Rapper Blu shops at Artform Records in the Arts District often. It’s a used records store that specializes in hip-hop and is attached to a barber shop.
He’s giving me a tour of some of his favorite L.A. spots, chauffeured by his limo driver, Jose. Inside Artform he flips through some records and picks out a few – Ice-T’s “The Iceberg,” the Project Blowed album, and The Rockers soundtrack. Behind the desk is a segregation era relic that reads “Colored Entrance Only.”
Blu grew up all over Los Angeles, from San Pedro to Santa Monica, and now lives in South Central. He spends most of his free time downtown, he says. His new album, Good to Be Home, is an homage to the city of Los Angeles. (You can stream the entire thing on West Coast Sound.) “There’s going to be five more albums about L.A.,” he asserts. “Maybe six.”
Blu’s a prolific rapper who has reached near-mainstream levels of popularity. He’s featured for The Roots and Mad Lib, and rapped over beats by Flying Lotus. His 2007 album Below the Heavens, with producer Exile, was successful enough to land him a deal at Warner Brothers, though he was dropped not long after because, he says, its president got fired and new A&R people came in.
Even after spending hours smoking joints with him in the back of the limo, I had a hard time putting Blu in a category with other rappers. He’s a talented and hard-working musician who wants to make it big (like, Nas, big), but seems to embrace his underground status as well. He’s a music nerd, but reps South Central as his hood, and seems to think he should present a little bit of that edge in order to sell records.
As for Good to Be Home, which is on venerated indie Nature Sounds: “It’s a day in the life album,” he says. “A day in the life of an underground rapper in LA.”