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Blu Has a New EP and a Few Things He'd Like to Clear Up

Stream the mysterious Los Angeles rapper's new EP with Nottz and read as he discusses his relationship with the spotlight, the legacy of his legendary 'Below the Heavens,' and his stint on a major label.

If you haven't been paying attention, you might assume that the below collaborative EP with the Virginia producer Nottz, Gods in the Flesh, is the first thing the Los Angeles rapper Blu has put out since his masterful Below the Heavens LP with the producer Exile. But just because you haven't been paying attention doesn't mean you shouldn't have been paying attention. After being featured on XXL's 2009 Freshmen cover, Blu aligned himself with Warner Records, and suffered the fate of far too many gifted but admittedly idiosyncratic artists on majors—he got stuck in a limbo of sorts, and his album was ultimately shelved, to be released later on his own New World Color label. Speaking on the phone from Los Angeles, he seems unperturbed by this turn of events. Many people can rap, but few are true rap artists in the sense that Blu is, following his muse with passion, dedication, and absolutely no regards to the whims of the mainstream. Stream Gods in the Spirit below, and read our in-depth interview with Blu below that, where he discusses the new EP, his relationship with the spotlight, the legacy of Below the Heavens, and his intentions with NoYork!


Noisey: How do you like feel like the new EP fits in with your discography as a whole?
Blu: It fits with the whole MC producer where people are used to getting from Blu. But it is an EP as opposed to an LP, you know what I mean? But we’re planning on following up this EP, the Gods in the Spirit EP, with the Titans in the Flesh EP.

What was the creative process for writing the record like?
With Nottz, this was one of the first projects where all the songs were written to the music. Usually sometimes I bring music to producers and we create music around lyrics or we both make shit from scratch, you know? In this situation I got all the beats and I wrote to them, so it was pretty tight. This one’s more of a creative record as opposed to like a more heavy content record. It was more based on just like creative energy, you know what I mean?

Tell me about like your relationship with the spotlight.
It's a give and take. It's a give and take. You know, I enjoy it, but at the same time, I need space to like, create, and keep up with who I am, and who I see myself creatively and as an artist. As opposed to like just putting out some hot shit and then burning out forever, you know what I mean? It's almost like people put more appreciation into delivering this big quality project to as many people as possible. For me it's about delivering as much goodies to the people who are keeping up with me as possible. So I just keep banging out just goodies. Nas just did his tenth album. I'm about to drop my ninth album. I'm like ten years younger than the dude.


It does seem to me like you are more interested in creating something that like feels true to you and like the people that are already down with you rather than becoming the next Kendrick or whoever.
Right. Kendrick is holding the torch, but it's a lot of responsibility that comes with that, you know what I mean? Kendrick did bring it to a very mature level. For him to just murk out on a mixtape game or murk out on a feature level… He took it very professionally. How did being on a major label affect you creatively?
Actually, I had a beautiful situation with Warner. I had a good staff working around me. The president, Tom Whalley, signed Tupac. His son was running Sire Records, who put out like Prince, Talking Heads, Ice‑T, Depeche Mode. So they had a creative hand in Warner already, you know what I mean? And then my A&R's were working records for Common and the Roots, so we had a good team. But the label eventually got bought out, so that changed the direction. And right now it's just mainly Rick Ross, Maybach Music, you know what I mean?

You had NoYork! ready in 2011, right?
Yeah. NoYork! was 2011. It was a 2012 release. I think we dropped promos 2011. We were getting the promos out and then that was at the time the record got shelved once the promos got out because the label was in limbo, do you know what I mean?

I don't want to put the bad business of the label out there, but the record kind of got a bad rap for it. Things can get mixed up. It was just a different direction for three different parties. So we're really glad to get the music out to the people, just as in the same breath we’re glad that Warner's happy with Rick Ross, you know what I mean? So much of that NoYork! record just feels like light years ahead of its time.
The Los Angeles beat scene is light years ahead of its time. The closest cousin in relation would be like Southern music. But Cali is stepping into a more progressive direction. It wasn't breaking for the limelight. In my situation with Warner, I wanted to present it on a more major scale, hit major markets. So we just wanted to hit the right way with Warner, a more select way, you know what I mean?

Let's talk about Below the Heavens for a minute. How do you feel like that record has aged?
It's aged well. I'm still as surprised now as I was when the public first received the record. It's a heavy record, but it carries a lot of joy. It is very grounded. It's the Average Joe album. Below the Heavens, you know what I mean? It's a day in the life.

I was also like on Spotify the other day and searched for that record, and it wasn’t there.
It got hit for samples. NoYork! was pretty much the least sample-heavy record I've done. It's just like electronic mayhem. Or euphoria. Or, like, Japan. Miguel was on Below the Heavens. What’s your relationship like these days?
He's actually starting his own record label right now under RCA. I believe it's the Art Dealer Chic label. He's been on GQ covers, the BET awards, the Grammy's. The kid is crazy. But yeah, I went to high school with him. I encouraged him, told him he should sing. He blessed my first album, man, he graced it. And from then, he… I don't know. He was always destined for it. He's my homie. I saw him about a month ago, I talked to him like last week, you know, talking about his label, whatnot, or you know, future plans. There's a lot of good things lined up in the future we don't want to spoil, you know what I mean?

I think one of the big misconceptions that people have about you is that people will say, “Oh, well he did Below the Heavens, got signed to a major, and then like has done nothing.”
Below the Heavenswas a metaphor for the underground. The Heavens being a metaphor for the mainstream. Being in the underground isn't anything new to me. When I was on a major I took a bold statement and did a record called NoYork! It was pro‑anarchy. But if you read the steps of it, it's a positive statement of anarchy. It's almost like a harmonious anarchic state, you know? (Laughs)

Drew Millard is the Features Editor of Noisey. He's on Twitter - @drewmillard