Exclusives 14 September 2020

GRM Exclusive: A Geography Lesson With Blanco

14 September 2020

Harlem Spartans member, Blanco has been able to carve out a lane for himself, since he was released from prison in 2018. His latest releases show a more laid-back style of music that has solidified his temporary move away from drill.

His debut EP, English Dubbed, which dropped in November of last year, is proof that despite hailing from Kennington, he is all too familiar with another location. He has consistently been known to reference Japanese culture, particularly anime, in his lyrics and is a representation of a group of kids that grew up watching shows like Naruto and Dragon Ball Z. The inclusion of animations in his recent videos have taken this influence to another level, ensuring that he’s the leader in his field.

However, he is not the only UK rapper to mention the Japanese style of animation in his lyrics. Notably, Brit Award winning rapper, Dave, referenced Naruto with his EP, Six Paths in 2016. He did the same in lyrics leading up to that point, like “Cos I seen pain like Nagato” on his 2016 single, “Jkyl + Hyd” and “Six paths like the sage” in his Fire in the Booth in the same year.

More recently, drill rappers, V9 and Offica have heavily referenced anime in their songs. The Homerton native, V9, cites Dragon Ball Z, One Punch Man and Bleach in his Mad About Bars. While, Offica from Ireland, made a song called Naruto Drillings in 2019 and even wore Obito’s outfit in the remix to the song, featuring KSI.

Nonetheless, Blanco has been able to match his peers, with his own Naruto dedicated track, “Shippuden”, which dropped earlier this year – a reference to part II of the TV show that follows Naruto Uzamaki’s life. His mellow vibe is more fitting as he raps with a continuous flow over a Brasilian funk beat by Alexay Beats.

Funnily enough, the genre that he has turned to since distancing himself from drill, has also been under attack. Funk as it’s known in Brazil, a genre birthed in the 1980s and influenced by genres like Hip hop, Miami bass and Samba, was the topic of discussion in the senate, after around 22,000 people signed a petition to ban it in 2017. This takes the removal of drill music videos, which we see in the UK, to another level.

It was labelled a “public health threat” because of its sexual lyrics, drug use at baile funk events and links between MCs and drug traffikers. Not to mention the fact that it was created by working class black people. The bill was ultimately rejected on September 14th. Nonetheless, events are still shut down by armed police, again taking something like Form 696, which we saw in the UK, a step further.

Having said this, Blanco has tapped into this sound in his own way, scarcely swearing as he rides the funky beats. He even pays homage to the birthplace of the genre, rapping “Yellow one’s here like Brazil” on “Pull Up”. And although he’s not the only UK rapper taking influence from Brazil, as Jevon has displayed on recent tracks, Blanco’s style is still unique.

In an interview with Amarudontv, he said that “I don’t want to sound like everyone else”, explaining his beat selection and the time that he takes in crafting his lyrics. “You’ve got to say different things” so he doesn’t limit himself.

And on his single “Memphis” he takes the standard that he’s set for himself to another level.

The opening lines are, “not in Memphis, I’m in Tennessee”, referring to the popular chicken shop in Kennington, Tennessee Fried Chicken, while playing off of the city of Memphis, being in Tennessee. Like London, Memphis is no stranger to rappers with cold flows as artists like Tommy Wright III, gained a cult following in the city’s underground rap community in the 1990s.

It’s also not the first time that Blanco has referenced the United States or the South either as he says “outspoken, like I’m Frederick Douglas”, on “Shippuden”, paying homage to the famous orator and abolitionist, who escaped from slavery in Maryland in the nineteenth century.

Like Christopher Columbus, who he references in the next line of the same song, he navigates through different cultures, even changing language on “Memphis”. “Ouviste (you heard), I said reach for the stars I reached it/ Had my heart broken, couldn’t treat it/ Had a smile but inside I was triste (sad)”. Portuguese comes naturally to him, given his Angolan heritage and brings things full circle with the Brazilian funk beat. Remarkably, the reason why European languages are spoken in countries like Angola and Brazil can be loosely linked back to Columbus’ initial exploration in 1492, again bringing things full circle with his line on “Shippuden” – “hate some guys on my skin like Columbus”.

Blanco’s mind and knowledge go far beyond Kennington and he continues to separate himself from the competition. He says that he’s “moved out the ends so I’m out where it’s rural”, matching the setting for the “Memphis” music video shot by Faces. As the video suggests he’s in his own lane and definitely going places.

Be sure to check the first instalment of the trilogy An English Lesson With MizorMac right here