[THE SIX is a regular interview feature on 206UP.COM with a simple format: One local hip-hop artist and six questions. For past editions click here.]
Our guest on this week’s edition of THE SIX is HAVi Blaze. The Tacoma-bred MC has been catching buzz around Town with his latest album, Self Portrait, a polished, self-assured collection of tracks that deals in real life drama and deft braggadocio. HAVi previously made waves with “Purple & Gold (UW Anthem)”, a tribute to his alma mater the University of Washington and a re-purposing of Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow”. Larry Mizell from The Stranger once compared HAVi to Phonte Coleman, a sort of everyman MC adept at extracting the nuances of the human condition from a street-oriented perspective. HAVi trends toward the harder end of that spectrum, but otherwise it’s a good comparison. The rapper generously took some time out from his schedule to hop on THE SIX.
For those readers that don’t know who you are, give them the official “HAVi Blaze bio” in five sentences or less.
HAVi is an independent hip hop artist from Washington State. As a writer, producer and performer, I believe I am known for my lyrical ability, and realistic subject matter. I make music to affect the lives of people as much as music has affected mine. I have watched the hip hop culture evolve for the better and change for the worst, along with the rest of the world. At its current stage, I still feel like there is a place for meaningful lyrics and music.
“I’ve Been Down” – HAVI Blaze
You produced all of the beats on your new album, Self Portrait. Talk about your creative process: What comes first for you, the beats or the lyrics? Or do they alternate?
I usually hear a beat and then decide a topic. Most beats will tell you what type of song or feeling to write about. There are some times when I write a verse or song to a particular beat and then decide to use those lyrics for a different beat. I started out as a producer so I pay a lot of attention to the instrumental before I write. Sometimes, I’ll play a beat 100 times before I actually write anything to it. Then, when I am writing, I’ll pace around a room or lie down and repeat the lines as I create a verse. By the time I finish the verse, it is memorized and ready for the beat.
The song “I’m A Murderer” is about abortion, a topic that isn’t touched on very often in hip hop — at least in the very open-book manner that you do here. What types of reception have you experienced with that track?
I wrote “I’m A Murderer” in my car before work and sang it all day to myself until I got home to record it. A lot of people say that is one of their favorite tracks from the album. I had someone say she couldn’t listen to the song anymore because the lyrics made her think about her own child. I’ve had a lot of people tell me about their personal experiences with abortion because of the song. I think it is a good thing that people are talking about the topic.
“Purple & Gold (UW Anthem)” – HAVi Blaze
You have a degree in English from the University of Washington. How did your studies in literature inform your methods as an MC? Did any authors in particular inspire the way you write raps?
Most people that find out that I have an English degree think that I know a lot of big words, which I don’t. The courses that I took taught me how to use language to express my ideas in a more effective manner. Now, when I write verses, I can focus my words to convey the exact emotions that I feel that day or felt during an experience.
What was the last great book you read?
I haven’t read an entire book in a while. The last great one I remember reading would probably be Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. I plan on reading Sun Tzu’s The Art of War in the not too distant future.
Tell us about any upcoming projects you have in the works.
I just released my new album, Self-Portrait, and I am promoting that to as many people as I can. I plan to release another project later in the year. I will definitely have a lot more guest appearances on the next one. I may put out something small this summer. Maybe an EP or maybe a short mixtape with beats from Jay’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail.