With her second CD, “EXPOSED,” soaring up the charts in gospel rap, 21-year-old Ashly Miles, known to her listeners as BLAZE, is on track to becoming a hip-hop gospel sensation. Brought up in a military environment (her father is a sergeant in the army) the Richmond,VA born rapper witnessed corruption all around her growing up – from drugs and alcohol to violence. Although BLAZE wasn’t involved in the corruption personally, she says it still hit close to home – with family and friends – and could have affected her own life negatively.
“I just wasn’t expected to amount to anything, so when you’re not expected to amount to anything you kind of aim for that nothingness,” BLAZE says. But with the prayers of her mother, Donna Miles (now her manager) and a determination to succeed against the odds, BLAZE put her energy and passion into Christian rap. At 16 she began rapping about the street life she had witnessed. Instead of going down the familiar path of hip-hop street lyrics – with cursing and harsh lyrics, she put a positive twist to her raps – by telling listeners to turn to Christ.
“I got my values and my esteem from Christ,” BLAZE says with enthusiasm. “God turned my life around and I’m alive and I’m thankful to be alive to be able to preach His Gospel. I’m pumped about that.”
Being pumped might just be an understatement when it comes to BLAZE’S passion for serving Christ and spreading His Word through rap music. She sparked a buzz in the gospel industry with her first CD, “He Reigns,” and shortly thereafter, she began receiving requests to travel around the country and make appearances on TBN, JCTV, Bobby Jones Gospel, The National Gospel Announcers Guild Conference and GMWA Conferences, just to name a few. BLAZE is also the recipient of several awards including the Favorite Gospel Hip Hop Artist of The Great Northwest Award, the Gospel Extravaganza Award, and a three time recipient of the ITM Female Hip Hop Artist of the Year Award!
“But I really can’t take credit for all those accomplishments and the direction of my life,” BLAZE says humbly. “That’s really God. And my mom had been praying for me for all those years, and it worked because God answered her prayers. ”
Now with her second CD “EXPOSED,” making her the first female gospel rapper to chart on iTunes, BLAZE is taking her success all in stride. After living in Seattle for almost nine years, BLAZE and her family will now move to South Carolina – due to her father’s military duties. But BLAZE is one to blossom wherever she resides or travels.
Sonya Jenkins (Publisher & Editor of Sonya’s Spotlight) interviewed BLAZE via phone and met with her on her recent visit to Atlanta, where she attended the Dove Awards. Below is Sonya’s interview with Blaze.
Sonya: “What’s the main message in your music?”
BLAZE: “The main message in my music and in every song that I write is that there is life in Christ. That’s really what I drive home – that an amazing life can really be attained through Christ.”
Sonya: “Who inspired you to get into Christian Rap growing up?”
BLAZE: “There is a group out of Atlanta originally called the 1,1, 6. They talked about Biblical truths and it was really encouraging. They were the first Christian rap artists that I had ever heard – ever.”
Sonya: “What’s most difficult about being a Christian artist in this day and time?”
BLAZE: “Honestly – we really haven’t had too much of a struggle with what we do. I think God has really set things up and He has really protected us from certain things, so I can’t complain too much about things. I believe that many other Christian artists have already set the trail for artists like myself to come along, so it’s not so much of a struggle. The ride has been amazing so far. Just to see people respond to the Gospel, period – that’s where my heart is. Not too much of a struggle. Everything has been pretty nice and pretty cool.”
Sonya: “Have you had anyone to say you’ve touched their lives in a personal way?”
BLAZE: “Yes, Ma’am. It’s the Gospel really. I really can’t take the credit for it. I’m just joined to the Bible and I’m writing songs that are based on God’s work. He’s just using me as a vessel to convey the message. Recently when we were in North Carolina a young man was dealing with suicide. He was 14 years old and he wrote a suicide note and his mom found it. He actually did not commit suicide. He told me the only thing that got him through was listening to my first album, ‘He Reigns.’ He said that made him not want to commit suicide. There have been many occasions where people have been touched by the message or touched by what I do.”
Sonya: “How important is family to you?”
BLAZE: “I love my family. My mom is my manager, so she tours with me all the time. My dad [who came up with my name Blaze in a dream] just recently joined our team. My family is really important to me. It’s a legacy of our grandparents and of their grandparents. I give my all and anything to my family.”
Sonya: “Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?”
BLAZE: “As an artist I’ll probably be still making music, but maybe more behind the scenes – probably more into producing and writing. I actually already write now for people. I’ll be doing some acting as well. I’ve already started acting. I’ve done some plays. I was in a play called No Ways Tired. I also did a play called Kiladelphia. I’ll be doing a lot of that. Personally I should be done with school by then. I’m looking to start school at Liberty University -On Line. I’m going to study communications.”
Sonya: “What advice would you give to young ladies about self-esteem?”
BLAZE: “I would really give the advice to search out Jesus. I always point back to that because it works for me, personally. So I would just say, seek after Jesus and He’ll meet you and that your identity isn’t wrapped in any man, it’s not wrapped in any treasure – any purse and bag. It’s wrapped in Christ. You find your value and meaning and your self-esteem through Christ. And you can be whole & complete through Christ. Just search out Christ and He will meet you where you are. I got my values and my esteem from Christ. I know it works for me and I’m sure it can work for you.”
Sonya: “What do you like to do in your spare time?”
BLAZE: “In my spare time I’m chilling with my family. I’m chilling with my friends. I’m at my church . . . serving in the community. I like to chill, I like to hoop, I like to eat good food. I’m a really laid back, relaxed type person.”
Sonya: If you had the opportunity to work with one person – who would it be?”
BLAZE: “Maaaan. It would probably be a tie between CeCe Winans & Fred Hammond. I like them a lot. I like their artistry. They have great hearts in what they do. They bring their own flavor. They have great talent.”
Sonya: “Well, Blaze, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you. Is there anything you’d like to say in summation?”
BLAZE: “I would like to encourage anybody and everybody to really press forward and to get to know who Jesus is. A lot of times we get mixed ideas or things that aren’t accurate about God, and we’re like, ‘Uh, I might want to pass.’ But just really seek after the true character of God and just watch your life turn around. Seek after God and watch Him do amazing things in your life and the lives of others.”
To connect with Blaze: Twitter.com/BlazeMusic5 -Facebook.com/BlazeMusic5 – www.BlazeMusic5.com