Tosten Burks is about to ramble about Blu.
Fresh off the release of his serenely, brutally vulnerable Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them, the Blu & Exile sequel that served as a reminder that Blu might still be the best rapper in the city, here’s a separate reminder that the overblunted recluse is also one of its top producers. The crippled psychedelic jazz that is Real J Wallace’s Blu-produced “Bullshit,” now complete with an equally trippy video, is stunning largely because it feels entirely apart from that scene, denying to pander to its post-Dilla and art-trap trends.
Crumbling samples bounce in and out of tempo like a jazz club experienced on acid, falling into vaguely hip-hop loops more so by accident than by any intention of making hip-hop. It’s jarring music on which to hear rap verses, and it helps that Wallace and featured guest Nahjee Ramba keep up with the swoops and darts. This is production perfectly representative of Blu’s scatterbrain, which is a scary sign of how off his rocker he’s become, as well as the silver lining of this predicament. If an artist is too disoriented to do anything but make challenging, compelling music, it is important to be thankful for that remaining talent.
Apparently, this song is the opener for an entirely Blu-produced album that Wallace, who hails from San Diego, put out in June. You probably didn’t know that because Blu doesn’t want you to. That’s his way, for better or for worse. His cloistered underground evasiveness has lost him a lot of fans, but that perspective on Blu’s artistic decisions is reductive. His past year has felt like something more than indie arrogance. He’s not just against making music for the mainstream, he’s against making music for anyone other than himself. This is selfish, but isn’t it also the most honest way to create?
The unmastered lo-fi fuzz that has drowned most everything Blu posts uneventfully on random crevices of Bandcamp and Soundcloud has drawn criticisms of laziness. But I want to believe it’s more deliberate than that. Even on more polished projects like No York, Blu’s vocals are more crumpled than the guest spots. This shows intent. Blu pulls his verses into the rubble out of fear. He’s a preacher’s son who’s abandoned his faith, a once hyped industry phenom who failed every dumb magazine’s soaring hopes, a poor self-destructive working class rapper who sees materialism as too shallow to muster the motivation to make money or to stop being self-destructive. Who else is this introspective? He’s evolved into the most scathingly personal rapper doing it, but as a defense mechanism, he hides the self-analysis in fuzz. To ask for clarity is selfish of the listener.