The story behind TheHolyBluBible blog lies in the title. A name not given due to religious beliefs, but rather for the Bible has been one of the oldest yet timeless books throughout history to transmit philosophical life stories into people’s minds. I believe Blu’s lyrics coupled with his signature serene flow and characteristic production render him as one of the greatest to ever add colour to the vast canvas of hip hop.
The ever affable and sombre demeanor of Johnson Barnes remains true to his he(art), making him highly respected in the underground scene. It’s in this blog that I wish to shed the lime light on Blu’s often overshadowed accomplishments. I hope that one day Blu gets his overdue props for his capacious contribution to the culture of hip hop. His soundscape deserves to cover the blu(e) sky and remain on e(art)h; his songs passed down through the generations, by word of mouth, as has the Bible. A historic piece of art. As Salvador Dali once put it, “A true artist is not one who is inspired, but one who inspires others”.
Bible: Hey Blu, what’s good? How has your day been?
BLU: it’s been cool. cool calm & collected.
Bible: You once expressed, HoldOnJohn is one of my favourite records, I realise that I could make personal records that we all could relate to, every line related to me, every line was something out of my life. Which particular song or album helped you through the hard times in life, in making you reflect upon the same feelings you articulate for others when listening to your music?
BLU: common’s “one day it’ll all make sense”
Bible: What’s your favourite song of all time?
BLU: miles davis “nothing like you”
Bible: What’s your least favourite song from yourself and why?
BLU: my least favorite song would have to be “so perfect” but it wasn’t so perfect.
Bible: One of your favourite albums is Criminal Minded, from the king, KRS ONE. You also did a song with him back in 2006 called KoolHercules. What are your influences on Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone and how did you two cross paths?
BLU: krs one was working on a record for mainframe’s former label, ox records, and i was introduced to krs and later invited to be a part of the record. the song didn’t make the final cut so i asked could i use the tune for my ep and thats how it came out.
Bible: You have two songs with J Dilla, one on Jay Love Japan, the other on Jay Stay Paid, and you also stated that there was a unreleased SunInMyFace video stocked in the vault. Do you think that video will ever be released? How much has Dilla inspired your music in general, both as a producer and artist?
BLU: one, i don’t think that video will ever surface be it that it was so personal then and now. second, dilla was if not, my biggest influence, he created, found and trademarked the sound i was always searching for as a young artist, looking for the perfect sound to compliment me, he had it and when i heard it, i knew it was that sound.
I’ve written so many songs to dilla beats including one of my favorite songs that i have ever written, “soul amazing”.
Bible: You touched on Ebay and art in a previous interview. Could you please elaborate for us? Moreover, what’s your favorite painting? Unfortunately, you are too busy to paint these days but will the world ever get to see some of your own paintings?
BLU: my paintings don’t exist, I’ve made one or two, and those are gone, personal pieces for personal people outside this realm. but my favorite painter by far is dali, and second favorite would be klimt, but i would have to say my favorite piece would have to be basquiat’s “godchild miles davis”and all the similar pieces from that era.
Bible: Whats your favourite toothpaste? I ask as you made a rock album called ToothPaste. Can you confirm if it will ever be released? If not, I am curious to know why so.
BLU: we will never release that record, its god awful but i love it to death and it is what it was when it was what it is, still
Bibile: Under your producer moniker of GODleeBarnes you created a six track album in soundcloud (which everyone that reading this is now going to now dig for, ha). You always keep it mad underground for the true fans that dig for your art. As a producer you have sampled the likes of: Radiohead, The Impressions, Erik Van Der Wurff, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday. Sonically, when you dig in the crates, what do you look for? What grasps your attention for you to say,’Yo i need to sample this!’.
BLU: if it sounds like a cartoon or bright or really colorful or playful or squeaky or corky then its mine. if it sounds turquoise, or orange or yellow or like a marshmallow or a cloud, its mine. thats my ear.
Bible: Who would you most like to produce for?
BLU: ta’raach or exile.
Bible: If you could collab with any deceased rapper, who would it be? And why?
BLU: easy e. cause he was a g. or tupac because i believe even now he could educate me.
Bible:Shine like the sky when the moon lit, Dance with the devil to some MF DOOM ish. Have you ever considered collaborating with MF DOOM?
BLU: no, not really, there are people i want to hear work w doom before i do, like prince paul, like exile, like madlib again and again and again and again.
Bible: When is Exile gonna stop sitting on AngelsSing? Ha. We can’t take it any longer!
BLU: its beautiful, i just heard the finished tune, its amazing, one of my favorite tunes, but its actually titled, “the gods meet”.
Bible: Is there a video in the works for AnnieHall?
BLU: should be, but i doubt it, probably one of the videos i would like to shoot the most, but we have to get the budget up.
Bible: What ever happened to the HappinessIs video? It finally surfaced on Vimeo after many months to then be abruptly removed.
BLU: it was leaked by a poser, but it will be released in june when the vinyl drops !!
Bible: On twitter @NewWorldColor revealed that you were cooking some new heat with Mainframe. Is there going to be another J&J album coming up?
BLU: j&j is dead. prince paul.
Bible: Miguel once said in an interview: Blu and I met in high school. On the first day of my first year in high school I met Blu in a cipher. We actually ended up having our first class together – which was a computer class. He introduced me to a mutual friend of ours named Anthony Williams and we’ve been pretty much best friends ever since then. Will we ever see Miguel and Blu back in the studio with a track? Perhaps a ‘Rhythm&Blu’ inspired project?
BLU: naw, we are musically in different forums, we are pushing each other to be the best at what each of us do individually as we always have
Bible: Are there any other female artists besides Amerie and MIA that you would like to work with?
BLU: i would marry amerie, and i would love to work w iggy azalea, maybe marriage, i would love to work with tuna, marriage. and yummy.
Bible: What do you think of the UK hip hop scene? Are there any British rappers you would like to work with?
BLU: dizzee rascal is a g, i would love to do a remix record w that dude, acapellas.
Bible: If you could start a clan of young rappers who/what would you look for?
BLU: sene, anthm, scienze and versis.
Bible: Word in the street is that you have been working with Roc Marciano and Chuuwee? How did that come about? Are these gems ever going to see daylight? Are there any other artists you’re currently working with?
BLU: im working with a lot of people dude, you are spilling the milk bro !
Bible: What are some of your favourite spots in LA?
BLU: low end theory, fish house, slauson swap meet, amoeba record store, my grandpa’s and where the homegirls be.
Bible: Will you ever include your daughter in any of your projects?
BLU: my daughter is a goddess.
Bible: What film(s) inspired HerFavoriteColo(u)r?
BLU: none, she did.
Bible: What are your top 10 film recommends to watch before you die?
BLU: ”eternal sunshine”, “lost in translation”, “life aquatic”, “matrix”, “manhattan”, ”do the right thing”, “punch drunk love”, “a woman is a woman”, “belly” & “slam”
Bible: How would you describe the ‘film scene’ of your current living?
BLU: dry humor. you would fall asleep on my life g.
Bible: What book are you reading at the moment and can you name us some of your favourite authors?
BLU: im reading “man of the people” & “the gospel of hip hop”.
my favorite authors are elijah muhammad, noble drew ali, howard zenn & ivan sertima.
Bible: When can we expect a Johnson Barnes authored book?
Bible: Where would you most like to travel and perform?
BLU: egypt and japan
Bible: What is success to you?
BLU: accomplishing your goals, whatever you set out to do.
Bible: What three items would you take with you if you were stranded on a dessert island?
BLU: a woman, a child and a memory.
Bible: What’s your guilty pleasure?
BLU: girls, lots of girls.
Bible: What are the colours of your mind right now?
BLU: red & white. dangerous zone these days. looking forward to sky blue and orange, and dark green again.
Bible: How would you describe your fanbase in three words?
BLU: loyal, brilliantly colorful and youthful.
Bible: How would you like your hardcore fans to remember you?
BLU: as blu, how they look at me now, for better or for worse.
For any true hip-hop fan, Johnson Barnes (Blu) is definitely a name that comes to mind when you think of the “new” west coast. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, and came up in the church. That has a lot to do with the spiritual side of his music. Ever since the release of his debut albumBelow The Heavens (2007), he has worked with just about every great producer, landed a spot on the 2009 XXL Freshman list, and released CLASSICS! So without further ado, I give to you my conversation with Blu. Check it out below.
Usually I ask people to introduce themselves as the first question, but everyone should already know who you are. How’s everything with you Blu?
Everything is copacetic, cool and easy going like a Sunday evening. I caught amen fever, I call him “Justin Feiber” but he’s ready to bounce. I coughed up a piece of my lungs today, kinda cool, other than I’m 30.
One of the main reasons that you are one of my favorite MC’s is because you’ve stayed true to yourself in such a crazy rap game. What would your advice be to a young MC coming up in this game?
It would be just that, just that exactly, stay true. So when people give you love, they are giving it to you directly, not the man you bit your style from, but they are giving they’re love to you.
Jesus is one of my favorite projects from you. It was one of those tapes that was a hidden gem when you FIRST dropped it. Why did you take the anonymous approach back when you first released it on your bandcamp?
Well, at the time, we just realized we either would be getting dropped from Warner or shelved, and not that I was in a rush, but I hate for my progress to be put on hold, especially over some bullshit. We were inking our indie deal aside from Warner at the time, which would distribute art from my friends but I decided I wanted to make a step of freedom and release something fresh and brand new with no limitations, no label restrictions or requirements, just freedom, liberty ya know.
The project was originally called “Egypt Eleven,” as a reflection of independence from labels and Egypt’s independence from government.
Describe your writing process. As far as what you need, where you have to be to write, etc.
I need an open mind. I can write in confined spaces like jail, house parties or cars, but I’d rather be by the music, where it was created or where it could bang the most. I realized late the most important asset is the sound palette, the beat. And I like them boys loud and knocking when I write g, so the eavesdroppers feel that shit! I write like some one is fucking in the next room (Ha). Naw but I do keep books, magazines, Wikipedia, MTV Jams, Twitter. Those are my current tools!
What/who inspired you to start producing?
Exile, Mainframe, and Ta’Raach. Each producer has produced a full length record with me and every time, each one of them would tell me I should start producing. Either for the way I listen to beats, my beat selections, my advice on making a beat, how I choose samples, or even when I tell them they should do it like this. Each one of them gave me tips, so my style samples each one of theirs.
You’ve worked with just about every great hip-hop producer: Madlib, Dilla, Alchemist, Exile, Mainframe, and Pete Rock just to name a few. So who’s a producer out there that you would still like to work with?
Prince Paul g, I know he got some corky cartoon beats in the vault, I need those.
And Premo (DJ Premier), I have yet to make that classic staple, with the greatest of all time.
It’s one track on Below The Heavens that I have to ask you about, “In Remembrance.” That’s a very passionate track where you’re telling life stories. Could you tell us a little more about that song.
That song tells too much as it is, but I was trying to make my own version of Nas’ “Memory Lane,” but it had more of a gospel feel that I felt fit my southern background ya know.
You probably get asked this question a lot, but will you and Sene ever follow-up to A Day Late & A Dollar Short?
Haha, probably not. Sene is so talented, he’s like me, you can’t box him. After he conquers one thing he’s on to the next. He’s not a vulture, he doesn’t hang around after he’s killed something. He’s already looking for something fresh, thats my dude. We started a record with myself, Sene and fellow Brooklyn mutual friend, Anthm. We got gems! Hopefully that project will see the light of day.
How did coming up in the Church help you as a hip-hop artist?
Church taught me to sing and to not be afraid of my surroundings when performing, and to give the performance my all and not my fear or doubt. My mom would say, “the devil don’t know what you saying when you humming,” so when I got nervous, I would hum.
Im going to name a few people, and you tell me how they’ve influenced your music.
Nas made the best hip-hop record of all time, the definitive, Illmatic.
Erykah was the first mainstream artist I heard doing god math and numbers, showing me that the spirit of the underground could shine throughout the most beautiful vocalist also.
Lauryn was the best female MC to touch a mic. She took to a place I doubt any other female will bring it back from. She elevated so high, then brought it back to the womb and nurtured it while others watched or copied the cookie cutters.
Slum is the definition of the vibe, and Dilla was the best. They were the next native tongues, but more street, and still conscious. True pioneers of Detroit hip-hop!
I wanted too be Redman, but I couldn’t, so I called myself Blu man hahaha. Redman made the rawest record of any lyricist ever, Muddy Waters, 20+ songs of straight ripping ass!
If it wasn’t for Andre 3000, I probably would still be freestyling trying to eat cannabis or supernatural.
What’s up next for you? Projects, visuals, tours, etc?
We just dropped an EP with MED and Madlib titled The Burgundy and we are looking to drop a follow up. We also released a single on record store day on a 45 called “Thelonius King” featuring RA The Rugged Man and Tristate of Du Rag Dynasty. Both of those have videos out also. Last month, we officially released the album No York! under the title York!, under our label, New World Color. Also, this summer look for releases and projects I have with super producers like Alchemist, Nottz Raw, and the legendary Pete Rock!
Blu is Los Angles hip-hop now nigga! May GOD bless and the power rest in justice. Peace and prosperity to all! 2013, we seen the Zenith!