Interview: Bless, All Grown Up
If you are a Canadian Hip-Hop head, there is a good chance you've heard the name "Bless" tossed around over the years. Born in Montreal, Ben Rinehart first entered the scene as a passionate B-Boy, later becoming a known rhymer around the city. Staring to take an interest in Rap more seriously in his teenage years, Bless was eventually signed to the likes of both Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst (Flawless Records), as well as Gang Starr's Guru (ILL Kid Records), respectively. The rapper later went on to found his own label, Platinumberg Entertainment. It was there that the rapper would release songs like his hilarious Busta Rhymes-flip, "Hebrew Money", and of course his collaboration with NY's Rah Digga, "Jealousy".
Last year, Bless resurfaced on the scene with a fresh new release titled Spoils of War, a project that finds the Montreal emcee revisiting his early roots, all while continuing to flaunt his impressive rhyming skills.
I knew Bless from my adolescent years. My father, a distributor of urban clothing lines at the time would sponsor the rapper with fresh gear for shows and music videos. Although we had crossed paths a couple of times, sitting down with the rapper once more, both of us now much older and matured, was a true delight.
A few weeks ago in Ottawa, I sat down with Bless to discuss his new LP, the resurgence of the "NY Sound" in Hip-Hop and more:
Mr. Wavvy: How's it going man?
Bless: Good to be here brother!
Longtime no see!
I suppose everything comes in full circle; when we first met, my father (a clothing distributor) was sponsoring you, a lot of clothes he was giving to you were from Shady Limited and now you're in Ottawa opening for Obie Trice.
I think it was Shady and also Five Four. Shout out to your pops. He was always a good dude, very supportive.
You've grown up a lot since then. One thing I always remember my dad telling me was that your mom was always driving you around everywhere.
Well when I signed my first deal, I was 16 years old so I didn't drive...yet. [Laughs]
I think I even remember my dad saying she picked you up from girls' houses sometimes?
I don't know about all that. [Laughs] But shout out to the old school, those were good times.
In any case, you've definitely done some growing up these past few years. Last November, you released a new project, Spoils of War. If you had one word to describe it, what would it be?
Here's four: My favourite thus far. And I'm not just saying that since it's the new one. This is the album I've always wanted to make. I started putting it together with my partner who produces everything for me, Mano Sound Machine and also my boy Carlito the Kid, and I just really wanted to have fun with it and make a dope ass Hip-Hop record that represented where I was at in my career and how I was feeling. I'm very happy and excited for everybody to hear it.
What constraints may you have faced in the past that disallowed you to be able to create the album you've always wanted to make?
There weren't necessarily any constraints, it was more just about timing, you know? Over the years, it just depended where Hip-Hop was but now I felt like the timing was right and that people wanted to hear some very East-Coast, boom-bap type Hip-Hop. That's the Hip-Hop I grew up loving, that's the Hip-Hop that made me want to get in the game.
So timing wise, now felt like the right time with a lot of cats like Action Bronson and Joey Bada$$ making noise, I felt like it was the perfect time to bring that East Coast lyricism back to the forefront so I couldn't be happier.
With that being said, I feel like that whole East Coast/B-Boy vibe has always been there in your essence, but is now stronger and more prominent than ever in your music.
That's the school of Hip-Hop that I come from, you know? A lot of people know me from my affiliations with Gang Starr and being signed to Guru. I just felt like Hip-Hop went to the South for a long time and then the whole "Electro" phase but now, I felt like it was the perfect time for Canadian Hip-Hop, along with Hip-Hop in general to jump in on a lot of the shit I grew up on coming back.
At this point in time, do you feel as if there is still one distinct East Coast sound? Many would argue otherwise, that artists like French Montana and A$AP Rocky helping contribute to making it more of a blurred line as opposed to one voice.
It's definitely a blurred line. But at the same time, I feel like music is a big fusion. There's a lot of mashing up going on just because of the internet. Everybody's exposed to everything. Back in the day when we were growing up, a lot of people would just pick one genre to associate themselves with but now, I think everybody is just into good music. Consumers are a lot more savvy because everything is put in their faces via social media and their phones and shit.
I think whether it's French [Montana], whether it's Jadakiss, whether it's Fabolous or whether it's newer guys like A$AP or Action, I think that it's just all good music and I'm just happy that the playfulness, lyricism and wordplay are all coming back to the forefront. I think that's where my strong-suit has always been so that's what this album is. Just 10 joints, no filler, no intro, no outro. Just ten solid Hip-Hop records, start to finish, spitting lyrics, bars.
You have a lot of great collaborations on here, everyone from Vado, Fred the Godson and Statik Selektah.
Shout out to all of them! I basically reached out to all the buys I thought were part of the new New York. I feel like Statik came up under DJ Premier just like how I came up under Guru, so he was a natural fit. With Fred, my homie Carlito the Kid put me on to his mixtapes and I was listening to a lot of Fred when I was putting the project together. I reached out to Fred and it was just a very natural vibe in the studio. And with Vado, I had a record I just felt was right for him. It had a very Harlem feel to it, very Dipset-like.
And in relation to what you were saying about Statik coming up under DJ Premier's wing, the same is true about Vado under Cam'Ron's to a certain extent.
That song, Luxury Rap, is going to be the next single. We just did the video for that.
Nice. In what I'm sure will be a big year for touring and promo, what are your general plans for 2016?
Well, opening for Obie Trice at this show is kind of like a warm up for the rest of the year. I'm definitely getting ready to tour in February and March. The Statik single is coming out this week and the Vado video will be out by the end of the month. And then probably by the summertime, I'll be ready to hit the people with more music.
Good for you man! The question we always like to end off with is one we've asked to everyone from Rockstars to rappers and everybody in between. Bless, what is the meaning of life?
For me, it's being able to pursue your passion and to allow yourself the freedom to do so. I definitely think that for me, a big passion has obviously always been music. I think the meaning of live is also evolving. You've got to evolve as a man, as an artist and as a human being and being able to pursue passions that make you excited about life.
That's beautiful. Bless, thank you so much for your time!
My pleasure brotha!
Stream Bless' Spoils of War below: