"I don't see no problems, just solutions" raps Ghanaian-Australian artist BLESSED on the Baby Prince-featuring Down Under, one of the four singles off his debut album AUSSIE BLACKSTAR. It's a message that carries on throughout the album. BLESSED returns to his hip-hop roots on AUSSIE BLACKSTAR, a move that came about as a result of the pandemic's beginnings in 2020. AUSSIE BLACKSTAR is BLESSED's push for societal change, and speaking about the album, he explains, "AUSSIE BLACKSTAR is a defiant attitude representing all the non-white Australians and our fight to make our voices heard through art."
BLESSED continues to influence the sonic journeys of his peers, having recently worked with Milan Ring on her debut album I'm Feeling Hopeful, as well as co-producing B Wise's Black Visionary, a track that BLESSED also features on. His work with The Kid LAROI's debut EP 14 With A Dream is well-known (and LAROI's global success is a reminder of BLESSED's ability to nurture talent), but AUSSIE BLACKSTAR is his moment. He grabs it with both hands.
AUSSIE BLACKSTAR's opening track, WAR ON LOVE, is a reminder of love's attraction, and the rolling production gives BLESSED a chance to showcase his ability to craft mesmerising melodies. BLESSED touches on love across the project; LOVE YOURSELF is a reminder to be gentler on ourselves, while the melancholy TROUBLE sees BLESSED and Maina Doe reflecting on past relationship troubles. Hearing BLESSED comment that "Really, I'm in love with myself/'Cause I'm the only one that can stand me" is a reminder that we're all pushing for acceptance from those around us. Success doesn't change that.
The theme of love returns on REPLY, a track that brings BLESSED's guitar-playing ability to the fore. It's a side of his music that has featured prominently in his music before, most notably on 2020's Music Is The Medicine. REPLY is an exploration of grief and loss, with BLESSED asking, "Now that you're gone/How do I move on?/How do I be strong?/When you're not home?" BLESSED calls to a higher power for guidance on REPLY, and it's a soulful, vulnerable track that'll resonate with anyone who's experienced loss before.
Album highlight LOOT is one of AUSSIE BLACKSTAR's most energetic moments, featuring a verse from fellow Western Sydney artist Manu Crooks. The frequent collaborators both sound at home on the minimal, synth-laden beat, and it underpins the fact that AUSSIE BLACKSTAR is, in many ways, a return to BLESSED's beginnings. Throughout his discography, he's shown off his ability to work in the realms of soul, R&B, indie and more, but this is a certified hip-hop heater. On LOOT, both rappers are at the peak of their powers, and it's a joy for both old and new BLESSED fans.
On one of the album's pivotal points, the anthemic NO CHANGES, BLESSED comments on the disunity throughout the world, lamenting that "It's the way it is but not the way it should be". The track outlines BLESSED's hopes for the future, and the hope he holds that the younger generations will be the ones to push society forward. Speaking about the track at the time of its release, BLESSED revealed that it was the first time his "family and extended family” were involved in one of his releases, and the record was written with the importance of family sitting at the front of BLESSED's mind.
BLESSED's appreciation for his family comes to the fore on the introspective FAMILY > EVERYTHING. AUSSIE BLACKSTAR's penultimate track, which revolves around some cinematic strings, is a reminder that BLESSED holds his family at the centre of everything he does. He's not afraid to express those sentiments, either, asserting that he'd do anything for the ones that he cares about most. The album is closed by the cheeky SYDNEY N***Y, which highlights BLESSED's more light-hearted side (he uses the track to remind listeners that he's "Sydney's flyest"). It's yet another reminder that BLESSED feels at home in the rap world, and it's a bouncy finish to an album that explores BLESSED's world on both a personal and societal level.
Across the 11 tracks on AUSSIE BLACKSTAR, BLESSED weaves together intimate messages of love and calls for systemic change. It's a window into BLESSED's mind, and the messages that BLESSED infuses into the songs on AUSSIE BLACKSTAR are pointed but ultimately positive. BLESSED's debut album is a long time coming, but he's used the occasion to push for a better future.
2020's Music Is The Medicine and 2021's LOCKDOWN TAPES VOL.1 gave BLESSED the space to experiment. He's used those projects as opportunities to refine his sound and bring AUSSIE BLACKSTAR to life, and the result is a cohesive body of work that will stand the test of time. He's just as comfortable looking inwards as he is outwards, and as he reminds listeners across the project, real change is possible. It's time to get to work.