Blesz is an Amsterdam hip-hop mc, producer, spoken word artist, and host of the ‘word up’ event. following on from the release of blesz season and a collaboration ep with lil beats, blesz has become a perfect example of the deep pool of hungry mc‘s set to have a massive 2021. we caught up with blesz in ndsm to find out a little more about his work both as an mc and as the host of ‘word up’ a hip-hop and spoken word event at checkpoint charlie.
‘Blesz Season‘ is obviously such a banger with a really unique opera sampled beat. To what extent is this track a perfect introduction to who Blesz is an artist- or do you feel you have evolved since recording that track?
Thanks a lot, I had a great time making it. I must let you know that the opera part is anything but sampled. I invited opera singer Kelvin Chan to add his incredible vocals to the track. Without him it would have been a completely different vibe. As for introductions… I guess for first-time listeners it gives quite a good feel about me as an MC. I do believe I am further (ahead) now as an artist, since the track was released in January of 2020. The only way is forward right?
Right! Who are some of your biggest musical influences? Have these changed since you first started making tunes?
Well to name a few Nas, Wu-Tang, MF Doom, Big Pun, Yasiin Bey, ATCQ, Little brother (anything 9th Wonder really), Masta Ace, Fugees, Andre 3000, J Dilla & Black Thought. There are many more, it would be a very long list. It hasn’t changed since I started, but it did get enriched by artists like Anderson.Paak, Apollo Brown, Childish Gambino, Damian Marley, Rapsody, Royce da 5’9 & Oddisee. And these are just my hip hop influences, like I said there are many. If I’m not creating, I am listening.
I’m curious to know how you decide which language to use when writing? do you find it easier to build wordplay in English or Dutch?
Well to be honest I started writing in English back in the day from the very start. I never wrote anything in Dutch until quite recently when two friends of mine (Tête-à-Tête and FreshUP) asked me to contribute to their mixtape. Didn’t even think I could, but contrary to my own doubts it was a successful experiment. I don’t see it as easier, but as different. Arguably, Dutch should be easier due to a larger variety in the endings of words. For my own projects, I’ll stick to English though. That’s always been my focus.
How would you summarise the impact that living in this city has had on you as a creative? Do you think Amsterdam welcomes and supports hip-hop as much as other international cities?
I think that Amsterdam breathes inspiration into creative minds. It got me (and many others) inspired for sure. As a city with many venues, Amsterdam is very welcoming to established artists. In pre-covid times hip-hop always had a place here. I do find that for lesser-known artists, Amsterdam is not as facilitating as it was in the past. There’s room for improvement in that area.
You have worked on numerous occasions with Lil Beats. How did this working relationship begin,and what do you like about the way he makes beats?
Yeah Lil Beats is the man. He always sends me the right beats. He makes a lot of different music, but he figured out what type of sound suits me. We met in 2018 when I performed at a festival (BIGSAS) in his town in Germany, Bayreuth. He saw my performance and asked if he could send me some music when we talked after the show. The rest is history I guess. Check out his ‘Dreams’ EP for more Lil Beats vibes.
You host the dope spoken word show ‘Word Up’ here in Amsterdam. This brought you out of just the rap world and into the world of spoken word poetry. How do you approach these two art forms differently? And how do you find the experience of hosting live events?
Currently, I am still hosting Word Up. We just had to migrate to Zoom these days until venues open up again. ‘Word Up’ has been a blessing that I didn’t know I needed, so I’m forever grateful to its founder Evy for inviting me into that world. In the beginning, I was merely converting my lyrics to offbeat renditions, but after I got a feel for it I started writing pieces not meant for beats. My approach to both art forms is quite similar, I think the main difference for me lies in the way I structure my pieces.
There’s more spatial freedom within spoken word poetry, you’re not restricted to musical measurements. That provides endless possibilities to be creative. Here and there I still slip some rap bars in there though. As for the hosting, I had to grow into it. Loving every moment of it though. For the writer in me, the crowds at spoken word events are a perfect fit. The naked content gets more appreciation.
What does your creative process look like? Do you work better alone with the music or do you prefer to collaborate and write with others?
I prefer to write alone, but I am quite flexible. Over the years I just got more used to writing alone, because in the past I often was the only MC or songwriter collaborating with other artists. These days most of my collaborating artists are abroad, so yeah writing alone is my thing. I love writing on the road though. Staring out a window and just letting my thoughts manifest my next piece.
We always like to end on a non-music related question. What 3 places would you recommend to someone coming to Amsterdam for the first time to Hear some great music,)Get some good food, and Meet local creatives?
1: BR020 great vinyl and live music. Also an incredible sound system and amazing staff.
2: Be sure to go to Plato Loco Carribean Cuisine. The food is amazing.
3: That’s easy. Word Up at Checkpoint Charlie.