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Blu: Instant Messaging with L.A.'s Reclusive Rapper

Mining an independent operator

Without question, Los Angeles rapper Blu is an independent operator. Releases from the highly talented MC vary significantly in style and sound. He’s also been known to drop an album or two without any prior warning. The rapper is becoming increasingly less predictable and seemingly more reclusive. He doesn’t do too many interviews and rarely drops videos. However, he also recently hooked up with longtime collaborator Exile for a Rock the Bells and soon will release a new album No York! via Warner Bros. Agreeing to speak with us only through e-mail or instant messenger (we chose AIM), we tried to mine through the guarded nature of Blu to find out more about his full-length J e s u s, the forthcoming No York! and what makes him tick.

In my review of J e s u s I mentioned that you were something of an anti-rapper in every aspect except for what you do on the mic. What I meant by that was most rappers and hip-hop artists seem to try get as much exposure as possible in all aspects --web, magazines, ads, etc. You don't really seem to strive for that at all. Do you feel like that’s an accurate assessment?  

Naw. If it don’t fit the shiny suit why get one?

Sure, but you don’t need a shiny suit to do videos and gain more exposure. Big K.R.I.T is one example of a rapper who puts himself out there but keeps it real and low-key. So you don’t feel like you "operate in the shadows" a bit?

I respect that. I do, but most times, it’s because of circumstance.

What circumstances are you referring to?

It varies. J e s u s I knew would be under the radar because of where I’m at in my career. I’m on Warner Bros and the record isn’t. There's a reason it’s low key.

Even with No York!, though, it seems like you've gone somewhat of an unconventional route with that by recently leaking it on Youtube. You've done similar things in the past too. Any reason for that? Also, has Warner Bros complained about you leaking the album?

I didn’t know No York! leaked. I wanted to get a XXL cover for that record. There isn’t a freshman in my class who's made a better record.

(Ed. Blu was named to XXL’s 2009 freshman class. A group that included Wale, Asher Roth, B.o.B, Kid Cudi and Curren$y amongst others.)

So you're saying you didn't leak No York! onto Youtube?  

No, I didn’t do it. Not me.

Your output often times seem rather personal even if it’s not immediately apparent. There is definitely something deeply artistic but it’s not necessarily decipherable. Are things like operating under different monikers and something as simple as the extra space in between letters on your song titles, done with reason or would that be looking too much into what your doing?

Sometimes, yes and no. The title J e s u s is too deep to explain, but the moniker “B” was just to avoid legalities. The spaces in the text was a change from my old style of typing that became popular in my early 20s.

I saw an interview with you a couple years back where you stated that each project you approach, you don't want it to sound like anything else. Are you still striving for that?

Always. J e s u s is my favorite lo-fi project. A lot of people don’t register my mixes the right way cause there ears are conventional and accustomed to the norm. No York! is my best mixed record but people wont know until they get the physical copies. And the diversity in each record, to me personally, speaks volumes but it’s only really noticeable, when you listen to my albums back to back, chronologically. Classic Below the Heavens to a raw Johnson&Jonson, to a very leftfield C.R.A.C, to the personal Her Favorite Colo(u)r, etc.

There are definite differences in your releases. However, J e s u s has similarities to Her Favorite Colo(u)r.

Sure, but Her Favorite Colo(u)r was all one production style while J e s u s was my first multi-producer project.

Did you have some issues with Her Favorite Colo(u)r?  It almost never came out. 

Naw, I was just that free Myspace album kind of guy at the time. My focus wasn’t XXL then. They were the ones who reached out for what we created and I was just having a good time maintaining it with consistent music.  

Do you worry about the diversity in sound with each of your projects alienating your fans?  

Naw, I always make music for myself.

You seem very independent in that sense but now you’re on Warner Bros. How is it being on a big label while attempting to maintain that independence? Have you had any issues?  

No, not yet. The A&Rs follow my status and commend me. We are doing the best we can to deliver to them. The thing is, I took huge risks with No York! and it caused a lot of hurdles that major labels had never faced. So they were put in a huge dilemma with not knowing how to properly issue the record. We haven’t gotten as far as getting a release date yet, so it’s not really behind schedule. It’s just that the record is sitting around now.

That doesn’t bother you? I got word that you were passing out copies of it at Rock the Bells?

Naw. Not me, son.

What was the process like behind No York! Did you pick all the producers or did some come to you?

These were producers who I had been working with for quite some time or had intentions on working with. This was just the project that brought it all together.

How long did it take to finish?

 Two years. Longest since Below the Heavens.

What happened with ParieArtNommee? That sort of appeared out of nowhere and then disappeared just as quickly. Is that going to get a proper release?

No, it was too graphic. I was in a different space at the time so I didn’t see what a little scene could do to my fan-base. It wasn’t the right approach. My core audience followed it and enjoyed it but it’s in never-ever land now.

Do you consider yourself a bit of a perfectionist? For example not releasing ParieArtNommee because you feel like it just wasn’t the right approach seems like the choice of someone who puts exceptionally high standards on their work.. (Ed. At this point, Blu stopped responding for almost 20 minutes. I asked my question a few different ways to no avail. Finally, he responded)

I have my qualms with my music but I have never, not once reached perfection. In everything I do, though, I reach a pinnacle, and that’s what completes me as an artist. The fact is, that after every project, I can look at it for what it is and it always gives me a high sense of accomplishment.

What can we expect in the future from you?

We got the new old Blu & Exile album that was never released coming out later this year, its titled Memoirs. I also have a collaboration album/mixtape with M.E.D from Stones Throw over all Madlib production. And, as always, other collaborations are in the works. Keep ya ears open…Blu, locin' out.

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