living in Ghana until he was 17 has impacted who Blitz is now, and this influence can be felt surging throughout every track on his two albums – both recorded under his own label, Reprisal Records.

Living for one-and-a-half years in New York City separates Blitz from your run-of-the-mill “cash, money, hoes” rap acts. In fact, Blitz isn’t an act. He “paints word pictures like Van Gogh” (on his new album, Double Consciousness).

“I’m nothing but a documentarian,” he said. “I’m nothing but somebody who’s capturing all this time and space in one record that is going to stay living. I won’t pass up any chance to tell stories.”

Blitz has focused his eye on one subject, albeit a large one: the world’s injustices. He fights this battle on a number of fronts, from challenging the way music is made, packaged and sold to challenging everyone to get involved.

“I have to find a way to put out music that I like.”

Blitz founded Reprisal Records in 2003 after trying to break into the local. He was formerly a member of a small rap group called 4Kornerz that created a poorly produced album, most of which was recorded in Terrace Hall.

“I can’t fathom the thought of my art being misinterpreted based on somebody’s selfish needs,” he said. “That’s the birth of the label. The word Reprisal means going against the grain, to retaliate, because I believe the industry has taken away so much from the artist that I believe Reprisal records is just a way of taking back what belongs to hip hop.”

All of this work on the label is part of Blitz’s plan to see music changed.

“Hip hop has been dumbed down to the point that -sorry, music in general has been dumbed down to the point where everyone wants to play it safe, which is killing every genre; the art is dying in every genre.”

After just two short years, Blitz found enough interest in his music to afford a tour in Europe, along the West Coast and various shows throughout Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania (not to mention opening for every major rap act that KSU has brought in the past two years, including the Clipse, The Roots and Jurassic 5 at last weekend’s Homecoming concert).

“Five fingers in the air means nothing … You and I gotta get involved.”

For Blitz fans, the above refrain is as well known as “Once upon a time” is in a Grimm Brother’s fairy tale. At any point during a typical concert it can be inserted, but it always ends the show. The refrain is the second part of fighting injustice.

Unlike a lot of what has been termed “socially conscious hip hop,” which so often feels more like gripe sessions about the world’s injustices, Blitz’s music challenges the listener to more than just recognizing that there are problems but that they need to “get involved.” When Blitz raps, he’s laying out an entire ideology to live by.

“I’m blessed to be able to be musically endowed and have something to say,” he said, discussing how he’s involved. “I’m here to be used, I’m a vessel. There is a Creator who has a plan drawn.”

Listening to his music, this message draws subtly upon the listener and leaves him or her with a sense of hope that, even though there are many problems, there’s a chance to overcome them.

“The world – the world is calling me.”

With graduation looming just 15 credit hours (and one difficult Calculus class) away, Blitz’s is planning his future.

“I’m going to be overseas soon, but first back to Brooklyn to really get this label started,” he said.

However, one can see that Kent State is going to be tough to leave.

“The Midwest shaped my thoughts,” he said. “This is where I nurtured the art. I’m not going to feel the effects now (of leaving) because I’m urgently trying to touch the world. But – I’m really going to miss this place – come a couple of years.”

The DVD of his first music video, “Black Market” will be released in October and will contain outtakes from the video, an interview with him about his first album, “Soul Rebel,” and other behind-the-scenes footage.

For Blitz, music is more than money and even more than message. It’s part of him. His newest creation shows this better than anything he’s done yet. There’s Sam Bazawule and there’s Blitz. There’s college degree and there’s knowledge of the streets. There is, embodied in one man, a double consciousness.

Contact editorial writer Jeff Schooley at [email protected].