We Chop It Up With L.A.'s Patron Saint of Lyricism
Check out this Blu interview conducted by Rebecca Haithcoat of LA Weekly.
Blu soundlessly materializes in Silverlake's La Mill coffee boutique. The rapper's aura is so serene it forms a barrier against the sounds of jittery fingertips flitting across keyboards and conversations that seem to be in fast forward. I think of a line from "Down to Earth," a song from his just-released latest album, NoYork!: "My feet stay planted so you shouldn't have to ask what I stand for."
Other rappers with the 28-year-old San Pedro native's resume (he turned down both Interscope and Death Row in 2004) might have long been breathing the rarefied air of superstardom. Although Blu sealed his place as one of the best lyricists in hip hop with his 2007 album produced by Exile, Below the Heavens, he prefers his underground fame and rabid fans. "I never saw myself as a Nelly," he says. "Common and Mos Def get their videos played, but never [excessively]. That's always what I aspired to be. I never thought Below would catapult us like it did."
Ahead of his show tonight at The Airliner, he discusses being sick of Below the Heavens, making his exit from rap, and why Lil B should be as big as Kanye.
Why did you name the album "NoYork!"?
I have so many explanations about the title I forget what I'm supposed to say in interviews. I always wanted to live in New York. New York is the state that runs the U.S. I don't know a state that works as hard as New York. I was like yo, if the United States was in a state of anarchy, it would be No York; it would be stateless. But this is a really Cali album to me--"NoYork" is me in Cali, and it's also like a new name for California.
So why aren't you living in NYC?
I always have horrible trips there [laughs]. But the culture is so rich, even though I think all that culture is dying out--so in a way, it's NoYork, too. Still, there are tons of artists there who are under the radar. From Matt and Kim to Cubic Zirconia, they all perform in the same small ass club on the Lower East Side. So much untapped, unheard talent. NYC's underground artists aren't as known as ours.
Creatively, what was your intent with NoYork!?
I usually do very consistent sound pieces. This album was supposed to be a three-part record, produced by three different producers. But instead, it's in a three-part format: dark, synthful and bright, and traditional hip-hop sampling. People were expecting something soulful or lo fi, and this is more about energy, mood, colors. j e s u s [the EP Blu released in May] is probably my favorite record, but it's like a Cadillac, and NoYork! is a Range Rover. A cassette tape for the coupe, and something slicker, more high-tech for the Range. Below the Heavens is headphone music.
Continue reading the interview over at LA Weekly...