Blu w/ANTHM, Sene, Bryant Dope
Wednesday, June 13
Better than: Being let down by someone you know personally.
Last night, Blu hopped onstage at S.O.B.’s looking like the last bastion of backpack rap, with that accessory sitting firmly on his shoulders and his pants sagging like it was 2007. Coincidentally (or not, because I chose it as the apex of the low-pants trend), that’s the year that Blu released his first album, the underground classic Below the Heavens, which the audience started requesting loudly as soon as he took the stage.
Up to that point, the night had been a showcase for nineties revivalism; Sene and ANTHM prepared the crowd for Blu by spitting dexterous, hyper-lyrical verses over soulful boom-bap. Sene was particularly impressive, hyping the crowd by tossing a copy of his record to one kid who knew all of the words to his songs (which is saying something). ANTHM, too, was perfectly capable, though the best moment of his set came when he brought out a cagey Black Rob, who proceeded to perform the ever-popular “Whoa” along with several other songs.
Blu came on at midnight and boy did he ever disappoint. Known for being an erratic performer (the girl next to me told me that the last time he was slated to perform at S.O.B.’s he hadn’t even shown up), the Los Angeles native was completely discombobulated. Though he managed to remember the verse on “Polaris,” his new track with ANTHM, he soon lost his bearings, ordering his DJ (Meka from the popular website 2dopeboyz) to turn up the sound until the crowd was lost in muddled, jagged bass. He then proceeded to rip verses with wild abandon, seemingly frustrated with Meka’s song choices—he would shake his head when he heard a certain beat, ask that the beat be changed, and then shake his head when it was changed. Though his breath control was impressive and he was spitting syllables at a furious pace, he was pretty incomprehensible. At one point he bragged that he could go for days, to which a woman to my left muttered “I hope not.”
Early in his set, while Blu was still somewhat invested in the performance, he rapped verses from his most obscure albums, the unlistenable fuzz-rap odyssey UCLA and the unmastered Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them. It actually made sense for a little while: Blu was doing his best to do his worst, just as he does so often on his lesser records. At his peak, Blu is a very talented artist: for evidence, listen to him rip complex beats to shreds on last year’s No York LP. But, whatever the reason, last night he appeared to have no interest in giving his fans a glimpse of that talent, nor in winning any new supporters over to his cause.
Things came to a head when the audience finally got what it ha been asking for in the first place. Meka attempted to reanimate the proceedings by playing the beat for “Dancing in the Rain,” a favorite from Below the Heavens. When faced with the cut from his debut album, Blu flat-out refused to rap along and attempted to leave the stage then and there. He was coaxed back when Meka played the beat from his biggest hit, “Blu Colla Workers,” which Blu performed reluctantly, smiling sheepishly at the crowd. After one more song, he was out, stepping down from the stage after only twenty minutes.
Random notebook dump: When the guy next to me saw me writing in a notebook he said that I must be an MC or a journalist. When I said I was a journalist he laughed, and said of Blu: “he’s not getting a good review, is he?” It was a rhetorical question.