- Not to be confused with the Swedish rapper Bladee who is part of Gravity Boys and heavily associated with Yung Lean.
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Born in the Armenian quarter of Iran, Blade came to London when he was 7. Because of the Iranian Revolution his family became unable to send money to support him. He remained in London, schooled in Blackheath, and spent a summer holiday in Hove with his brother and cousins who were studying there.
Blade started out as a break dancer and graffiti artist using the name Electron, before he was named "Blade" by a friend. The friend was later killed while painting graffiti on the underground, and Blade kept the name as a mark of respect.
His first contact with hip hop came in 1979. He began to write down the lyrics of songs he heard and performed them at school. The release of the Wild Style film made him realize hip hop's potential influence and made him determined to become part of the movement.
In 1986, he moved to New Cross. Unable to afford furniture or a social life, he spent time at home, writing lyrics and perfecting his style. During this time, that he wrote the track "Lyrical Maniac".
Blade's first moves into the music industry came when he first recorded Lyrical Maniac in 1988. His initial efforts to sell the single were not successful: out of the 300 of the original copies, Blade didn't manage a single sale. In the end, he returned the records to the manufacturer, claiming that they were faulty and keeping only 10 copies for himself. These copies were given to close friends, including his DJ, Renegade.
Taking his own copy to local record shops, Blade sought advance orders before pressing more copies. He discovered that Cavern Records in Lewisham were keen to start their own label, and wanted to debut the single. Blade agreed, and Lyrical Maniac came out on Raw Bass records in 1989.
Blade recorded, promoted and released his material through his own 691 Influential label - often by stopping potential customers in the street, playing them the song on his Walkman and selling them a copy from his bag. A string of albums followed, each becoming an underground hit. Songs like "Rough It Up", "Mind of an Ordinary Citizen" and "You Better Go For Yours" made Blade a name on the UK hip hop scene without the resources and publicity of a major label.
In 1992, Blade released the Survival of the Hardest Working EP (691 Influential) via mail order as an experiment in new ways of distributing his material. The experiment was a success, and in 1993 the double album The Lion Goes From Strength To Strength (No Compromise) (691 Influential) was released. This album was funded partly by fans of Blade's music paying for their copies in advance, in exchange for an exclusive 12 inch Clear the Way (691 Influential). Needing 200/300 preorders to have enough money to record and cut the record, Blade received 2000/3000.
The recording of the album was a difficult time personally for Blade - his father died while visiting from Iran, and his girlfriend became pregnant with his son. Blade recorded the album in 16 days, writing his lyrics on the bus on the way to the studio. Following the release of the The Lion Goes From Strength To Strength (No Compromise) (691 Influential) album, Blade had a period away from recording, concentrating on raising his son and dealing with the death of his father.
Blade is often invited to guest on tracks by other artists such as The Herbaliser and The RZA. In 1998, he teamed with producer Mark B to record Hitmen For Hire EP (Jazz Fudge)), which led to one of Blade's most high profile albums. 2000's The Unknown (Word Play) was a hit, and a re-recorded version of the first single You Don't See the Signs (Word Play) reached the UK Top 30. The re-recording was done with the help of Grant Nicholas, frontman of British rock band Feeder.
When Blade began collaborating with Mark B, he was unsigned and seen as a guest artist because Mark B was signed and it was his project. However, as Mark B and Blade started to achieve success, Blade was quickly signed: the duo spent most of 2000 and 2001 touring to promote the record, even supporting Eminem on his 2001 tour. Both artists viewed the album as a side project and despite its success, continued their solo careers.
When Virgin decided to close Word Play down, Blade moved to Virgin and was almost immediately in conflict with the label.
"Basically eventually ended up having disputes with Virgin about my material, you know they wanted me to do things I didn’t necessarily feel were right, and I thought to be honest that if I’d gone the way they wanted my career would have been dead before it started, so eventually it got to a point where I asked to leave."
The success of the Ya Don't See The Signs remix eventually led to the end of Blade's time with Virgin. The label became more insistent that Blade record all rock tunes, something that he felt would kill his career. Instead, Blade returned to his roots as an independent.
Return to self-production
Following the split, Blade returned to producing and distributing under his 691 Influential label, helped by his website. In 2004 he released the album Storms Are Brewing, which was hit by problems when the distribution company went bankrupt, owing Blade money and leaving him without a distribution deal. This stopped the album's performance, although it was well received by those who could get copies.
His 2006 album was produced by Baby J, who also produced songs on Skinnyman's Council Estate of Mind album. The album, Guerilla Tactics (2006), is available direct from Blade's website, and received support from the media and public. The album came about following a meeting with Baby J, who admitted to being a fan of Blade's work and offered him an instrumental track to rap over. The track blossomed into an album that was launched in February 2006: the launch party featured sets by Blade as well as other big names from the modern UK hip hop scene such as Phi Life Cypher and Jehst. A promotion tour quickly followed. Guerilla Tactics remains Blade's most recent album.
Retirement and one-off Boom Bap Festival appearance
Blade played his final UK gig at The Railway Inn in Winchester on 7 October 2006. He retired from live performance and the music industry in general, saying:
"Rest assured Blade will continue to make music, just without the unpredictability and lies of the music industry hanging over his head. Basically, he wishes to make music but strictly for the love of it without any material interest. If at any point this changes, you will find out first right here, but for now music for love it is . . . for now, I just really need some time to myself and away from an unpredictable industry I have no respect for and never have."
Blade performed a one-off, co-headlining show at the fifth Boom Bap Festival, in the grounds of Mildenhall Stadium, Suffolk, on 31 July 2016, as a tribute to Mark B, who passed away on 1 January 2016. He appeared with Mr Thing and Respek BA, together with guests Shay D and Micall Parknsun, performing a mixture of solo material (including Mind of an Ordinary Citizen, Scream and Survival of the Hardest Working) and Mark B collaborations (including From the Wordlab, Ya Don't See The Signs and The Unknown). His set included a heartfelt and emotional tribute to Mark B and his contribution to the UK hip-hop scene and his personal influence on, and inspiration to, Blade during a dark period in his life and career in the late-1990s, when Mark B persuaded Blade to push ahead with their collaborations, which lead ultimately to 2000's The Unknown. The set was a timely reminder of the contribution made by both Blade and Mark B to the UK hip-hop scene, and a testament to Blade's still-impressive skills on the microphone, as well as his command of an audience and gravitas as a performer.
- Lyrical Maniac 12" Single (Raw Bass Records, 1989)
- Mind of an Ordinary Citizen 12" Single (691 Influential)
- Survival of The Hardest Working EP (691 Influential, 1992)
- The Lion Goes From Strength to Strength (No Compromise) (691 Influential, 1993)
- Planned and Executed (691 Influential 1208CD, 1995)
- Storms Are Brewing (691 Influential, 2004)
- Guerilla Tactics (691 Influential, 2006)
As Mark B and Blade
- The Unknown (Word Play, 2000)