Stereotyped or cliched as it may be, whenever I see an artist title themselves a “Young Lion” or a “Black Lion” or a “Mad Lion” I automatically assume (1.) Carribean heritage and (2.) a heavy dose of Rastafarianism in the music. The press kit accompanying Blee’s “The Black Lion Chronicles Chapter 1” did not disappoint me on the first front. By their own description Blee (also known by the longer title Black Lion of Eternal Excellence) is “a mix of laid back Carribean swagger, the passion of the American hustle and a slight touch of the British die hard attitude.” I could write myself just such a descrption: “Flash is a mix of sarcastic Midwestern attitude, the passion of the Viking warrior making up 1/256th of his heritage, and a slight touch of angst from criticizing the hip-hop music and culture he loves the most.” In other words FUCK ALL THAT SHIT NOBODY CARES. Don’t take it personally Blee, but your bio reads like fill-in-de-blanks-an’-pour-fire-‘pon-Babylon.
At least “The Black Lion Chronicles” captures more attention than the one sheet that accompanies it, although this is not at first for the right reasons. I had ignored the fact this album was a mixtape, largely because it’s not printed on the gem case, artwork, back cover or anywhere on the disc itself. Having put the album in I’m immediately playing “name that tune” though instead of focusing on Blee’s lyrical contributions. Track 3 is DJ Khaled’s “Go Hard.” Track 6 is T.I.’s “Whatever You Like.” Track 1 is 50 Cent’s “Get Up,” and so on and so forth. Obviously I’m not going to be able to score Blee’s production here since this is only intended to be a showcase of his lyrical abilities, but on the plus side there isn’t an annoying DJ on this mixtape rewinding Blee’s vocals 10 times while screaming how hot, fire, blazing and crazy the song is (without letting us HEAR the actual song). The one track where Blee’s own personality and style seems to come through the best is “Revolutioneyes”:
“Yo take this frame in time
Put it back 20 years yo what a surprise
It’s the same fit, it’s still the same shit, different day
Yeah we talk about it but don’t move in a different way
Givin you the vibe that, you can, bang your head to
Read between the lines man you bang your head too
But when you do, try and get a clearer vision
Understand why WWV’s the mission”
For those curious WWV stands for Wealth-Wisdom-Virtue. Blee’s press kit says that WWV is an empowerment movement that will “inspire people to pursue a positive path in life.” It also notes you can buy merchandise with the WWV logo at WWVOnline.com. At least Blee’s wallet will be empowered, but you can hardly blame him for trying to cash in even at this early stage in his career. In fact it’s a shame Bob Marley never saw the hundreds of millions (who knows – maybe a billion or more) in revenue made off his name, music and iconic visage long after his death. One suspects Marley might not have cared though, or would simply have poured the wealth back into his Jamaican homeland. Perhaps Blee will do the same for Montserrat if he achieves fortune and fame. It seems that Blee is at least superficially spiritual from “The Black Lion Chronicles,” and believes music can empower and uplift people, but it would be easier to judge his artistic potential over wholly original tracks. The press kit says to expect just such a release named “Respect Your Legacy” in 2009, which implies an even deeper spiritual and musical journey than this album – perhaps unintentionally a more stereotypically Rastafarian one too. We’ll see if Blee’s future lives up to his promise.