Underground Hip Hop Interviews: Hanzo Bladez, New York's Underground Swordsmith

Published on 30 July 2023 at 11:31



There is many people in the underground scene that Hanzo Bladez is known to because of all the heavy hitters he works with. This doesn't even count the supergroup he is a part of, Grimewav (which comes from New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Florida, and Canada). Grimewav is a Hip Hop powerhouse, full of MCs, producers, engineers, and cover artists. Their members include, Mo Rukuz, Frank White, Enels, Hanzo Bladez, Lace Feug, Lurch, TEE-O, Frank "Steelz" Dutch, and Mira Manny (I haven't covered these guys as much as I should in the past and present but look for more ears and eyes on these artists, for sure). I call Hanzo Bladez a swordsmith, because he is a double-edged sword that is both sharpened for spitting and making beats (on top of that, he also provides cover art). He can spit with the best of them and make infectious beats that gets your head bobbing and makes you (the listener) hone-in what he is creating on his instrumentals. 


Grimewav as a group is respected by most of the Underground MCs and beat creators from around the world. They are not only respected, but they work with them as well. They have developed a grimey hardcore Hip Hop movement that is both original and potent lyrically. Hanzo Bladez and Grimewav are a constant reminder that Hip Hop is life and not always a part of the brighter side of life. They are kings of the underground hardcore Hip Hop movement; I will continue to show you this as well throughout time moving forward.



What got you started in Hip Hop? What album and artists really connected you to Hip Hop?


First time I really connected with Hip hop was in the late 80’s. From 88 to 91 all I listened to mostly was Big Daddy Kane’s “It’s a Big Daddy Thing”, Slick Rick’s “The Great Adventures of Slick Rick”, and NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton”. Those three records I resonated with the most until albums like “illmatic” and “36 Chambers” came out.


How did Grimewav come about? How did you all meet each other, what brought you together? What keeps this musical relationship still going strong?


Well, Grimewav was already formed when I got involved. I first met MoRukuz through a mutual friend of ours who I worked with at the time. Me and Ruk met at a recording studio in Upstate NY and sort of hit it off immediately. The chemistry we had in the studio lead us to work on our first EP called “Shoko Asahara” and our first full album “Novem”. Shortly aftera I met Enels who’s a great engineer, producer and MC and helped form Grimewav. Enels really is the mastermind behind the Grimewav sound and always seems to elevate it with every project we come out with. We met Lace Fueg during a tour with Ren Thomas back in like 2019. Lace is an incredible MC and with his mysterious persona we knew he would fit the mold instantly, so after featuring him on the song “Sell Drugs” it only made sense to have him join the movement!


The following year we met Frank White through the same mutual friend that introduced me to Ruk. First night we met Frank we were freestyling for hours in the cold ass snow, but shit was mad fun and was a true testament to our chemistry. Also, Frank is one of the realest behind the mic and his story telling ability is reminiscent to that of BIG or Ice Cube. His work ethic is crazy too. Never met an MC who could cut an album in a weekend and still have plenty of gas in the tank to do features. Next to join the movement is fellow MC, producer and engineer, Tee-O who is based out of Canada. After hearing his production work and skills on the mic on the single “Quicksand”, which featured Enels, I knew immediately dude had to be a part of the movement. His raw energy on the mic and production style was something we felt Grimewav needed to tap into and again the chemistry on every track we’ve done so far has been insane! I’m a fan to be honest and definitely look forward to his debut album as a Grimewav member!


Last two members to join Grimewav are Mira Manny and Frank “Steelz” Dutch. They both hail from Florida and are incredibly talented at what they do. Mira Manny has his own production company called “Armed N Dangerous” and has produced and engineered many joints for us. His engineering work on the track “King of NY” by Frank White and produced by me was some amazing work and he elevated that song to a whole new level when he did the mix and the master. Steelz is the merch god of the team! My bro can create almost any type of merchandise you need!


Honestly, all of us have more than a musical connection which is still dope in itself. We like to stay in constant communication and have great respect for each other. The comradery is real and we all look out for each other like real brothers. We also have that competitiveness
in us which keeps us hungry and of course you already know the saying “Steel Sharpens Steel”.


What brings you to work with an artist? What is it that they have that shines a light on them? How is your approach with each artist different? 


Honestly, I’ve worked with a few artists and although the process of creating may be different, the approach is always the same…. mutual respect and that organic sense of “Yo this shit feels right, word, so it only makes sense to make it happen!”. Once that’s pretty much established then it makes communication and creating that much easier. Next for me would be your dedication to your craft and obviously skill. If I don’t see you really promoting, investing in and working hard to get your music out there then what’s the point in us even working together or even the point of you making music, feel me? As of late I’ve been more impressed with work ethic and progression. As a fan of hip hop and those who create it, I enjoy hearing the progression in an artist’s sound. To me that shows growth and maturity, and I feel is the only way for a student to become a master!

You have made some dope beats, my fav is "Meaning Of Life" by Czaro the Infinite featuring Marz One...what brought that together and what is your favorite beat that you made? Who are your biggest influences as a beatmaker that helped shape your artistry?


Man, that was really all Marz One and Czaro. I just provided the canvas for them to create on, but yeah man me and Marz One been following each other for some time and felt it was overdue to collaborate on a joint. He happened to point his homie Czaro in my direction and the rest is history. As far as my favorite beat? That’s a tough one but I’m a say it’s a toss-up between the “Money, Sex & Drugs'' by Hus Kingpin and Musalini, “Underground'' by Enels, and ''Slaine” and “King of New York'' by Frank White BX. Those are probably my favorite beats as of late. I love all my beats but I keep finding myself going back to those three songs.


Some of my biggest influences are pretty obvious just by my production style alone. Most notably for me would have to be RZA and DJ Premier. I’m also a huge fan of DJ Muggs and Madlib as well.


As an MC, you put in some dope work as well. My favorite is "The Feared One" it hits so hard. What is different in your approach when you spit the 16s? What is more enjoyable to you when you spit the lyrics verses making a beat? What do you appreciate about being able to bring a voice to someone else's beat and one of your own...what do you prefer? 


I appreciate that man “The Feared One’' is definitely one of my favorite joints that I cooked. Some people may not be aware, but I began as an MC. I started off like most people and that was just freestyling in the hallways or wherever with a group of friends chillin’ and smokin’ or whatever. I didn’t get serious with it until probably the mid 90’s when I got involved with a group called “Da Livest” based out of Harlem, NY. We cut a few projects but due to creative differences we ended up parting ways and after that I just spent a lot of time writing and also figuring out the production process.


To me it’s more therapeutic to write, record and perform on a stage. I love making beats, but nothing is better than that feeling of performing in front of a live crowd and to answer your last question, oddly enough I actually prefer to rhyme over someone else’s beat.


What new projects are you coming out with? Who would you most like to work with? Who are some of the artists you plan to work with that may not be in the immediate?


Currently I’m working on a few singles and an EP with fellow Grimewav member, Frank White BX called “Tango & Cash”. I also got a three track EP done with Lace Fueg called "Trigon”. I have a bunch of features on the way as well, production and rhyme wise. For example, Sauce Yin, Weapon ESP, PrettyUgly, G Fam Black, LoGun, Daniel Son, Gamz The Lucky Bastard, Mickey Bourbon, Miskeen Haleem, Ren Thomas just to name a few, and of course all of my Grimewav and Mastermind brothers! So really the grind just doesn’t stop as we are consistently creating every day!


I would love to work with Black Thought or Nas, but I would definitely settle for Eto or RJ Payne.

What do you want people to see in your music? When it is all said in done, why do you do music and how do you project your mission? 


In all retrospect I’ve already accomplished more than I set my eyes on, but the love for this continues to grow every day which is why I keep at it! The only thing I want people to see in my music is pain, beauty, and laughter all balled into one. I like to believe I’m a funny guy, but I’m also a serious person as well. I also come from a time when people had tougher skin. Therefore, my lyrics will be raunchy, shocking and sometimes just out right fucked up, but that’s life and how I like to interpret it on paper! I know music is subjective and mine may not be for everybody, and that’s Ok because when you stop making music for you it's not really yours anymore is it?


How do you build your audience? How do you wield social media in this aspect and how do you release a project, when do you drop the singles and what is the most important part of this process, do you feel? Are there any new tactics you are planning on using that you would like to share?


The best thing to do as an independent artist is to always invest in yourself. Never be afraid to spend that extra for promotion or marketing. $100 in sponsored Ads may only get you like 10 extra fans, but that 10 can exponentially grow to 100 just by word of mouth or by those 10 fans sharing and commenting on your music. Also, communicate with your fans and make yourself approachable. Fans love to interact with their favorite artists and to shy away from that is only going to go against you in the long run.


When we started, we thought the best way to do things was to hit the people with constant music and just flood social media and streaming platforms. That worked for a little while, but as I always say, “Change is Good!” So now we’re releasing whenever and however! For example: Enels just dropped a surprise EP with Isis Aset no promo or announcements just boom here you go! I truly think people love shit like that! I know as a fan of hip hop myself, I definitely would. I think the goal right now is to just drop a bunch of singles to build momentum for several upcoming Eps and Albums in the works like Mo Rukuz’s “Behemoth” and Frank White’s “Honor Among Thieves” which have been in progress for quite some time now. I honestly would like to stop using Spotify and just do direct sales or Bandcamp only, but that’s a collective decision we all have to make.


What is your take on all the different aspects of Hip Hop? What are your favorite subgenres and why? What are your least favorite subgenres and why? Why do you feel New York Hip Hop is not as prominent as it once was? Do you feel there will be a window that will open to get more listeners to it's movements? Do you do boom bap Hip Hop to stay true to your region? 


I just do what I know and what I grew up on. I don’t do the trap or drill thing at all and not to hate on those that do it cos we all got to get it by any means, but as a true hip hop head I pay homage and pay it forward by keeping it soulful, gritty and raw, as well as, staying true to myself. I dabbled with trap production very early on, but it’s not where my heart is and I would never sell out on my beliefs for any kind of monetary value!


New York hip hop is here and has always been here people just have to look a little harder for it since mainstream ain’t pushing it anymore, but real heads know what’s up!


How does your crew formulate their ideas? Is there a deep look into trying to find something different that no one else has ever done or is it more to keep it consistent to your respective brands? Do you feel there is a need to bring something different to your crews artistry or do you feel it is fresh enough? What sort of improvements is your crew trying to accomplish or do they feel they have reached their pinnacle?


Without giving away too much detail the whole team operates synchronically. Decisions are always voted on and we all have equal say in ideas, strategy, marketing, expenditures, etc.… When it comes to the brand though we really don’t follow a specific blueprint. We just do what we feel is right at the time with what we have to work with. We leave everything to universal law and believe when things are done organically they are better received by the masses. I will say that with each project we drop the sound definitely seems to elevate each time and that’s all because of Enels and his engineering skills. We have a lot of new things happening with the crew for example we’re expanding the team, but I ain’t speaking too much on that as to not jinx it. We will announce that at the right time so definitely keep an eye out for that bit of news.


Lastly, I just want to say thank you to everyone who has shown love and support to me and my Grimewav brothers! Stay blessed, but more importantly…stay GRIMEY!!!! PEACE!

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