The banking world brought Marsiase Brinson to Charlotte, but that was all that industry could do for him.
After graduating from University of North Carolina Pembroke with a degree in political science in 2012, Brinson was still living in the sleepy college town of about 3,000 people, where he worked at Sam’s Club. When he received an offer to join the mortgage department at Bank of America at their Charlotte offices, he jumped at the chance.
Ever since his childhood in Rocky Mount, Brinson had been cultivating his talent as a rapper, performing as Yung Blaza, playing open mics and joining cyphers here and there, but he had never pursued it passionately.
Charlotte gave him the chance to finally do that.
“It was a good opportunity to get out of Sam’s Club and then get into a bigger market, also,” said Brinson of his Bank of America gig. “I knew that from there, more opportunity would come being in a bigger market. So that was just really why I took that position initially.”
It didn’t take long for Brinson to realize that the banker bro life wasn’t for him. He was good at his job, but climbing the corporate ladder at one of America’s largest institutions meant doing more than being good at your job.
Brinson balked at the ass-kissing nature of networking in the corporate world, so he left Bank of America and began splitting his hustles between selling life and health insurance for a company that gave him more freedom and rapping on the side.
“I’m a pretty good salesman, it’s just one of those things that come naturally,” Brinson said. “If you can sell me on it, I’m like ‘OK, I can sell everybody else on it.’”
It didn’t take him long to realize that if he put the same effort into selling himself that he had put into mortgages and insurance, he could chase his dream.
He knew he had the talent, all he had to was put his name out there. After all, in today’s media and entertainment landscape, everyone is their own brand.
“At that time I was saying, ‘Hey, I know how to sell here, I can just sell myself,’” Brinson said. “I put it in a perspective where it’s all about who you know, making those connections. The only way you’re going to rise past a certain point [in the corporate world] is who you know, who gave you that opportunity, and it’s the same thing in music. It’s really hard for creatives, period — whether you’re an actor, singer, dancer, in the industry — it’s all about taking that right opportunity and who you know. It’s the same thing, so I’d rather take all that effort and use it in terms of music.”
Brinson had gotten great reactions to his raps in Rocky Mount and in Pembroke, so why not in the state’s largest market? He left his insurance side hustle and took up rap full-time.
Since then, Yung Blaza has been organizing shows, touring the east coast, co-hosting a local public access television show, landing sponsorship deals with sunglasses companies and he’s got plenty more to come.
On April 13, Blaza will headline the Hip-Hop Rodeo Night Show at Common Market in Plaza Midwood with six other area rappers. He’ll follow that up with a more-stripped down performance, bringing on Lovecraft for the Lyrical Miracle Highladay Day Show at The Evening Muse in celebration of 4/20.
The title of the 4/20 show is a reference to Yung Blaza’s newest album, Lyrical Miracle, a concept album of sorts that dropped in February. The record, which consists of biblically titled songs like “Holy Ghost,” “Rapture” and “Runnin’ On Water,” takes listeners for a ride through dark, spooky beats contrasted by Blaza’s high-energy lyrics.
According to Blaza, he went into the studio with two songs — “Soulful” and “Lyrical Miracle” — and got to work with Raleigh-based producer MG the Future. It quickly became apparent that what he had in mind for the songs wasn’t going to happen.
Blaza was aiming for playful, but MG wasn’t playing around.
“He’s a very serious dude all the time,” Blaza said. “I was giving him the hook [for ‘Lyrical Miracle’] and I’m just being like, ‘This is playful, we’re going to play around on this song a little bit,’ and then he produced this beat that starts out hard and then transitions to very musical. The instrumentation on it is next level, so that’s when I decided, OK, maybe I’m going to make a full concept based on this one song.”
And that’s what he did. Blaza put together 12 songs to run in front of “Lyrical Miracle,” using that instrumental transition within the song to lighten the mood as the album wraps, in a move that not only represents an escape from the down-trodden hellscape of dark beats that push the album along, but the potential for a Lyrical Miracle afterlife.
“The album starts dark and then ends light, so I wanted to have a little transition in there, leaving the door open for another Lyrical Miracle, maybe turning that into a series,” he said, implying he would start a new process like that of his No Pressure mixtape series, before walking it back just a bit.
“I’m not sure if that’s what I want to do, because the focus is still on Lyrical Miracle right now, but that’s what I was going for with that,” he continued.
Within the album itself, Yung Blaza takes after his more contemporary inspirations like Future and Migos with catchy hooks and a Dirty South vibe, but with lyrical content more like that of the musical heroes he grew up listening to like Nas, Wu-Tang Clan and Outkast.
“I wanted to still give that hard production that you can ride to, that you can hear anywhere, but at the same time spit something that you actually want to hear,” Blaza said. “So when you’re done listening to the song you have some quotables, some things you can take away.”
Since the album’s release, Blaza has been putting his marketing skills to work to try to push it to the people. He recently disembarked from a regional tour that took him to Atlanta, Georgia; Washington, D.C.; Orlando, Florida; and Richmond, Virginia.
He also continues to co-host Next Up TV, a show about hip-hop culture that comes on Access 21 in Charlotte on Monday nights at 11 p.m.
After his two upcoming local shows, he’ll get started on his most ambitious project yet: a tour of breweries throughout the Carolinas.
When we last spoke with Blaza he only had the first brewery booked — located in Columbia, South Carolina, on April 21 — but he was optimistic that he could fill out a tour with locations in Charlotte, Asheville, Raleigh, Wilmington and the likes, despite the fact that it’s hard enough to book hip-hop shows at legit music venues.
Blaza will be performing with a live band at each brewery, and plans to bring along a diverse range of acts in each city. When asked if the well-known lack of diversity within the brewery scene worries him, he said it was all the more reason to move forward.
“That’s exactly why we’re doing it to be honest,” he said. “We love beer, we love to go to breweries and drink, and that [lack of diversity] is something that we see, but we know at the same time, everyone likes hip-hop music. Everybody has some kind of interest in hip-hop culture, and if not, the lineup that we’re bringing out there is so various, there’s so many different types of artists, so many styles, we know we can get people’s attention, and people will be entertained.”