Yo. I recently did a story on TDE affiliate and solo artist BrainGangBlue, who hails out of Dallas. The story’s probably alright. It endured a heavy load of editing, but it came out the other side intact, I think. Hell, I don’t know. I didn’t read it. You expect me to read my own stuff? How narcissistic do you think I am? This stuff is just therapy, plain and simple.
Below I have attached the original copy of the Blue piece, unedited and uncensored. Perhaps a different truth reveals itself. You be the judge.
What up, Blue?
Not to state the obvious, but in hip-hop there are many different kinds of artists. There are the Sonny Digital’s, producer of “Racks on Racks” and “Same Damn Time”, who “prefer nobody to be in the room while they’re working.” There are the Lex Luger’s, also introverts, who get thrust into the limelight, almost unwillingly, because of their trademark sound. There are the icons, the Jay-Z’s and Kanye’s, whose lives more or less become their art – Kim Kardashian ring any bells? And there are the gangs, like TDE, who resemble something of a modern-day Hells Angels charter. “Nothing matters to TDE except for TDE, to them,” is how one of their affiliates puts it.
That affiliate happens to be producer King Blue, known in his home town of Dallas as Brain Gang Blue, or formerly, as one half of the late band, Sore Losers. Blue, unlike the artists cited above, has not yet been categorized. Despite producing an impressive list of records to date – Kendrick Lamar’s “P&P”, ScHoolboy Q’s “To Tha Beat (F’d Up), Mac Miller’s “Down The Rabbit Hole”, and most recently, Ab Soul’s “Mixed Emotions” – as well as releasing his own solo EP, Numb, for which he produced and rapped on, Blue has not yet settled on a lane. He opts for a wide variety of sounds, from chill daytime television samples to drug-fueled electronic dirges.
For Blue, restlessness, or it’s close cousin, indecision, runs in his veins. Blue’s father, Mr. Blue, enjoyed a brief stint for the Seattle Seahawks, before moving around the Canadian and minor leagues, finally settling in Dallas. It was in Texas that Mr. Blue ran a couple popular nightclubs, quitting to become a personal trainer. So perhaps it is in his father’s mobility that Blue draws his inspiration. In 2007 Blue dropped out of Prairie View A&M University outside of Houston to move to LA. That’s where he hooked up with cousin, Dave Free, A&R, producer, and top dog at TDE. On that first trip Dave introduced Blue to rapper Jay Rock, and they immediately started to bang out tracks: Jay Rock in the studio, Blue in his grandma’s crib out in Canoga Park.
Although the LA gig was a promising start, working on and off for TDE, another opportunity soon presented itself that Blue could not ignore. “When I was young I always made stuff that was ‘progressive’,” admits Blue. “So when Vincent Brown arrived and was like, ‘I want to do something different,’ that was the first time I really felt like I was a part of something new and special.” In 2009, Blue left his grandmother’s house in LA, flat-broke, to form a hip-hop band alongside Brown, called Sore Losers. The Dallas-based band enjoyed considerable success on the blog circuit, and even booked a set at the Sundance Festival, but ultimately fell to an untimely demise in late 2010.
“When we went through that breakup, it killed me,” recalls Blue. “I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I thought I was done making music.” Fortunately, Blue still had his friends out West. In early 2011, after TDE had begun to explode, in the wake of Kendrick’s Section.80, Kendrick and crew invited Blue along for the Texas leg of their nationwide tour. It was at those shows that Blue was able to perform songs off his new Numb EP, and present to the state of Texas his new crew in Brain Gang. “I want to do with Brain Gang what they did with TDE,” says Blue. “JT, Bobby, Cash, and Killa MC [all members of Brain Gang] made me believe I could be a solo artist, so I want to give back to them.” And that’s where Blue is at now, managing his crew and making music as a solo act.
Though he still submits beats to TDE on the side, Blue readily admits that “Mixed Emotions”, his coveted track off Control System, was in fact a beat he had made three years ago. It, he claims, has “nothing to do with [his] current direction”. “I tried to keep the sample simple so any rapper could voice what they had to say, but it’s old, almost three years,” says Blue of the record. What’s more, “MixedByAli gave my production a fuller feel. He gave it a wide, full, sound that was different from the original beat that I had sent him. Ali is a monster. He’s very outside the box with his techniques. He did something on a certain song, and I can’t remember the name of the song right now, with Kendrick, he had Kendrick record two versions of the verse, one with a high pitch, one with a low pitch. At the beginning of the verse he was rapping low and throughout the verse he [Ali] blended in the highs and the lows. I sat behind his shoulder once and watched him do it, and I still couldn’t explain it to you… I think TDE just has… it’s like they’re all in a little laboratory and they just stay there until everything is perfected. They shut themselves down from the rest of the world and make what they want to make, so it doesn’t sound like everybody else. It’s not the new West. It’s them. It’s their thing.” In other words, the TDE cats make music in a self-contained bubble, a straight parallel to their medium, the internet- or rather, the blogs, where you can define yourself however you want… in an existential vacuum.
Apparent pertinence aside, Blue has lots of great wisdom on TDE. From his family ties to Dave Free, to his friendships with the artists, to submitting “jazzy dubstep” records to Kendrick for his upcoming album, Blue is confident enough in his association with TDE to consider himself a “part of the family”. But he also knows where not to put his trust these days. “I want to go solo,” says Blue. “I want to go the Kanye West route.” Not eager to repeat his mistakes, lest he gets burned again, Blue seems to have chosen the icon lane to make his living. He’s done the Sonny Digital approach, failed at making his mark with Sore Losers, and now he’s dabbling in the gang approach (with Brain Gang) as a side racket of sorts. But what Blue really wants to do is become a star. At age 26, he’s finally found his niche… in the hairiest of pursuits: the pursuit of the American Dream.