Blu is constantly releasing new music, but 2018 has been a particularly busy time for the prolific LA emcee and producer. Fresh off the release of Godz in the Spirit, Titans in the Flesh, with Nottz, and The Blueprint with Shafiq Husayn; Gingerslim spoke to Blu about the diversity in his music, new projects, older albums and more.
You’ve always kept it pretty varied from project to project in terms of the overall sound and production choices. Is that important to you, to keep mixing things up like that?
Yes, consistency is very important for each project, and diversity is needed for each project. I do not try to repeat myself or redo myself. I look at every album as another day in my life. Some of my fans can kick it with me for well over a week, depending on how many days out of my life they get familiar with.
Is that one of the keys to longevity do you think?
No, not the key, but an option. The question is, is longevity my option in this game? Am I trying to be Duke Ellington with 200 albums, or more modest like a D’Angelo, who has just three albums in over 20 years.
And does each project come with a different way of working, depending on who you’re working with, or do you have a fairly formulaic approach to writing and creating them?
What I really treasure behind most of the records I record is the joy of working with just one producer. It creates a certain diversity between each project, that you could pinpoint almost immediately, and you can bet on consistency from start to finish.
Your most recent release is The Blueprint alongside Shafiq Husayn. Can you give us a bit of background on the project? It’s a mixtape of sorts right?
It’s an album, but it’s also a mixtape. It’s the continuation of my idea behind York. Over half of the production on that record was previously released by artists and their records. So I tapped into beats that no one else had access to, so it gave it a sense of exclusivity. But since the beats have been released, it could also be considered more of a mixtape. Me and Shafiq have always planned to work…this was our first jab at it and I think it’s gonna make an impact on quite a few of our listeners out there.
I remember reading an interview with you and Exile, where he said that sometimes you have to get rid of classic songs to make a classic album, in reference to making, Below the Heavens. That must take some vision and a lot of resolve, being able to see past the strength of the song on its own.
Most definitely. Creating a record with that type of foresight is easier said than done, but a key part of how we work together. Like I was dying to put certain tracks on Below The Heavens that were dope, but didn’t quite fit the narrative or vibe, so we put ‘em to the side. That’s why we dropped, In The Beginning, which was a batch of gems originally recorded for BTH, that we never had a chance to release during its era.
I think for me at the time, NoYork was a very challenging and experimental album and the features made it seem like you were a co-star rather than driving force behind the album. Does that ring true with how you made the album?
Nah, not at all. That album never came to full fruition. What was ultimately released was the demo’s for NoYork, which due to label complications we never had the chance to finish. Everyone featured knew these were demos. But at the end of the day, people liked the promo tape so we released it in demo form.
How hard was it to encapsulate the L.A. beat scene on a single record?
It was tough. But can you imagine if we actually created that record properly with the allotted budget, and everyone on gear?! Man! I don’t think people realized that we brought in the entire LA beat scene for that album. I wish we could do it again. The movie for it was crazy!!
There was another interview I read where you said you keep your experiences as a father completely separate from your art. I was wondering why you decided to do that, as a lot of art is inspired either directly or indirectly by what the artist is going through in life.
I feel I’m very open, or at least that I’ve grown to be in some of my newer records. I talk a lot about being a father and not being a father, it comes with the anvil of honesty in my art. I can never not be true, I’m Blu.
Is it hard to keep the two separate like that?
No, but I can imagine that trying to be someone you’re not, can become very difficult after a while. I’m me, so I do that until that doesn’t work. Right now, in Hip-Hop it’s working, so I’m doing Hip-Hop!
You never struck me as the sort of rapper who was out to achieve fame, at least not in the sense that you would be well-known and recognized. Would you say that’s a fair assessment?
I already “blew up” in my mind. I been getting crowds of respect since high school so it’s a part of who I know I am, a part of my cool.
Is there anything left on your Hip-Hop bucket list that you would still like to cross off, dream collaborations and shows, or anything like that?
Dilla, I just gotta say his name, cause he would’ve topped that list. DJ Premier and Prince Paul, G.
And what’s next for you? You’ve already got two releases under your belt this year, so you going to take a rest now, or are you already plotting the next move?
I got eight albums unreleased under my belt right now, working on two more. It don’t stop, it won’t stop, it can’t stop.
Gingerslim has been a hip-hop fan since 1994 and has written for various blogs and websites since around 2006. During that time he has contributed to style43, Think Zebra, Headsknow and Front Magazine. His main interests in rap are UK hip-hop and the underground movement in America, with a focus on Rhymesayers Entertainment and the once mighty Def Jux label. He lives in Bristol and has a beard. All other details are sketchy at best. Follow him here.