Release Date: Mar 26, 2013
Record label: Nature Sounds
As with every year, 2011 offered its share of challenging hip-hop artists, the champion of whom became Digable Planets alumni Butterfly’s long-hyped project Shabazz Palaces. But the year’s truly difficult release spent so long brewing under the surface in a milieu of misdirection and broken promises that it seems addressing it a month after its release is still yet too soon. NoYork! challenges anyone who’s only cursorily familiar with California MC Blu’s past work, and if you happened to take an interest in him, you may as well strap on a helmet before you queue up NoYork! because you’re in for a very bumpy ride.
After a well-received debut album (2007’s Exile-produced Below the Heavens) and a placement on XXL’s annual star-making “Top 10 Freshmen List” paid off in a major label deal with Warner Bros, Los Angeles rapper Blu plotted a career trajectory that seemed to run counter to that of an artist working to infiltrate hip-hop’s mainstream. He didn’t pine for the A-lister referrals and feature circuit ubiquity that lubricate the most well-oiled artist rollouts. He didn’t hobnob with hitmakers or kowtow to the will of radio.
Since the success of his collaboration with producer Exile, Below the Heavens, Blu has steadily maintained his place in hip-hop with several independently released projects. Indeed, York was originally leaked on the Internet a couple of years back and never saw its intended major label release. This is the L.A. MC's deluxe version of the project, embracing Blu's undeniable desire to push hip-hop to its limits.
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.