Get Familiar: Blaze YL

Get Familiar: Blaze YL

Get Familiar: Blaze YL

Interview by Passion Dzenga | Photography by Eddie Davies

Joining us today is a true force in the UK rap scene, Blaze YL. Starting his musical journey at just 13 years old as the youngest member of the genre-blurring rap collective House of Pharaohs, Blaze has carved out a unique space for himself with his skippy flow and versatile style. House of Pharaohs, often described as the UK's answer to ASAP Mob, gave Blaze a platform to shine, participating in cyphers like Mad About Bars and selling out iconic venues such as Village Underground. Now, Blaze is stepping into the spotlight with his brand new 12-track project, 'The Cost Of Being', featuring an impressive lineup of collaborators including Blanco, Arz, AntsLive, NSJ Mali, Kairo Keyz, and Joe Unknown. Hailing from Kennington in South East London, Blaze draws inspiration from legends like 50 Cent, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, The Streets, and Skepta. Not only did he recently drop videos for 'Toxic Minds' and 'Easy Access', but this year also saw House of Pharaohs release videos for 'Space X' and 'New Era' featuring Grime legend JME. An alumnus of the prestigious Brit School, get familiar with Blaze YL.

Can you tell us about your early journey with House of Pharaohs? How did you join the collective, and what were some of the most memorable experiences you had with them?

It all started with me knowing Bandana. We both loved to dance back in the day. We had a mutual friend, and we were all into dancing and music culture. We got close, and he lived locally in South London. We used to go to Hyde Park skate parks in 2014/2015, where we bumped into Sam Wise. Bandana introduced me to Sam, and since Sam also lived in Kennington, we all came together and got close. We had a buzz back then because we were quite different from the start. We linked up, got along, and decided to start a movement. Inspired by ASAP Rocky and Joey Badass, we thought we should start our own thing in London because no one was doing it. We tried to figure out a name for the group, and I think Mali came up with "House of Pharaohs." It was lit! We were all jumping up and down, gassed! He used to be part of the group. This was the start of the journey, and not everyone who started is involved now. In terms of experiences with the mandem, we did a whole UK tour which was crazy, going to different cities. The craziest experience for me was when I lost my tooth! I got into a madness back in the day and cracked my tooth. I was on stage in Italy doing a show with HOP, and the mic hit my fake tooth and knocked it out. I couldn't stop performing. I was pissed, but even though it got knocked out, I didn't stop performing. That was one of my craziest experiences.

How has your experience with House of Pharaohs influenced your style and approach to music? In what ways do you think being part of this collective shaped your career?

My style and approach to music have come from being around the mandem from a young age. I am the youngest in the collective, so I had to turn up to certain venues without an ID at 15/16 years old. I would go to the venue before the doors opened to get in and wait until 10 PM to perform. Haha, it was a sick experience for me and made me dedicated. Being around the boys from a young age has helped a lot and shown me things about the industry. The place I am now, I have been through this stuff before, so I have learned from young and now know how to maneuver. A lot of people who come into the industry find it so new, whereas I was brought up in the creative industry from a young age.

Your new project, 'The Cost Of Being,' features an impressive lineup of collaborations. How did you go about selecting artists to work with on this project, and what was the creative process like?

I can't lie, it wasn't about selecting; it was all the artists I messed with separately. I love their music, and they have been tapped into my music as well. It was all very organic. Even in the studio, it was original and easy, not set up through labels. My music isn't based on that kind of experience and never will be. My thing is about making music with people I vibe with, who love my music as much as I love theirs. Creative artists come together and make crazy music. Literally!

Could you share the inspiration behind the title 'The Cost Of Being'? What themes or messages are you exploring in this project?

The name is kind of inspired by the current cost of living crisis, but also "The Cost of Being" is deep, especially for artists or people in creative industries. It's about the journey and where people are trying to get to. The cost of being is what one has to do to get to those certain places they want to reach. Some tracks on the mixtape are fun and upbeat, but there are also deeper tracks that people can connect with, so it's a nice mix of both. With the name, I wanted something that would grab people. There are so many things that, as a young artist, I have had to do and sacrifice, and I feel like other people can relate to that struggle.

You've recently released music videos for 'Toxic Minds' and 'Easy Access.' What was the concept or story behind these visuals? How important is visual storytelling to your music?

For "Easy Access," the concept was based on being let into certain venues/spaces. Life is easier as I am progressing as an artist, and you notice the things that come with success, representing my progression. Lots of people show love, and you can get into places and spaces that I might not have been in before. It's a gassed tune for everyone to enjoy and get lit! For "Toxic Minds," influenced by The Streets' "Has It Come to This," I wanted to capture the real gritty feel of London and the rawness.

You've mentioned being inspired by artists like 50 Cent, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, The Streets, and Skepta. How have these influences impacted your musical evolution and the way you approach your craft?

They have influenced me in various ways. From a young age, they showed me a lot, especially Skepta and The Streets, being from the UK, and they showed me that you can be yourself. People were trying to tap into what was popular, but I was very different. I went another way, and with HOP and myself, I want to attack differently and bring something different.

You performed as Michael Jackson in the theater production of 'Thriller' at a young age. How did that experience shape your passion for performing? Do you draw on that experience in your live performances today?

It helped me with confidence—how to perform and interact with fans. It helped a lot with confidence, and I love performing and stage diving, which is all part of the confidence. Haha, I stage dive like there is no tomorrow!


What can fans expect from your live shows? How do you translate the energy and vibe of your music into a live performance setting?

Fans can expect energy, engagement, a lot of litness, and stage dives. Haha, I like to interact with the crowd, and my music is based on live performances. I am always thinking about the live element of my music and how I would perform it so the fans can feel my energy, and I can feel theirs.

How does your background growing up in South East London influence your music? Are there specific aspects of your community or upbringing that you draw inspiration from?

Southeast London has made me the artist and man I am today. Growing up in Kennington, I saw a lot from a young age. Outside my doorstep, I saw things happen, and friends go to jail. I have always tried to show everyone that there are different paths. It's hard, though. I have learned a lot, and growing up in Southeast has definitely helped make me the man I am today. The local bossman at the shop, the local drug dealer—everyone has a part to play in how I see life, and I am happy I grew up in this area/city. From an early age, I have seen things, and it all has a part to play in my music and inspirations.

As a fan of Arsenal Football Club, do you find any parallels between your love for football and your approach to music? How does being a football enthusiast impact your creativity or perspective as an artist?

Being an Arsenal fan is everything. North London is RED, init? That's the first thing. The club is multicultural and one I can resonate with. Certain lyrics and certain players have been mentioned within my music and journey. Arsenal is a team for the fans and community. It definitely plays a part in my journey as an artist. Arsenal will always play a part. Arsenal forever!

You can stream the brand new record now 'The Cost of Being' now