With Memorial Day over, and clubs now replete with gals in skinny white jeans, L.A. underground hip-hop hero Blu (born Johnson Barnes) showed impeccable timing by releasing a new take on a seasonal classic. Flipping Fresh Prince & Jazzy Jeff's original poppy 1992 track on its head, Blu teamed up with studio wizard Bombay and layed out a grittier-but-somehow smoother take of the original hit "Summertime." This is what the song would have sounded like if meant for the streets and not the Billboard charts.
The rap icon has avoided mainstream success but receives much admiration from hip-hop purists near and far, performing this Sunday at Speakeasy in Lake Worth, here's his Will Smith remake.
The sample, taken from Kool and the Gang's 1974 hit "Summer Madness," sounds lifted straight from vinyl. We can hear the needle hitting the record if we zone in on it hard enough. Bombay gives the track a laid back feel, with much more emphasis on the soulful vocals and horns. Arima Ederra sings a Motown inspired hook, making this track jazzier than Jazzy Jeff could, for sure. Bombay shows a style that is timeless, and hard to pin down, with old school odes and a West Coast groove.
Bombay was a relative unknown until handpicked by Blu for his next project, an album called Good to B Home. By all accounts it looks like it'll released this fall. Information about the new record has been slowly leaking via the web since last September. It will be Blu's seventh record, and as the insightful spitter with an enigmatic reputation has said in the few interviews he grants, it's his best work to date.
You may have not heard of Blu, that's OK. His most famous work was his debut, 2007's Below the Heavens, for which HipHop DX named him "Rookie of the Year." Our sister paper, the Village Voice, called the album, "one of the most thoughtful indie-rap releases in some time."
Blu is a thinking man's hip-hop star for sure. Following in vein of Common with rhymes that are provoking and arresting, more so than they are radio friendly. Common had a longstanding underground career, with solid street cred, but was able to branch out to the masses. That's something Blu has never done. And some would say, it may be by choice.
Getting Blu to play SoFla is another huge get for local hip-hop blog and host of this event, Golden Underground and Lake Worth label Footwork4Self. They teamed up previously to bring Del the Funky Homosapien to town, knocking it out of the park with Del, a sell-out four times over, from what we heard. Checking by the Facebook invite for the event, they are well on their way, yet again.
Blu performs live with Phil Sebastian, Glocky Davis, Croosh, Chris Morris, and DJ Nuez, 9 p.m., Sunday, June 2, at Speakeasy Lounge, located at 129 N. Federal Hwy., Lake Worth. Tickets cost $15.