Blu, the emcee/producer with, according to himself, “one of the most colorful catalogues” in hip hop. An interview on how an LP represents his life, on his drive to speak up, and on his upcoming record with Bombay, which will be “presented with the same classic approach as ‘Below The Heavens’”.
“I stopped constantly rapping, writing and recording. Exile and I had just dropped the classic ‘Below The Heavens’ and I had two other albums done; ‘Johnson & Jonson’ and C.R.A.C. Knuckles’ ‘The Piece Talks’. So we began touring constantly, and when I came home, I just started producing, not even rapping, just making beats and chilling, you know. Plus I found a queen, and you have no idea what that can do to a man’s time.”
It’s Blu explaining his line “After the fame came glorious days in the shade” off Money, a track from Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them, his second record with producer Exile. What got Blu to start rapping again after the days in the shade?
“Love, bro. I could never let go of rap. I may stop but I won’t stop loving the craft. Writing is my favorite part. Before the rapping, and the beat selecting, and performing. It’s actually forming life with words: expanding imagination, reaching a higher exploration.”
Blu immerses himself in new styles and sounds with almost every new project, be it as a writer, vocalist or producer. In 2011, for instance, he dropped both the soulful Jesus LP and the boundary-pushing record NoYork! Where does this urge to renew and experiment come from, such as on tracks off NoYork! like Hours? “For one, I never ever wanted to be a mundane or redundant artist. I hated hearing the same ol’ same ol’. I found appreciation for it now, but if I didn’t hate it then, I wouldn’t have convinced myself to be diverse every time I show my face.”
“An LP is my life, my first appearance to ears for those who I have never met. So I make sure I grow with the change of the times. To keep up with the growth of music and to make sure not to be buried by trends. I always aspire to innovate. The foundation for that approach is the music selection. I believe I have one of the most colorful catalogues.”
“I believe I have one of the most colorful catalogues”
When asked how he keeps finding new challenges, he answers: “Emcees. The fact that ‘next’ artists always put me back in my place. There are days when I wake up thinking I got Tupac, or I’ma catch Jay-Z, but that’s all blasphemy. But yeah, new emcees, and also usually it’s the new height of production that has caused me to elevate my pen’s approach. It’s not just about bodying a beat when it’s a 3/4 count or a double time space adventure, you know.”
Growth is also there on a personal level since Blu became a father. Does that influence him as an artist? “No, my fatherhood is completely separate from my artistry,” he says, “but I hope one day my daughter will discover my music like a hidden treasure. Inshallah.”
And there’s a lot to find there because of the aforementioned diversity in Blu’s music. While Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them provided a good example of Blu’s easy-listening rap, his (contributions to) tracks such as Backboards by Sene, Kiss The Sky and Thelonius King contain a kind of new, raw energy. “It’s hunger my man. Reaching a plateau where you are respected but slept on. There are so many voices reaching and preaching for the same glory, that your gems can be overshadowed by someone else’s illuminance. It’s simple as that. So for me it’s about speaking up, not beating around the bush, and not watering down at the same time. Being definitive.”
The next album to appear is Blu’s collaborative effort with producer Bombay, Good To B Home. He declares it’s “a dedication to the west coast” and elaborates: “When we created NoYork! it was an invitation back to the west. Now that many new listeners have made it over, we are showing them -as well as those who have been here since day one- ‘what it is’.”
“The record is full of the hood love, and the soul palette that captured you with Below The Heavens. Presented with the same approach: to deliver a classic. It’s coming from my backyard for the first time, as opposed to coming from my soul, so hopefully it will hit hard.”
Until Good To B Home drops, there’s enough Blu for everyone. Three videos came out recently: zone out to Ease Your Mind off Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them, watch L’Orange’s film noir video Alone featuring Blu, and check out Burgundy Whip from The Burgundy EP by Blu, Madlib and MED below. Early this month ANTHM released his Handful Of Dust EP, entirely produced by Blu as GODleeBarnes. And reportedly, Black Hockey Players is on the way… Follow Blu on Twitter to stay up-to-date.