Hip-Hop | Rap
My initial discovery of LA rap artist and wordsmith Johnson Barnes III, better known by his stage name of Blu, came when he joined forces with long-time collaborator and record producer Exile. The resulting project, named Miles, seemingly served as the perfect way for me to understand how authentic yet versatile Blu’s vocal style was.
Pretty much all of that aforementioned record sat in a similar vein as to what many would call “traditional” hip-hop. But with the help of Exile, the jazzy, blues-esque production made Miles a generously enjoyable project, and one that stood as one of the many highlights of 2020.
But the year we find ourselves in now is the year of 2021. And with that, we get our newest record from Blu; a more solo effort this time around.
While I thought that Miles did a pretty good job of laying out that “blues” aesthetic that Blu clearly wants to turn our attention towards as listeners, his brand new album, The Color Blu(e), homes in on this more than any other record he’s put out so far.
Not only does each track title carry the word “blue”, characterised with the last letter in brackets to tie in the rapper’s name, but the vast majority of samples (if not all of them) mention the word blue as well. Some of these samples include Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr Blue Sky”, and The Four Freshmen’s “It’s A blue World”; the same sample behind Mac Miller’s posthumous track “Blue World”.
I would say that at this point, I feel quite familiar with the whole “traditional hip-hop” feel that I spoke of earlier. However, Miles proved that Blu can keep that aesthetic fresh and interesting, primarily thanks to how much character he injects into his performances. That being said, I felt that The Color Blu(e) was far more than review-worthy, even if said review is slightly on the delayed side.
I mentioned earlier that with the help of Exile, Miles proved to encapsulate that kind of jazzy feel, which made that album such an enjoyable experience despite the far grittier lyrics from Blu. And despite The Color Blu(e) being a solo album, much of that feeling has stuck around. Blu very much had my attention when it came to what he rapped about. However, much of the production save it from being too dreary of an experience.
And as an experience, The Color Blu(e) really does deliver. Even my personal least favourites of the album (which are very few in fact), are still more than listenable. There’s definitely this sense of “ups and downs” when it comes to the flowing mood of the record. In fact, everything just seems to flow incredibly well on this album.
It is safe to say that Blu has certainly knocked it out of the park once more, not only with his unwavering conviction, but with the continuation of the Blu aesthetic that fans are familiar and loving towards. If you are looking for a rap album that breaks itself apart from the more modernistic norm, look no further.
Favourite Tracks: Everyday Blu(e)s | People Call Me Blu(e) | Blu(e) World
Least Favourite Track: Blu(e)r Than Blu(e)
Nature Sounds | New World Color | Dirty Science
Enjoyment: 8/10 | Memorability: 8/10 | Atmosphere: 8/10
Uniqueness: 7/10 | Satisfaction: 8/10 | Narrative: 8/10