Blu Is Having 1 Of His Best Years Yet. A New Surprise Album Seals The Deal (Audio)
Johnson Barnes III, known by many as Blu, has been having a stellar 2019. The California MC kicked off the year by linking with producer, rapper, and Gangrene member Oh No for A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night. Then, just three months later, he went back to his roots to drop his second project of the year, joining his longtime partner Exile for their fifth studio release, True & Livin. The EP, led by the soulfully scratched boom-bap efforts of its title track, also featured Aloe Blacc, Fashawn, and Cashus King. Despite all this, Blu doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Without warning, Blu released Ground & Water. It finds the West Coast staple rapping over production from Damu The Fudgemunk. The Washington, D.C. based producer and Blu’s careers were both kicked off similarly with collaborative efforts released in 2007. Damu and his Y Society band-mate Insight’s, Travel At Your Own Pace, and Blu and Exile’s, Below The Heavens, both recently celebrated their 10 year anniversaries. Now, the two Hip-Hop standouts find themselves working together a dozen years after their careers began for yet another MC and producer co-op.
In a press release, Damu The Fudgemunk explains Blu’s efforts on the record, “Like all my releases, most of which are instrumental, I wanted the music to tell a story. With Blu being the voice, he set the tone for us both to bring this to life.” He continues, “When you listen to the lyrics and digest the subject matter, there’s a lot of depth in his words. I wanted to provide a similar depth in the music.”
Over eight tracks, Damu’s soulful Jazz-informed production lays the groundwork for Blu’s lyrical depth as found on standout singles, “Feet On The Ground,” “Share The Love,” “Rhymes & Gemstones,” and “Grey Heaven.” On the project’s final track, “Grey Heaven,” Blu displays his keen skills behind the mic as he weaves thoughtful, spiritually driven-concepts with the gloom of life’s darker side.
With vitality, Blu rhymes, “Thank God for The Bible / In these final days of survival / I’m kicking back waiting a new arrival / And he walked out of me, and he walked out of you / I couldn’t believe my eyes the skies were not blue / And the heavens turned grey, everybody turned face from the mirror / But it was clear we were all here / The teeth showed animals mauled, scarred, and eaten / The back showed scars from being beaten to death / The last breath took as he shook from the ropes that he hung from / Cancer from the chemicals that ate up his lungs / The young got shot in the street by p*lice / The young got shot in the street by p*lice / God told me that the heavens turned grey / One day and in my eyes it intends to stay / Until we pray from the East to the Bay / At the same time five times a day / Before God made us.”
That spiritual sensibility that made Below The Heavens so different from other Rap albums is still bubbling.