Audio Mixer: Ken Bts.
Recording information: Los Angeles; Mt Washington; New York; Philadelphia.
On his own, without his DJ sidekick Exile, Blu went all out for his fearlessly exploratory NoYork! album. With four alternate covers appropriated from other sources (this one looks remarkably similar to Cut Copy's Zonoscope; others include a cityscape, a photo of pyramids, and a snapshot of a young Snoop Dogg), a total of 17 guest vocalists, and a who's-who of hot producers (including Madlib, Flying Lotus, Daedelus, and Samiyam), his 2011 album is an overwrought monster. The name of the album references the fact that Blu is opting to move away from the traditional east coast hip-hop beats built from jazz and soul samples, and focusing on the cutting-edge production surfacing from the L.A. underground. It's far from traditional west coast fare, full of spacy sci-fi funk, and futuristic, fractured video game beats that provide the backdrop for abstract, winding, left-field rhymes. In other words, backpack rap. Listeners willing to pull out a shovel and dig through the layers are bound to find something new each time they listen, but for most newbies, a simpler album would be a better starting point, especially considering that in the three years prior to this album, Blu hit his creative stride, releasing a total of seven albums and mixtapes (specifically: Below the Heavens, A Day Late & a Dollar Short, Johnson & Jonson, The GODlee Barnes, The Piece Talks, Her Favorite Colo(u)r, Open/O'Pen, and BeSene), so there is no shortage of options. If an album could be considered a success based solely on ambition, this would be a masterpiece, but as it stands, there are so many frills and guests clouding up the scenery that it's hard to place Blu's voice among all the mess. Too bad, because after producing for a spell, the rapper is back in full effect and inspired. ~ Jason Lymangrover