BLAX returns with new album ‘Be Well’

By Joey Grihalva

Milwaukee rapper BLAX is back with a new album Be Well produced by Reason. It premiered today on the national hip-hop website HipHopDX.com.

Born Adebisi Agoro, the wordsmith became known as a spoken word poet in the early 2000s. Agoro is also an original founder of the defunct but beloved Milwaukee hip-hop band Fresh Cut Collective.

In 2010, Agoro moved to New York City with $250 in his pocket, eventually landing an internship with entrepreneur Damon Dash. Agoro worked behind the scenes with Dash, producer Ski Beatz and the Jet Life family, while networking and creating with different artists from around NYC and the globe.

Agoro moved back to Milwaukee a few years ago to focus on his family. He continues to hone his craft and build on the momentum he had in NYC.

As an advocate for the Milwaukee hip-hop scene, Agoro supports young emcees while championing the old guard. Those inclinations are evident on Be Well, which features an impressive mix of guest artists from sultry singer Fivy to Milwaukee rap icon Coo Coo Cal.

On Be Well, Agoro draws from his NYC connections as well, including a guest verse from Brooklyn rapper G.R.A.M.Z. on “Nothin,” the first video from the album.  It is directed by Eli Salcedo of Visual Index Films.

Be Well opens to reworked sound bites from news reports on the Sherman Park riots that ensued after the shooting of Syville Smith last summer. The album’s dark undertones do well to express emotions that Agoro and his community have been experiencing as they continue to witness black Americans being killed by police with impunity.

In anticipation of the release of Be Well, Agoro shared some of his thoughts regarding the new project and his future ambitions.

WiG
What was your goal with the new record?

BLAX
My personal goal for this record was to make a time capsule of a sound and place. This record for me defines a moment in life. When people look to my music I want them to look to it as a reflection as to what was going on in those days and times. I wanted to capture my Milwaukee reality, my world view on how I am feeling in these modern times.

This record is a culmination of skills learned and wisdom gained as a traveled independent artist. For me it symbolizes the closing of one door and perhaps the opening of a new one. This record is a farewell note to the past, while being an introduction to the future. Hence the album title, Be Well.

There is definitely a boom bap aesthetic in the music, but we are definitely cooking it up in the digital trap. We spent maybe about 100 hours in the studio mixing this project with Moses, meticulously mixing each individual sound to get the feel we wanted. Incorporating new artists such as Wave Chapelle, as well as veterans like Coo Coo Cal was also important.

WiG
What does Coo Coo Cal mean to you and how did you get him on a track?

BLAX
Having Coo Coo Cal on this album was important to me because his career and the impact that it had for a moment in time laid the foundation for what we are doing as independent artists in the city of Milwaukee right now. At this point there are no other artists who can lay claim to having a platinum single and have had the same national acclaim as Coo Coo had. We have to respect that as a community of musicians and artists if we hope to attain those same heights one day ourselves. And he is still currently dope.

That record came together how things do in the Mil. It’s a pretty small world. My cousin reached out to him about us collaborating on another song with a totally different producer and that song actually happened. However, I ended up scrapping that idea and sending him the track for “Maybe,” which was a better fit. Cal has a reputation for being a wild dude in the past and I knew with the topic of the song he could give me some real good game on it. It worked out perfectly.

Indirectly, the same initial collaboration with Coo Coo was how the Wave collab happened. I had this idea of crafting a song with the two features to the first song with Coo Coo. I sent that to Wave’s camp and it was a go, but again I switched it up and eventually we came through with something new and different with the track “Shades.”

WiG
How did the video for “Nothin” come together?

BLAX
The video for “Nothin” came together rather serendipitously. We shot the video in Brooklyn with Eli Salcedo of Visual Index Films. He has been on the come up and I liked what he was doing. We have mutual friends so it wasn’t too hard to get in contact with him. It was definitely important to me to have someone with a fresh perspective help with my visuals and I love the vision and professionalism he provided.

We discussed some motivations for the visual beforehand, but most importantly, I let Eli do his thing. The guy tied up in the chair is a friend of my cousin named Robert Jackson Jr., an acting graduate from NYU. He provided that essence for what we needed as realism in that scene. He is an amazing talent. We are symbolically putting an end to the wack rapper who “ain’t talking about nothing.”

WiG
What’s next for BLAX?

BLAX
More of the same. Growth, building and expansion. It’s funny to talk about what’s next when it that seems my art exists in cycles. By the time the new art reaches the people it’s already old art to me. The next goal is to keep things moving. To continue on with a successful album roll out, to touch and reach as many people as I can with this music. I would like to lay an independent blueprint for distribution and marketing for my company to follow in the future. It’s bigger than BLAX. Its Level 13 Entertainment and we are preparing for takeoff. Be well.  

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[ IN CONCERT ]

BLAX will play a record release show at Cactus Club on April 14, details TBD.