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Discography Check: Blu

By @TrueGodImmortal

One of the most prolific underground artists of all time IMO, Blu has been one of the best lyricists in hip hop for the last 10 years without question. Arriving on the scene in 2007 alongside producer Exile, Blu would make his presence felt in the game, showcasing his lyrical dexterity and his ability to make the listener pay close attention. Over the years, Blu has been prolific in many ways, avoiding the limelight and spotlight after his XXL Freshman cover some time ago. Blu, to me, is the best West Coast rhymer of this era, and today, I wanted to take a look back at his large yet quiet discography. How many classics does Blu have? Let's take a look.

*Blu and Exile- Below The Heavens (2007)

-The arrival of Blu set the underground afire with his monumental debut album with producer Exile. It was unlike anything we had seen up until that point, as there were new artists who came about, but none quite like Blu. His lyrical composition was top notch, the production was soulful yet beautiful in its own way, and together, Blu and Exile made excellent music together. The songs range from melancholy to upbeat to hopeful, and while that allows us to see the range of Blu as an artist, it also allows you a look into his life, as tracks like "The Narrow Path", "Blu Colla Workers", "Dancing In The Rain", and "No Greater Love" illustrate where he seemed to be in his life honestly and openly. To me, this is one of the greatest hip hop albums of the 2000s and definitely the best album of 2007.

*Blu and Ta'Raach- The Piece Talks (2008)

-This is an album that can be considered slightly under the radar, yet it still worked very well. Blu was fresh off the classic debut and this would provide a different vibe and lane for him. Together as the duo C.R.A.C., Blu and producer Ta'Raach combined for some solid music overall, including songs like "Major Way", "Love Don't", and "Bullet Through Me". Blu demonstrates his ability to work with any producer and make great music. While this wasn't a classic necessarily, it does feature a very solid tracklist and Blu lyrically coasts over every instrumental. It is definitely worth a listen.

*Blu and Mainframe- Johnson& Jonson (2008)

-One of my favorite albums of 2008, this project is revered as one of the best albums from Blu and rightfully so. Blu has a scatterbrained work ethic it seems, as he literally never takes a break or a rest. It is admirable and why I feel Blu is the greatest West Coast MC of all time, not just on an underground level, but overall. Sure, he isn't as popular or influential as some of the names we know, but in terms of work ethic, talent, and skill, there is no one better that I can think of honestly. He showcases his prowess on this album, rapping his ass off throughout, shining on songs like "The Only Way", "Hold On John", The Oath", "Up All Night", and many more.

*Blu and Sene- A Day Late And A Dollar Short (2009)

-With some excellent production, this album is actually very solid. Blu is an excellent producer for the most part, and he provides some very solid sounds for Sene to rap over. It's interesting that Blu has so many projects where he isn't the sole rapper on, but he has flexed his producer prowess throughout his career and this is another example. The highlights here include "Smoke Rose Buds On Ashy Avenue", "The Wonderers", "Cloud Climbers", and more.

*No Sleep For A Day (2009)

-There isn't much to discuss with this one, as it is merely just an instrumental project that lasts around 8 minutes. It is not a substantial release and while the production is solid on this very short EP, one could wish to hear some Blu rhymes over these tracks. Regardless, for a short 8 minute release, it is a good listen.

*The GODLee Barnes LP (2010)

-I remember the original version. It has been mixed a little better now and released in slight HQ form, but the original was a disaster sound wise, which given the fact that I've gone in the studio and recorded tracks that weren't mixed and they sounded 5 times better than this, it does make me wonder what Blu was thinking. Initially this was released as one long MP3, and that was also confusing. Blu at the time was doing what he saw fit to, and though many fans were confused (and frustrated), this project was interesting. Produced by Blu, the album features a large amount of tracks with standouts being "All The King's Men", "Crowns", "Til We Die", and others. One has to wonder if Blu took this release a little more seriously if this album could have been a masterpiece.

*Her Favorite Colour (2011)

-This was my favorite project for quite some time after it released. I was listening to this, Jesus, and Phonte's album for a good 3 months with nothing else in my headphones. The actual release for this project is hard to track down honestly, but most outlets have it listed for either 2010 or 2011, but I discovered this one in 2011. With a number of the songs here being mostly just instrumentals, Blu showcases once again why he is an underrated producer, and when he does decide to rap, he kills it as always. Highlights in that regard include the classics "Amnesia" and "Vanity", as well as "Untitled(LovedU)2". This album title has so much significance to his career, and for that, it is an important project in his catalog by far.

*Open (2011)

-I would think that 2011 is the moment where Blu accepted his reality. After being signed to Warner Bros. Records, where he was limited in what he could do, Blu stepped out and made a number of projects, with this serving as a full length project. His production is an anchor for the album and while there are a ton of guest appearances, Blu does steal the show when he does rap, most notably on "SteelRemains(Raw)", but there are more highlights here. Open isn't a classic and does leave you wanting more verses from Blu, but it is a solid enough project to warrant a few listens.

*Jesus (2011)

-Essentially a mixtape, Blu does what he does best, and delivers a project that I think should have been mentioned in the same regard as some of his most critically loved albums. Jesus is an interesting listen with a surprisingly diverse sound, but the music sounds the best when it sticks to what we love Blu for. That can be found on the standout track "DooWhop" with Planet Asia and Killa Ben, as a simple soulful loop from Alchemist provides the perfect platform for lyrical annihilation, and on the Madlib produced title track, where Blu delivers. Another favorite of mine is "4U", which is one of the most underrated tracks in his catalog. All in all, Jesus is a really good listen and a top project in his discography.

*DJ Gman and Blu- The Almost Lost Tape (2011)

-I shouldn't include some of these on here, but Blu has such a vast discography that it would criminal not to include it. This is a short two track project with songs "All Fall Down" and "Scarcedy Cars", but it is still another noteworthy release that many may have not heard. Finding every Blu release is almost like a treasure hunt and that's exactly what it feels like discussing and listening to each of these.

*Blu and Exile- Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them (2012)

-Following up a classic is no easy task. Following up an album that was your debut that is a classic is damn near impossible. No matter how good the album is, people will still say it isn't the first one. Blu and Exile took that challenge and delivered an album that was very solid despite not actually being better than their first work together. I think many people expected a rehash of their debut together, but instead got an album that balances itself throughout the tracklist. While there are a few tracks I could do without on the project, for the most, the duo delivered. Songs like "The Only One", "More Out Of Life", "O Heaven", and "Maybe One Day" are true standouts, but overall the album is a really good listen. Not a classic, but definitely a highlight in the genre for the year.

*NoYork/York (2013)

-Originally leaked in 2011, this project had an official release in 2013 and was met with mixed reviews honestly. One of the biggest knocks against Blu and his music is that the mixing and mastering is usually subpar and that was partially the case here, plus the production was hit or miss. Originally titled NoYork, this album would feature production from Exile, Madlib, and others and he brings in a number of guest appearances from Pac Div, U-God, Sa-Ra, and many more for a very West Coast sounding album. The highlights include "Everything's OK", "Tags", and "Jazzmen", among a few others.

*Blu, M.E.D., and Madlib- The Burgundy (2013)

-Similar to their recent EP The Turn Up, this short but sweet project features Blu working alongside M.E.D. and Madlib to showcase their chemistry that we would later see on a bigger scale via their Bad Neighbor album. This EP features tracks like "The Arrangement" and "Burgundy Whip", as well as an earlier version of "Belly Full", so it isn't too noteworthy in terms of Blu and his catalog, but it is more like a teaser to show you what was in store for the world. The instrumentals being included were a nice touch as well.

*Blu and Nottz- Gods In The Spirit (2013)

-The first of what seems to be a two part EP series arrived in 2013 with two of the most underrated names in the game working together to create something special. The beauty of what Blu does is that he makes a number of very short but solid projects and leaves you wanting more as a fan. This is a good EP, with standout tracks being "Creme Of The Crop", "End Of The World", and "Crooks In Castles". Pair this EP with the second part and listen in succession and you'll definitely appreciate it even more.

*Blu and Cookbook- Yes (2014)

-His entire career is full of EPs and smaller projects, and that's what makes Blu such a special artist really. He doesn't care about anything but the music. He just keeps creating and creating. I've only heard this EP twice through his Bandcamp, but it is a solid listen. I was not familiar with Cookbook, but he is solid on this release, and Blu does an amazing job producing the entire project. The highlights here are "Popeye", "Yes", "Soul Baby", and "Cali G's".

*Good To Be Home (2014)

-I am inclined to say that this album is the best work Blu has ever released. I stand by that statement because this is one of the very few flawless "double" albums that has no drop off in quality. Honestly, I wish I could write a full length article on this album because it is simple yet masterful. That's always been my thing with Blu and his music anyways. It was always straight to the point but excellent in execution and Good To Be Home is no exception. An album that is soulful yet aggressive and rugged while still being honest and vulnerable at times, Blu sounds comfortable on this album, and it reigns as the most concise work in his career next to Below The Heavens. With a large supporting cast that includes The Alchemist, Prodigy, Oh No, Pac Div, Fashawn, and so many others, Blu delivers some of the best work we have heard from him and to me, he took the crown for the best album of 2014 with this project. With producer Bombay handling all of the beats, the sound is flawless, bringing that soulful sample element that Blu sounds perfect over, resulting in classics like "Bobby Brown", "He Man", "The Return", "The 50Z", "Red & Gold", "Brown Sugar", and many more. Good To Be Home is an excellent album and if you ask me, a classic and Blu's best overall project.

*Blu, M.E.D., and Madlib- Bad Neighbor (2015)

-Most of his career has been collaborative albums and EPs, and while that could get tiring, Blu manages to put himself in spaces where it all works perfectly, or at least close to it. This is another example of things working well for him, as his collab projects with M.E.D. and Madlib are pretty good. This one is actually a bit more crisp than their other work, boasting great features from Anderson Paak, Phonte, Mayer Hawthorne, MF DOOM, and more, with highlights including "Finer Things", "Belly Full", "The Buzz", "Serving", and more. This is a near classic IMO and another addition to the already impressive discography from Blu. 

*Blu and Ray West- Crenshaw Jezebel (2016)

-Blu has made a number of excellent albums over the years and it is entirely possible to miss one or two of them in this article because he has so many projects. However, so far, I think we have covered every one known.... I hope. This is probably the most slept on, as the production is amazing from Ray West and Blu is at his best on the mic. This EP is introspective and soulful/jazzy, and highlights include "Let Me", "Sunday Cartoons" and "Midnight Blues". Every time I hear Blu over this type of production, he crafts a near flawless release and this is another one that if it was a little bit longer, it could be another classic under his belt.

*Blu and Nottz- Titans In The Flesh (2016)

-Nottz is one of the most underrated producers in hip hop, and Blu is the most underrated artist in the genre, at least in terms of those who had visibility at one point. When the two combined previously for a project, it flowed rather smoothly, so why not try it again? The two connect once again for this hard hitting EP that features appearances by Skyzoo, Bishop Lamont, Exile, and more with standout tracks like "Giant Steps", "To The East", "The Man", and "Heaven On Earth". Overall, this is a solid EP that leaves you wanting more like most Blu projects.

*Blu and Union Analogtronics- Cheetah In The City (2016)

-Working with a production duo from Paris, Blu adds yet another project under his belt to add to his ridiculous catalog, with some highlights coming from this. I'll be honest, this project is far from one of my favorites, but it is slightly experimental at times and allows Blu to have some fun musically. As far as the best tracks, I would have to say "LA Counting", "City Dreams", and "Sunny" are the standout tracks, but through the 13 song tracklist, there are multiple gems.

*Blu and Fate- Open Your Optics To Optimism (2016)

-If 2011 was the busiest year of his career, then 2016 is right behind it as another busy year, because Blu put his name back in hip hop conversations with the releases and collaborative albums and EPs he released this year. This particular album was short but sweet, and it features some solid production from Fate while Blu brings some of his best rhymes to the table. The highlights on this 9 song album include "His Story", "Cosmophobia", and "Oblivia", all of which have cinematic elements to them and adds a dimension to the project. Blu shines bright here and Fate stakes his claim as a producer you should be watching for.

*Blu and Exile- In The Beginning: Before The Heavens (2017)

-Very rarely are there prequels to classic albums being released, but Blu and Exile managed to release just that last year to a small buzz. It is surprising more people weren't discussing this project, but it is very solid from start to finish. The production is smooth and Blu seems hungry lyrically on these unreleased tracks, as it captures the essence of where Blu was a whole 10 to 11 years ago. The highlights are "Another Day", "Soul Provider", "Back To Basics", and "Life Is A Gamble". Hopefully Blu and Exile have something new cooking up in the studio soon. The hip hop genre definitely could use some new Blu and Exile music.

*Blu, M.E.D., and Madlib- The Turn Up (2017)

-If Blu and Madlib want to make projects together forever, then by all means, please do so. This one isn't as special as their last two releases, as it is a very short EP, but it does at least provide fans with some new Blu music to vibe with. The short but sweet EP features tracks like "Even Though" and "Wonderful", but we can only hope this is an appetizer for a much larger dish in the near future.

*Blu and Shafiq Husayn- The Blueprint (2018)

-So, Blu has yet another project and it dropped this year. I wasn't the biggest fan of this when I heard it honestly, but it was enjoyable in spurts. I think Blu sometimes is a bit overzealous and some of his projects either feel rushed or done rather quickly. Perhaps neither of those were the case here, but this mixtape doesn't hit as hard as the work he has done in the past. There are highlights, like "Red Hot LA", "1 9 8 3", "C.O.L.O.R.S", and more, but compared to the other projects on this article, this is probably in the lower tier of his work. Regardless, Blu's next work and his next official album will likely be a classic so the fans patiently await for the next one, or at least the next announcement.


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