Blu – York album review

Blu’s York sounds like a rap record that one would expect to hear in the year 2134. The album from start to finish just sounds futuristic, simultaneously mixing multi-layered tones with complex strings. York, originally to be titled, NoYork!, is Blu’s fourth solo studio album. York was originally to be released under Warner Bros Music, however, the record deal fell apart on the belief Blu had self-leaked NoYork! as a protest to the music industry elite. Blu first burst onto the scene in 2007 with his debut album, Below the Heavens, which drew major critical acclaim, especially in the crowded underground hip hop scene of Los Angeles. He was named by several blogs and magazines as an up and coming star in the rap game and somebody to watch. After declining several deals from major record companies, including Interscope, Blu chose to remain independent and release two critically acclaimed follow-up albums. In 2011, Blu released, “Jesus”, a song about Blu’s heavy personal influence of religion as a pastor’s son. The track seemed to be an underground answer to Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks”.

This album delivers Blu’s signature sound, complete with self-produced beats and meaningful raps. At times, the album’s beats do seem to drown out his voice, but that is rather common with a lot of his work. The album’s marquee song, “Spring Winter Summer Fall” delivers the best hook of York, sang by Jimetta Rose. “Spring Winter Summer Fall” also follows a noticeable theme of York, the four seasons of the year. York is covered in references to the different seasons and weather patterns. “My Sunshine”, another track on York, has a message about finding light through hard struggle. The weather incorporation almost has to be about Blu’s switching to a major record label, which is when a bulk of these anthems were recorded. The reference creates the sense that Blu’s consciences will not let him “sell out”. This is a significant reason why many, including myself, believe the rapper did leak the album, previously titled, NoYork!, in order to either protest his own decision or more practically kill the deal while it was in the closing stages with Warner Bros. The references of weather, however, could just mean his evolution as a rapper and as a man, as York does experiment with several beat combinations that provide its futuristic sound.

York brings a new sound to the LA underground scene. It will be interesting to see if the upbeat, loud album carries with its targeted audiences. The LA underground rap scene for years has been dominated by deep bass-driven beats, with slow sophisticated rhyming. There are times listening to York where your mind loses focus, are you supposed to be listening to the meaningful words or this beat from the year 2134 that your brain is hustling to interpret?

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