Best New Rapper: Blueface

Miguelito takes a look at ascendant L.A. rapper Blueface.
By    August 15, 2018

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Miguelito is sick of you asking what his face tattoos mean. 

On April 16th of this year, Mid City rapper Blueface posted a video to his Instagram with the caption: “Where should I pull up to?” In the brief clip he’s singing “Nobody” by Chief Keef, shirtless and alone in his Mercedes. A simple green hat covers the top of his typically unrestrained hair. His drop fade is still visible under the brim. Tattoos of a moon and waterfall are prominent on his neck, as is a sizeable Benjamin Franklin c-note portrait on his right temple. You see a piece of a Mercedes Benz emblem inked behind that and below an interpretation of la calavera catrina whispering in his ear, a perpetual celebration of the dead and a reminder of mortality. Behind his left ear is a YSL logo flaunting his School Yard Crip association and a representation of Christ across the back of his neck gives a continuity to all the pieces. When asked for a reason behind the artwork Blueface responded, “I was tired of people asking what I was thinking about.”     

The Instagram post was a survey to see which area had the highest demand for a fan meetup and performance, one of his first since he starting rapping about six months prior. His most popular track to date, “deadlocs”, currently at 1.26 million plays on SoundCloud, was germinating from Oxnard to Temecula and he wanted to acknowledge the support. To his surprise, vigilant students at Tahquitz High School in Hemet, CA barraged the comment section with dozens of requests for their alma mater.

T-Pain to give "tips" to up...
T-Pain to give "tips" to up-and-coming artists

Four days later Blueface was sliding across the top of that same Mercedes in Tahquitz’ parking lot, performing the day’s only vital lesson once the closing bell rang: turn nothing into something. In a kinder time when he was free, The Wolf of Grape Street witnessed the guerilla pop-up live. Blueface would appear at Lancaster’s Quartz Hill High and Willowbrook’s King/Drew over the next two Fridays, continuing his self-proclaimed “genius” campaign and flexing his worth as a ‘choir orchestrater’, the moniker he defers to when someone calls him a ‘rapper’.

Blueface’s entrance to rap was a fortunate act of circumstance. After a brief stint playing football at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina, he came back to California and worked lethargic “bullshit” jobs, including a position at an office supply store in the San Fernando Valley. “They had enough to fire me [from the job] but they didn’t catch what I was really doing,” he says of his time there.

Returning to L.A., Blueface found himself hanging around “the artist side of Schoolyard” which included rapper and spokesman for “The Flock” TeeCee4800. One evening, when Blueface was driving him to a show, TeeCee left behind an iPhone connector, prompting Blueface to deliver it back to his studio. This was unusual for the soon-to-be-famous cryp; he’d never been invited to the studio, and it ended up being his inaugural session.

“Everybody [was] writing to the beat and shit,” he remembers, “I felt like I was in an opportunity and I’m an opportunist, so I took full advantage and started writing my own shit…As soon as I heard my own voice, I was sold.”

If his beginning was a random fancy of rota fortunae, Blueface is manipulating the wheel now and his high school pop-up concert series is just an obvious example. Since choosing to rap, he’s been methodically expanding his following. Until his latest EP, Two Coccy, which has been out less than a week now, all of the track names posted contained his IG handle @bluefacebleedem.

His policy for releasing music has been to leak tracks to his page gradually and calculate his moves based on fan response. In addition to the subsequent locations for his parking lot choir rehearsals, he also released a follow-up to “deadlocs,” “DeadLocs Pt. 2,” because of the unavoidable requests. While he initially wanted to move on and “make new hits”, he’ll defer to those pressing play as he contorts restrictive templates of delivery and song structure. These often quiet moves give some context for how he’s marketed the youth of Southern California into a rapture.

Of course all of this doesn’t mean shit if the artist isn’t captivating (which he is) and doesn’t have substance to survive the blessing-curse of virality (he does). The SYC missionary’s style falls somewhere between loosely tangential and interdimensional novelty. Vagrant sommeliers of comparison that live in comment sections thankfully can’t corner him. The attempts to categorize him typically center around Silkk da Shocker, Suga Free, and misguided yet more understandable alignments with recent L.A. talents FrostydaSnowman and Almighty Suspect.

Blueface does exaggerate his intonation like Frosty, Almighty and Silkk, but to claim he’s derivative ignores how he defies customs of structure, whereas those artists ride the beat. They don’t sound or rap similarly, but the Suga Free comparison is interesting insofar as it’s fun to compare the absurdity of their soliloquies. Do you want a seminar on how to achieve Redondo Beach waves or throw a bed sheet and disappear on a one-night stand? (“poof! girl where Blueface go I can’t find him”) For Suga Free they were digressions, Blueface exists in them.  

He doesn’t conform to pockets of rhythm or timing set by his instrumentals, preferring to sew in his own cadence or fully discard the garment. His rapping was slightly less abstract (“kicc a doe,” “janky yankees”) before “deadlocs” came out in January and since then he’s indulged exploratory flows. “deadlocs” is sneaky in that it starts to lull with comfortable rhythm even with no hook (“I ain’t turnin’ down nothin’ / I turn nothing into something lil baby”) then buckles to Blueface’s whim. He’ll chuck bars like grenades to fit the timing of his “on the deadlocs” proclamation (“Blueface vs. your nigga, lil baby, that’s like Benz vs. Ford / Bitch I been had shit these niggas still can’t afford” fits in the same space as “yea aight how you in the set all day and still can’t fight”).

“People say I rap off beat,” he tells SLAP Media, “I think I’m just rapping to a different rhythm of the beat.” The following month, when he spoke with Refuse Media, his tone was assertive: “The beat go on my accord.”

As mentioned, Blueface released a four-song EP titled Too Coccy last week and it’s a cobalt testament to his allure and singularity. Like his earlier catalog, the production sits in the splintered aftermath of traffic and ratchet music. The opener “2 coccs” is co-produced by YikeMike and Joog and features a hook as parrotable as the one on crowd favorite “thotianna” (“I’m in the party with my glock / She gettin’ freaky cause she grindin’ on two coccs / Weed got me high and this Henny got me drunk / Blow dryer on me in case a nigga need his hair done”).

He extends the end syllables of all lines except the final, leaving it as a soliliquitious nod to his love of barbering and bully testers. The 1TakeJay-assisted “blow her bacc” was released ahead of Too Coccy and shows how well their shit-talking meshes. Jay addresses his Kevin Hart resemblance and campaigns against unmoisturized elbows next to Blueface’s keen understanding of preserves (“That must be jelly cause jam don’t shake like that”). Mike Crook juxtaposes luminous chords to womping bass lines for Bonco”, which rounds out the project with a physics lesson from Professor Blueface (“How can I slip if I stay with a mop”).

Contextualizing Blueface in the New L.A. movement is tricky because he obfuscates categories. Signals in the language make it apparent he’s of Los Angeles, like his frequent and confident “yea aight,” though his refusal to maintain consistent timing keeps him distinct from lanes left in the wake of Greedo or AzSwaye. His lingo bingo card is full, calling himself “the baby momma blammer,” (“Freak Bitch”) or referring to his fat .40 as “Uncle Phillip” (pronounced ‘fill-up’), which makes a true L.A. connoisseur pray to hear his shrapnel dice a bpm alongside Drakeo’s surgical approach. He could be classified as “shit-talking music” along with the OneTakeBoyz if you need a label (and that’s the best one if we’re going there).

More fascinating is how Blueface shows that the New L.A. isn’t solidified and probably never will be, like truly righteous pantheons. Rappers will beget rappers who will beget rappers that will beget styles, and occasionally a prophet stumbles in to eat locusts or flip sanctuary tables or tattoo Benjamin Franklin on his face and dance on foreign cars.    

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