Hip Hop duo Blaze X Black bring back that "ole thang"
By Holly Charles
Downtown Houston’s Leon Lounge throbs with bass as I approach the intimate venue for the night’s performers, Houston Press Reader’s Choice Award Winner, band and Hip-Hop duo Blaze X Black (pronounced Blaze and Black). The dimly lit bar bustles with the hipster chic, backpacker bunch, all contentedly packed in and around the bar.
The crowd grows even more dense, though, as I follow the sound of a live band, riling the 30 Something crowd into a nostalgic frenzy with a brief interlude of Jay Z & Pharrell’s classic “I Just Wanna Love You (Give It 2 Me).” Seamlessly, and just as quickly as the audience throws their hands up in submission, Blaze X Black hydroplanes into another set of unfamiliar, yet strangely familiar songs. They are familiar and welcome because they’re thick with the lyricism of 90s Hip Hop, the conviction of artistic soul and, the main ingredient – showmanship.
Blaze X Black & The Art Throbs (their colorful band a la The Legendary Roots Crew) rock back and forth, run into the crowd, stand on furniture, get lost in the music, and quite frankly, dance like no one is watching, despite the fact that all eyes are upon them. Read more
They make believers out of the crowded room of music goers who just ‘want that old thang back,’ a chance to dive back into what some say has been lost from the Hip Hop scene as of late – Passion. There are no lost lyrics, no derogatory chants that make the women grimace, no awkward and intermittent pauses to ‘turn up the track’ and no mindless pacing back and forth across an empty stage. Blaze X Black are boundless energy, and according to bandmate Rick Blaze, their stage show is simply a “transfer of energy of who we already are.” As in their music, the other ½ of the pair, Bishop Black, picks up where his partner left off, proclaiming, “We live how we play.”
Ironically, that “play” began the summer of their second grade year, after a chance summer school meeting. The two hit it off immediately but, being separated by school lines and an inability to stay in touch, they would not meet again for 15 years. Though more than a decade had passed, Bishop Black remembered Rick Blaze as his “best friend” and jumped at the chance to reconnect with him via Facebook. Despite the gap in their friendship, they were still oddly connected, sharing similar musical ambitions. Bishop Black, whose mother always told him he “need[ed] to be on somebody’s stage,” earned his title as the Bishop on quite the different platform. A young orator, Bishop Black remembers dressing in dark suits and white shirts during his childhood and building a reputation for reciting Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches by heart. His love of language and recitation abilities soon turned into a more secular relationship with music.
On another side of Houston, Rick Blaze was less willing to let his voice be heard. As a matter of fact, he admits that, although he loved and wanted to perform rap music, “[he] didn’t like (his own) voice.” By the time he was able to reign in and appreciate his voice, he was a college student sporting Johnny Blaze urban wear while participating in campus cyphers and rap battles. While his rhymes were memorable, his name was not, causing his classmates to appropriately refer to him as “Johnny Blaze,” which eventually led to his stage name Rick Blaze.
Their Facebook reunion eventually led to an invitation from Rick Blaze asking Bishop Black, who was by this time a bit further along in recording and performing his own music, to his own solo album release where he planned to finally reveal what, to some, was a hidden talent. Bishop jokingly admits that while he was excited to reunite with Rick, he “was just hoping he didn’t suck.” What he encountered that night solidified not only their friendship, but their musical compatibility. They both remember Rick’s big reveal as a wild night of over-the-top showmanship, women literally swinging from the ceiling, champagne and good music. It was inevitable that they would turn their lost-and-found friendship into what Houston is now buzzing about, the infamous Blaze X Black experience. What Bishop found was that, while their similarities initially united them, they were “just different enough for it to work” sonically. Rick reveals what solidifies them as a super duo by acknowledging the mutual respect they have for one another. In a reflective moment, he says, “Bishop doesn’t need me to be great” and vice versa. Although that may be true, Blaze N Black’s fans are obviously addicted to the greatness that is Blaze X Black the duo.
Blaze X Black have a loyal cult following of fans who follow them around the city from their regular appearances at The Nightingale Room and The House of Blues. Unlike most underground Hip Hop artists, you’ll notice an estrogen-charged energy within the audience. Admittedly, Blaze X Black “actively recruit” women. Their relationship with women is as intimate as many of their venues, and their self-proclaimed residencies as “Art Throbs” rolled over into their eclectic band, spawning their name. Much to the delight of the audience, the Art Throbs feature a ridiculously skilled woman as lead guitarist, a soulful female vocalist and a gorgeous and upbeat female DJ, mixing in records with the band’s already flawless live instrumentation. The duo initially wanted an all-female band, saluting their core fan base not only with feminist vibes but an appreciation for all things feminine. Following the group on Instagram, your timeline may be flooded with snaps of female fans sporting Art Throb T-shirts or smiling next to their favorite MCs, all above the hashtag #SAG, which Bishop Black references as “songs about girls.” Blaze X Black shamelessly claim a “Hip Hop sensibility” with more than a hint of R&B, which captures female audiences.
Their formula of rap intellect X eccentricity X soulfulness X female seduction has proven effective for the up and coming artists. And, such specific branding for Blaze X Black has led to a successful, weekly Internet Radio Show at The Core 94, The Blaze X Black Show (http://thecore94.com/Houston/ Monday nights at 9:30pm), where the pair deliver as much energy and good vibes through lively interviews and discussion as they do on stage. The show provides loads of laughter and OMG moments, as well as a way for their fans to connect weekly. Blaze X Black promises a single tentatively scheduled for release this February or March, (appropriately in time for Valentine’s Day and Women’s History Month), a full project before Summer 2017 is out and “even doper sets and (live) shows. Fans and newcomers are welcome to the Blaze X Black experience at the House of Blues this March 17 for St. Patrick’s Day, where Lady Luck is sure to be in the front row, singing along and swaying back and forth with a four leaf clover tucked tightly behind her ear.
For updates and information regarding upcoming Blaze X Black appearances, visit: https://www.blazeandblack.com/