Blu is an artist that’s never stopped building his canon. In the last 9 years, the San Pedro native has dropped well over a dozen solo and collaborative projects, including albums, EPs, and mixtapes. Since his revered 2007 breakthrough with DJ Exile, Below The Heavens, Blu has continued to reinvent his sound, with new themes of focus, not to mention the laundry list of producer collaborations, which includes Madlib, The Alchemist, and Nottz. This August, he released the “soul amazing” mixtape series, a six volume installment of his features. The “soul amazing” series is a dense touchstone for Blu fans, as authentically west coast as a pair of low top chucks and sunglasses.
Blu remains a writer’s writer. His newest album on Every Deja Vu, Open Your Optics To Optimism, plays out like a meditation on space, time, matter, Adam, and atoms. Produced, mixed and mastered by Fa†e, the beats are smooth and spacey, with soft touches of R&B on “UFO” and “Higher (the Cosmos)” featuring Cehryl. There are superb features from Open Mike Eagle, Milo, ScienZe, and Sene, among others. Back in August, we premiered the stellar “Otionography.”
There’s a glossy awareness of the last 4.6 billion years of existence. No mantra is ever firmly pronounced, but you can really sense one as a meditative presence in Blu’s train of thought by the end of the opening song, “Think:” “Take a little walk, here, you could breathe, talk, look, hear, touch, count to five, wake up, look, look alive, stay up.” Blu stays asking the tough questions. It’s always worth taking a breath and listening. —Evan Gabriel
What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Blu:Turn on BET jams and eat a bowl of cereal.
Open Your Optics opens with the story of the earth, consciousness, pangea, etc. The project encapsulates so much space and time, yet there’s still a strong calm. What inspired your writing that way?
Blu:Fate’s beats inspired the hell out of the content on this record. His beats brought that great use of time and space, so I had to do the same!
Do you feel any sense of a personal rebirth with this album?
Blu:It’s a step I have been anticipating taking for a while. Fate helped me make that step.
Regarding the album’s title, do you think people are blinded by optimism?
Blu:There can never be too much optimism in the world, let alone one’s life.
I like that “His Story” feels like an early interlude of sorts. It’s almost reminding the listener of our past. The vocal layering is so unique. Did you feel like this track was necessary for the album’s theme to be fleshed out?
Blu:Not to take away from the project itself, but I felt it was very necessary for the record.
Have you had any life-changing experiences in the last year?
Blu:Just a couple bad ones, not worth mentioning.
When you’re writing, do you also read anything specific? Do you keep any books around the studio, or scrolls over windows?
Blu:I am slowly becoming a better book person. This project was heavily inspired by my reading and studies.
Do you have a favorite place to write?
What was a moment you experienced personal transcendence?
Do you have an all-time favorite soul artist? Or favorite soul record?
Blu:Probably Curtis Mayfield’s first live album.
What does truth mean to you?
You’ve mentioned that the lines from “The Truth” were written when you were in Africa for a personal pilgrimage. What was the strongest takeaway you had from your trip to Africa?
Blu:The journey itself was made into the answer to a life long quest. The pilgrimage was the best walk I have ever taken personally, besides bringing my daughter home after birth.
Are you religious?
Blu:I am religious without a religion.
I’ve never heard a song that makes going to work and paying bills sound as lush as on No York’s “Hours.” What’s the worst day job you ever worked?
Blu:They were all pretty cool. I sold shoes and was a pharmacist’s assistant.
You’ve said that you went a couple of years without a cell phone. Do you use a smartphone now? If so, do you find the smartphone useful? Or, do you think it’s just like sucking people into a matrix?
Blu:Cell phones nowadays are beyond useful, huge matrix though, but the cell can guide you through it, lol.
Do you have a favorite L.A. artist to collab with? Or maybe the person you have the most fun with making music?
Blu: Sene, Science, Co$$, Definite Mass, Donel Smokes, all my dogs really.
Have you ever been starstruck during a recording session?