Blu is an enigmatic anomaly; A tongue-twisting lyricist that fire rhymes with silky smooth precision and spiritually in tune with his metaphors. Initially making buzz with 2007’s Below The Heavens and earning a spot on XXL’s 2009 Freshmen List, he has made inscrutable career decisions immediately not following up with another full length. Instead he bounced around creating projects on his own accord, from the elegant Her Favorite Colo(u)r EP and a plethora of unmixed material that makes it difficult to listen to. Surely he marches to the beat of his own drum, opting to choose analog over a mainstream prominence.
So when he was prepping to release then NoYork! out of Warner Bros., he mysteriously departed from the label and advance copies were disturbed in 2011. Between that timeframe, he continued to move in a puzzling fashion re-releasing the official follow up to Below The Heavens, Flowers with Exile (who also produced the entirety of BTH). Eventually, his shelved Warner Bros. debut resurfaced under the Nature Sounds tag and a new name,York! As the two previous albums are clear departures sonically, Blu is at his most vibrant lyrically in quite some time.
Featured as his take on Electronic Hip-Hop, Blu slashes away with wordplay over the glitches and 8-bit sparkles that represent the production. Flying Lotus, DiBia$e, Daedelus, and Samiyam handles most of wiry sounds here and Johnson Barnes finds a way to mold into the eclectic synths and looping claps of “Doin’ Nothin’”. A remix of the track is featured at the end of the album, with Pac Div, TiRon, Ayomari, and Jack Davey providing a new West flavor. He pays tribute to the pioneers of Hip-Hop on “Everybody Nose” and “SLNGBNGRS” is what listeners will find in Super Mario if he powered up using graffiti instead of mushrooms.
Not all of it is gold as many of the video game replica sounds can become nauseating. “Everything OK” is as has Jack Davey singing over a hypersonic crash of beeping and static feedback, creating nothing more but a headache as it fades quickly to Blu’s rapping. Blu even manages to approach a valiant but cheesy take of being the hard-working labor man on “Hours”, bouncing from a sing-song melody to a Gil Scott- Heron impression. It becomes one of those cases where an artist experiments way too hard on left-field aesthetics and fall short.
Some of the best material comes at the latter half of the album, which actually comes in the form of earlier Blu songs fans are familiar with. From the Sa-Ra trifecta of “Spring Winter Summer Fall”, “Down Earth”, and “My Sunshine” gives soulful vibes that boast in the vein of his Exile collaborations. The standout “Ronald Morgan” is absent on the CD release, but present on the Vinyl, highlighted by an incredible Edan verse.
With York!, Blu stays true to himself and his aloof behavior by making an album that shows a wide range of dexterity. While this may not be the first album to present to listeners attempting to get into him, it satisfies longtime fanatics with his abstract songwriting and forward thinking.