I had the opportunity to sit down with Bliss & Alice, a Milwaukee rapper who sent shock waves into the his city’s Hip hop scene with his first effort, a mixtape by the name of Poetry Volume One – The Shit Talker Tape. Eloquent, poetic, and sharp lyricism is layered over incredibly nuanced and enjoyable production making for a stellar first project from the dude, but you can read my thoughts in its extended review. Bliss is a dude who wears his heart on his sleeve and is truly passionate about his art. Here is what he had to say:
Eargrub: How would you describe your raps?
Bliss: I’d say they are thoughtful. I think that there’s a lot going on in rap. It’s a genre that has kind of moved towards this base level of thought. It’s all about the hood and it’s all about money, drugs, girls, and clothes. I don’t know, there are some really talented writers that are making very thoughtful music and I’d like to be a part of that conversation, I suppose.
Eargrub: Do you have anyone who inspires your sound?
Bliss: I do. I think my writing was influenced heavily while I was younger by some of the great American writers. At least the writers I perceive to be great American writers. Hunter S. Thompson, Bukowski – if you’ve ever read through some of Bukowski’s poetry sets, like, some of that stuff is just incredible. But growing up and really starting to get into rap and what I’m really into right now – if you back track through Frank Ocean’s back catalog right now, there’s a project called the Lonny Breaux Collection, it’s like 60 songs. I think it was unreleased, I don’t think he intended for it to get out, but of course it gets out there. Just looking at how artists I think are thoughtful and how they progress. And getting a very in-depth look at a recording process with songs that obviously weren’t going to come out. You can back track through all of Ye’s discography, which is all pretty hot. Of course there are the people that hate 808’s, a lot of people not vibing with Yeezus – which was kind of incredible to me, I thought that was a great project. Just looking at how things progress musically is a big thing for me. I’m also super into Miles Davis. I listen to a lot of Billy Holiday. Just trying to figure out exactly where people are pulling some of their thoughts from. There are a wide range of things you can explore. I intend on going through heavy discographies. That’s kind of how I work. I want to listen to a project front to back. I think that’s what I tried to do with my debut – make it something you can listen to front to back. That’s lost, on mixtape culture especially.
Eargrub: So, your process: going off of your interest in what makes the cut and what doesn’t – how did you choose to have “Man of the Year” as your lead single?
Bliss: That’s actually kind of funny. “Man of the Year” was kind of a take on the fact that even though a lot of this tape is very removed from what you generally hear in Hip hop, I recognize the culture and that I’m a part of it. I mean, that’s the closest thing, I think, that’s really topical Hip hop conversation. I guess it just felt good at the time. We were cranking stuff out. The process was flowing and we were looking at this record and we thought people would vibe with it. It’s one of, like, two or three actual Milwaukee references in the whole tape. People heard that line “Cream City orphans” and just kind of went wild with it. I wasn’t planning on being, I don’t know, revered in this Milwaukee Hip hop scene. That track is just fun. It will be fun to perform; it will be fun to listen to on later in my life.
Eargrub: What is your opinion on the Milwaukee Hip hop scene?
Bliss: Milwaukee is going through a Rap renaissance right now. I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t think that’s really what is going on. There are definitely some big hitters that are all ready dominating the scene. I can think of about four or five camps that are just on point right now. And they’re all younger. This kid IshDARR just dropped The Better Life, his first effort. Kid’s got a big mouth but he’s got the lyrics. He’s backing it up, he’s shining. A good friend of mine, Webster X, dropped Desperate Youth on September 24th. We share a birthday, that’s when he dropped his project. His live performance is just really on point right now. I think his next effort will be coming next fall. Vonny Del Fresco, that kid is killing it. He just dropped After it All. He has a three part EP series, this is the second part. He’s shining, doing some really cool stuff. Eye.$ee.You just dropped a video. I can’t say enough. I actually have a cameo in that so I can’t really say. They are the homies and they are putting out some really good stuff. There are a lot of camps, I don’t want to leave it at that, but there is definitely a list. There really is something happening, and it’s all pretty thoughtful. I don’t think that Milwaukee is latching onto surface level lyrics right now, and that’s pretty cool.
Eargrub: Staying in the mid west, what do you think of our Chicago neighbors and their Drill scene?
Bliss: You’re talking, like, Keef? Lil Herb and his new project? He had Nicki on a track, right? That whole Chiraq thing… I don’t know how I vibe with the Chiraq thing, personally. I just don’t think I vibe with that terminology. I mean, I got homies in Chicago, and like, our friends die. Our homies get shot. It’s really not a game. They live in a warzone, or damn near. The city of Chicago doesn’t need anyone romanticizing “Chiraq.” Nor does Iraq need anyone romanticizing their conflicts. That’s how I feel about it. Like, dog, that’s some serious serious shit. But as that drill scene is going on, you’ve got SaveMoney’s camp, and that’s Vic, Chance, a whole slew of other people. THEM People out of Chicago just dropped two mixtapes over the course of ten days. So as that drill scene is happening, there’s also a lot of other shit going on. Where does it all coincide, and how does it all fall into this one overarching genre? But at the same time, if you are riding around with your homies and somebody throws on a Chief Keef track, you’re going to get hyped because that is what it is. It’s hype music. Just some of the vernacular around it is kind of shaky for me I suppose.
Eargrub: How did you get your start rapping?
Bliss: Man, I don’t know. My homies and I always loved music, just in a way different way. I’m from Wausaw, Wisconsin, and where I’m from, what you have to understand is that I went home last weekend and I heard “Lose Yourself,” like, Eminem, on the radio. That’s what they’re on still. Their taste is very far removed from what is actually happening in music. My homies and I, we were just Internet surfing kids. Looking for a different type of sound. We used to sit around this spot, we called it the Stoney Creek Inn, we would just pop in CD’s. From that, sitting around, drinking, chilling with the homies, we just got to spitting and just bullshitting freestyles. At that time, I was all ready writing poetry, and that was a huge outlet for me and I was into rap all ready, and, I don’t know – it just sort of sparked something. Putting music and writing together just made sense. Those were the two things that I actually gave a shit about. I was probably about 16 when I first started spitting bars.
Eargrub: In what sort of environment do you feel most inspired?
Bliss: I guess it kind of depends on what I’m trying to write about. I mean, some of the best work that I’ve ever done, most of which is unreleased, came from a back packing trip I went on. I was just kind of fed up with school, fed up with people. I just kind of wanted to think. I was backpacking for about three and a half months through Europe, just me and an iPad. I didn’t even have a phone. I just went and wrote. Hopped on trains, went from country to country, just writing. I was taking it all in. I realized that there is so much more than just, you know, this. You can really do whatever the fuck you want with life. Like, truthfully. Not everyone really has the opportunity to, but if you do have the opportunity to, as I did, you should definitely tap into that. A lot of the imagery in my writing, especially in my raps, is derived from going out and seeing people, talking to people, and getting a feel for what people are really experiencing all over the world.
Eargrub: So, you did just drop this project. How are you feeling?
Bliss: It’s kind of wild, man. Before your project drops, you’re still in your head asking yourself if anyone is going to like this shit. Personally, I love this shit. I put a lot into it. I feel really good right now. I can’t complain, that’s for sure. I’m very thankful, trying to stay humble. It’s just the beginning. No reason to have a big head over it. It is a little pressure off, though. The songs are written for that project. I can kind of branch out and start working on some other shit. The pressure is off and I’m feeling good as fuck. I’m just happy.
Eargrub: You being a pretty poetry lyricist, what are your thoughts on the gangsta rap resurgence we’ve seen from ScHoolboy Q’s latest project and YG’s latest effort?
Bliss: I like that Q project a lot. It’s kind of funny, “Man of the Year” dropped, for me, and then like two days later I sat down and had my first listen through Q’s new album. Like, Q has a track called “Man of the Year.” I just geeked out. I should have gotten the knowledge on that. I mean, it worked out for me, and of course Q is doing his thing. Oxymoron is a straight LA gangster album. Like the intro to that album is a little kid being like, “Daddy’s a gangster” or some shit like that. I like “The Purge.” He put Tyler on, I thought that was pretty interesting. I didn’t really see that coming. He’s got BJ the Chicago Kid on there, I dig that track. You’ve got “Collard Greens,” and like, come on. I really like this side of Rap. I’m no stranger to gangsters, I just wasn’t ever gang banging. I mean, some of that crazy gangster shit is what really got me into Rap at first. For today’s shit, I wouldn’t necessarily call it resurgence. I think that gangster rap will always exist somewhere. I think someone will always be making gangster rap, just as someone will always be making country music. There is gangster rap everywhere. I think that this resurgence, if we want to coin it as that now, is definitely due in part to social unrest. That shit pops when people are pissed off. That’s just the reality of it. You can pick up on a lot of things that are happening in the media around the world, and I think gangster rap has a say in that. You can see when those cities and neighborhoods get hit real hard. Gangster rap has its place. I think it’s very important to the structure of Hip hop. I’m really glad Q is doing his thing. I should probably listen through that YG album again. He pretty lyrical. I can’t say I’ve listened to it more than, like, twice. Cool efforts coming out, though.
Eargrub: What would you say is your favorite project of this year so far?
Bliss: Shit. I don’t even know if I could say. I just think there is so much going on. I don’t know. I don’t know if I could drop a name on it. I think there is too much going on for me right now. Like, as far as my listening goes, I don’t really get caught up in this song or that song. I need to sit down and listen to so many projects, and think of it like that. And I know my listening isn’t all the way through. I don’t need to drop a name on that.
Eargrub: So it sounds like you’ll listen to an album over a single, what’s your environment like when listening to a project.
Bliss: I live with a sax player, so he’s focused in Jazz. With that, my day is kind of littered with hearing snippets of a live saxophone performance. We sit down damn near every night to talk about, you know, the state of the world, and we just throw on music. For me to sit down and really have an in-depth listen to something, it’s not going to be the first time I hear it. I’ll put on something I’ve never heard, and I’ll catch a lyric and then need to listen back through it. It starts with listening, listening, listening and if something catches me, I’ll sit down and really listen to it again. I think that’s important. If I can listen to your album and never sit back and ask myself what the fuck is going on in your music, I probably won’t play it back for a while. But yeah, it’s a pretty constant endeavor for me.
Eargrub: So you dropped this tape, people are loving it, what are we to expect next from Bliss & Alice?
Bliss: I think I’m going to shell your expectations. I have a very in-depth writing process. I try to be very cognoscente of what’s going on in my music. I’d venture to say that my next project drops this year. I think it can be a two tape year for me. I’m working with videographers. You know, we are going to get the esthetic right, we are going to get the live set right, and we are going to make sure it works. The creative energy doesn’t stop at this tape – It’s in full swing. Don’t expect anything in particular, but expect a lot. It’s going to be a big year.
As someone who tries his best to endorse good Hip hop, I implore you all to support the homie Bliss & Alice. He is making music that stopped me in my tracks, and from what I’ve been reading, it’s having that effect on a lot of others. Y’all need to make yourself knowledgable, because if he gets another tape out this year, it’s going to be even bigger than his first. This dude is going somewhere, he has far too much talent not to. For now, cop Poetry Volume One – The Shit Talker Tape on his Bandcamp, and enjoy his craft. Believe me, it’s top.
– Charlie Johns