The B-Sides: Blu Interview

Contrary to popular belief, Blu did not take his name from the Eiffel 65 song popular in the late 90s.

Q: So where exactly in LA did you grow up?

A: I was born at St. Andrews and 54th, at my grandparent’s crib, that’s where I was living last year and it’s the first place I ever stayed. But I’ve been all around, Vermont, Vernon, Claremont, Monclair, Inglewood. Hawthorne, Long Beach. Azusa. All over, yo.

Q: Why all the moving around?

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A: My parents just moved around a lot. I guess I have the bug and did the same shit…. couch hopping, ditching jobs all the time, trying to live in studios.

Q: What high school did you go to?

A: I went to San Pedro High, Claremont High and Jurupa Valley High. I played ball at San Pedro but got kicked off the team for grades three years running. At Jurupa, I arrived too late to play but was smashing the whole basketball team there. I definitely wanted to play hoops and shit.

Q: What was your family situation like? Your step-dad was a pastor correct?

A: My mom was on some lock down shit, my grades sucked so they didn’t want me to do anything. My step-father was a pastor so he didn’t let me listen to hip-hop. Shit was really boring when I was young. I was mainly into drawing and playing sports.

Q: When did you start listening to hip-hop?

A: In the 10th grade, when I moved to Pedro with my dad. He used to bang Too Short and 2pac all the time. I got into DMX, Mase, and Will Smith, Big Willie Style was my first hip-hop album.

Q: So you must have started rapping shortly after that?

A: I started rapping when I was 16 or 17, in 11th grade. I started writing raps in 10th, like Too Short raps. I used to rap like a baby DMX. Meanwhile, my homebody who I used to rap with, wrote lyrics like Brother Lynch Hung. That was my partner, so you can only imagine what it was like.

Q: So you didn’t grow up on any of the classic LA hip-hop, huh?

A: Not really. When I really got into hip-hop, I got into throwback stuff like De La, old Busta shit…I got into Tribe heavy, Common, the Roots, Redman, certain Ghostface, Saukrates, Planet Asia was the only West Coast stuff I got into in high school.

Q: What made you want to start rapping?

A: DMX. It was his passion. It seemed like he was having a great time doing it and I wanted to do that.

Q: Had you been musical before that?

A: I’d sung in the choir at church when I was little. I did that pretty well, but that was it though. I never played no instruments in school. I always wanted to play a trumpet but we couldn’t really afford it. I’m trying to learn the piano now. I guess I want to learn to play, maybe playing isn’t the right word, but I try and come up with these little wack melodies.

Q: You’re producing now too, right?

A: Yeah, I’ve been producing for a year and a half. I’m wrapping up an album with Sene right now. It’s called. A Day Late and a Dollar Short.

Q: So when did you start to think you could rap for a living?

A: I never thought I was going to rap professionally. I got signed to Sound in Color to do the record with Exile. There were a bunch of young dudes over there, putting shit out, scratch records and stuff. It wasn’t a big deal. I was just doing a rap album,. I’d done four or five before that. Around ‘04, I got serious about it.

Q: How did you get together with Sound in Color?

A: Because of Mainframe. He started the label when he was 19 and signed a bunch of heads. He’d signed Exile the year prior and he’d been working on his own album. Then one of the investors at the label said we should do an album together. I was like hell yeah, the only person that had been hollering at me before that was Suge.

Q: How did that happen?

A: My cousin was engineering at Death Row and he played the CD for Suge right when he got out and had already signed Left Eye and Crooked and it was about to go down. My boy told me, just come with me and we’ll get signed by either Suge or Roc-a-Fella. I ended up to Sound in Color, which is just as good as Roc-a-Fella (laughs.)

Q: How many copies did you end up selling of Below the Heaven’s?

A: They pressed up 3,500 CD’s at first and we ended up selling 7,000 copies total. The rest was digital, no vinyl. They haven’t really released a record since mine but they used to do 75-page booklets with each album. I wish I was around then.

Q: How did C.R.A.C. Knuckles come about?

A: I met T’ Raarach through Aloe Blacc. He was doing a record and I came through and laid some raps and he was like, ‘yo what’s up.’ After five to six months, we linked up and locked up for 7 days to complete the first draft of Piece Talks, which we released on tour, DIY, 500 copies total. Then Tres Records wanted to re-release it and there were two songs we wanted to add.

Q: Did Aloe Blacc talk to you about trying to get in at Stones Throw?

A: I’ve talked with people at Stones Throw but they told me that they thought my music had the potential to be bigger than the stuff that they did. They advised me to take a more mainstream approach than going underground with them.

Q: Has the buzz surrounding Below the Heaven’s drawn label interest?

A: I talk to majors all the time. Have since I was 19 and talking to Interscope.

Q: What’s stopped you from signing?

A: I haven’t signed because the situations haven’t been dope. No one’s trying to offer me any kind of Jay-Z contract. They try to tie you down. Now it’s about trying to get a better situation on the table with the majors. I don’t want to get locked down with some shit that ain’t working. Indie is the same shit. They’re like, we’ll give you whatever you put up money wise. If you want an elaborate record, just put up the money for it first. Labels man….

Q: How did the Johnson & Jonson project came about?

A: Well, Jon (Mainframe) was one of the main people who got me to Sound in Color, but at Sound in Color wasn’t interested in the project which was originally called Powder and Oils and served as a mixtape for the Below the Heavens. It was originally just going to be a white label album with me rapping over old songs, but it became bigger than that. We started shopping around the product and waited for the best situation to put the album out. Tres Records wanted it and it came out Sept. 23.

Q: So do you have plans for another album or are you going to take some time off?

A: I’m doing tons of shit, too much stuff. I’m debating if I’m going to drop another album because I have another self-produced album finished. Plus, I’m turning in a record that I produced for Sene, with me rapping on a few tracks and doing a lot of production. As far as rapping, I just want to pause for a while. I’ve been writing for a long time and it’s weird when certain content comes out. I have to go back to the pace that my material is being produced, it’s weird.

Q: What’s your writing process like?

A: I just started writing to a random beat today. I just randomly did five songs with this dude Apex in DC. I just did another five songs with a guy from Rotterdam. When I’m inspired, I just go in all the time. Nothing lately has inspired me to sit down and craft another entire album

Q: Every one of the albums you’ve released has been a collabo. What made you take that route?

A: I think it helps your consistency to be with one producer. It produces a different sound every time I like to be inspired by a type of sound for an entire record, it takes you different places sonically.

Q: So there’s been rumors that you and Elzhi are going to collaborate on an album. Any truth to them?

A: Yeah, we’ve been talking about collaborating to do an album. It was really intimidating though. I just feel like I’m not ready to do an album with Elzhi. That dude writes perfect patterns. You’re just like…’Damn cuz.’

Q: You’ve become pretty popular among the blogosphere. Do you read any blogs?

A: A lot of time people send me links. This song leaked or here’s an article about you, but I don’t read much on the Net.

Q: Do you think the immediacy of the Internet has perhaps sped up your career’s ascent?

A: Definitely. It’s going faster than I planned. Technology has just smashed the old model. The weird thing to me is that I don’t even know how many fans I really have.

Q: What about the Okayplayer set? They seem to give you a lot of love.

A: Definitely. They give me the most, hands down. I appreciate it a lot.

Q: What about shows? Have you been touring a lot?

A: Since ‘05, I’ve toured the states three times.

Q: How did you go about getting a booking agent?

A: J right there (Blu’s manager) has booked every tour. When he came out of college he didn’t know how to do it but he pulled contacts from online places, threw out shit and it all out. We made it happen ourselves. It’s good to establish a team.

Q: What about locally?

A: I’ve played tons of shows in LA. For years.

Q: Do you ever think about playing spots like Spaceland or the Echo?

A: I think I’d need to get another audience at these places. I don’t have a big enough following to fill those spots.

Q: Who would you say your following is at this point?

A: Mostly underground heads..

Q: Do you think the line is blurrier than it used to be between underground vs. mainstream?

A: Yeah, it’s more independent vs. major, than underground vs. over-ground. If it works out, I’ll sign with a major, but we’re trying to do records on our own for now. The indies won’t allot resources to put our stuff and promote it so we want to start doing it ourselves. All we need is a distributor

Q: Who are your favorite rappers right now?

A: Jay Electronica. Cassius King. Sene, Shawn Jackson. I still like Edan. That’s the illest fool to me. I just bought his CD…. Beauty and the Beat and played it for two weeks straight. I had his EP on wax. I also like when J Davey raps. I think Mibbs from Pac. Divison is really dope. There’s tons of rappers I like. Plus, Flying Lotus. We’ve known each other for a while and its dope to see him get this exposure.

Q: Ever think about doing a collaboration with him?

A: We’ve been talking about a collabo for two years now. We’re both born in ’83 so… We did a show in Brussels and he rocked the festival harder than Wu and Ice Cube. It was the illest thing I’ve seen.

Q: How would you say living in LA influences your music?

A: I love LA because everyone in LA is doing something and everyone’s into everyone’s hustle. No one does one thing. The LA scene has a lot of fashion, music, art elements and photographers and writers. Everyone knows someone who knows someone. LA’s ill to me, it’s popping right now.

Q: What’s your typical day like?

A: Now I eat breakfast before I smoke. Then I smoke, read e-mails, make beats, do songs, smoke again, make beats, write to raps, etc.

Q: What are your favorite spots in LA?

A: I like the Fish House on Slauson and Crenshaw, that shit is bomb. I’ve been traveling a lot lately, so I’ve been eating well in a lot of different countries. I just moved out to the Eastside in the Santa Monica and Vermont area. There are a lot of Mexican joints and Thai food places around but I just got back so I haven’t had much time to check them out.

Q: What are your goals for the future?

A: I’d definitely like for our company to come into fruition. We want to put out music, quality film and quality records.

Q: What sort of films?

A: Well, I’ve been writing movies as long as I’ve been rapping. I just write down ideas for films and I want to put them together. We want to make a silent film to go with a music project, maybe a stop animation comedy. All of us have different film ideas and we want to have them coincide with the next few records.

Video- Blu-"Blue Collar Worker"

Blu-"So (ul) Amazing"

Johnson & Jonson-"Bout It, Bout It"

Download:

MP3: Blu & Exile-"My World Is"

MP3: C.R.A.C. Knuckles-"Pop Dem Boyz"

MP3: Johnson & Jonson-"Hold On John"


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