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The Blue released “The People’s Champ” & told us why Shad is his favourite rapper

Calgary, AB – Calgary artist The Blue is back from his hiatus with the release of his latest single titled “The People’s Champ” (produced by Brandon Taylor).

The Blue and I go way back. One of the first articles I ever wrote for HipHopCanada way back in 2013 was an ‘On Our Radar’ interview piece with the guy. At the time he was only 16 years old and was fresh off some Internet buzz due to his “Loose Laces” collaboration with Transit.

“The People’s Champ” is a classic track by The Blue. It’s got his signature upbeat optimism that I’ve always found to be comparable to Shad. As I took in a first listen of the track, my initial thought was “This sounds like Shad with a bit of Chance The Rapper.” Funnily enough, a few moments later The Blue delivered this line on the track: “Favourite rapper?/ Man you know it’s Shad/ And Chance the Rapper second after that.”

The Blue - There You Go ft. Transit & Emily Ripley (Prod. Makemdef) [Audio] -

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know The Blue as the dope human being that he is. He’s been busy at school at the University of Lethbridge so he hasn’t had a ton of time to dedicate to his craft. So imagine my surprise when out of the blue (pun fully intended), I received this song in my inbox today.

True story: the reason The Blue and I ended up eventually becoming friends was because we went to the same Shad show at Sled Island a few years ago and wound up on the C-Train talking about rap afterwards. We broke down Shad’s Flying Colours album.

So it’s such a nice surprise to see The Blue back in the rap game. I caught up with him to chat about Shad’s influence on his music, as well as how this song all came together and what we can expect to see from The Blue in the future (spoiler alert: he hated his last project so he’s cooking up a new one). Check it out below.

Q&A: The Blue

HipHopCanada: So you been on hiatus for a minute. What was that all about? I also noticed you revamped/wiped SoundCloud and this track is going up as the only track on your SoundCloud.

The Blue: Yeah, I definitely took a a long hiatus. The last time I posted on Facebook for The Blue was back on December 31. I realized that in my attempts to put out music and stay relevant, I was putting out more and more sub par songs that were just hurting my sound overall. I decided to just relax, low-key write and record songs while focusing on school more – and work on something that would better define me. I was seriously unhappy with Ten Thousand Ways because I rushed it in every aspect. There were songs that were not mixed well and songs I could have written better verses for. I wiped the Soundcloud as a way to show people what I’m really about with the new music.

HipHopCanada: Walk me through the idea behind this track and how it all came together.

The Blue: Brandon Taylor sent me the beat and it was a nice change and sounded more like the type of music I would do. Ten Thousand Ways was filled with songs on beats that were far from my sound. I also wanted to make a basically upbeat song that was just borderline full of myself; but level headed in some way at the same time. The project that I’m working on involves features from a lot of people I met at the University Of Lethbridge and artists from Calgary. I’ve also been performing with my now nine-piece band. We sold out one of the U of L venues at 240. I eventually called this “The People’s Champ” because – not trying to take too much credit – I brought all these people together to work on this project. And we’ll try to push it to the people by the people and get our sound around more. I was leading this project so I referred to myself as “The People’s Champ.”

HipHopCanada: Your cadence has matured so much. Have you been working on that? How have you been working on that? Your rhymes are way tighter and you stay on the beat now.

The Blue: I’ve really just been taking time with each song and trying to give them [sounding] more than recited lines over beats. I spent like one month writing and recording, one and three more sitting over it ’til I liked it. Sadly, I didn’t back up everything for the project (trying to keep it as close to home as possible – not smart) and my computer’s hard drive ate it so we’ve just been re-recording everything (making it better).

HipHopCanada: Tell me about the Shad and Chance The Rapper influences you reference in the song. What importance do those two artists have in your influence and how you’ve approached your artistry?

The Blue: Shad is my favorite rapper – hands down – and people nowadays (usually because they don’t know or listen to him) tend to not understand. Outside music, he’s just chill and kind of a low-key do-normal-people things kind of guy (from what I can tell). In music, he is always on point with his lyrics and manages to deliver not just conscience rhymes but also witty, fun lines as well. He also stays very current. Most people tend to stick to one side and either be turn up or super conscious. He has a part in a verse where he says “Who else spitting the most urgent/ Most soul-searching perfectly dope verses and no curses?” That sums it up perfectly for me. Chance the Rapper is second for me because of the creativity that he brings to his songs. I also seriously enjoy the fact that he has a whole live band that he performs with which is what I’m doing too. It’s harder for sure trying to manage it but he makes it work.

HipHopCanada: Tell me the story behind how The Fugees made you want to rap.

The Blue: When I was seven years old, my uncle played some music in the car when I was spending the day with him and it was The Fugees. It was the first rap I had ever heard and I was immediately captivated. I specifically enjoyed Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean, not to discredit Pras. He was sick but I just enjoyed Lauryn and Wyclef more probably because they played a more central role in terms of the rapping. My uncle taught me the basics to rap. He had me reciting the Fresh Prince theme song and so on. Although I didn’t really start LISTENING to rap ’til I was like 13 or 14, The Fugees (along with Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill’s solo projects) were the only rap I listened to (with a little Outkast here and there).

HipHopCanada: I totally think you told me this story the first time I interviewed you. So are you back for good? Is more music coming this summer?

The Blue: I’m definitely here to stay. Haha. Just thought I needed a breather and time to make good music. Hopefully you agree it’s good music. I eluded talking about the project to mention it at the end. I was originally going to call it “The People’s EP” and put it out for free as a way to just have music that is always accessible for people to just grab. As I got more and more beats, I decided to make an album because I thought I could do something that washed my hands of Ten Thousand Ways. As for production, there are only four producers on this project: Mt. Aspen, my friend from uni and one of my guitarists. He was a heavy influence on the production of this project. He produced seven out of twelve songs and redid one so he worked on eight out of the twelve songs. [The second is] Brandon Taylor. He was on TTW but we were just two Calgary artists who did a track together. He hit me up with a few beats for the album. He produced three of the twelve songs for the project. I invited him down to Lethbridge to perform at my once-a-semester show I started called “That Party Last Night”. That was the 240 one. We became better friends and now he’s re-recording, mixing, and mastering the project. [The third producer is] Christian Rode, one of my friends for the last five or six years. He’s really good at what he does and production wise, could be a Kanye. He produced one song. [The final producer is] Makemdef; no intro needed. Haha. He produced one song with a smooth saxophone sample. The drums were pretty washy though so I gave the stems to Mt. Aspen and he made it a whole new experience. Now the project is The People’s Album and I’m planning for a July release. Twelve songs. Nine features. The songs still push for different styles but in my own way. I have a song called “Waves” on it that is very dance pop sounding but I found one that I enjoy as opposed to forcing it to sound like how a normal pop song would sound.

Twitter: @thebluexo

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Sarah Jay

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Sarah Jay is based in Calgary and works as a freelance journalist and photographer. Sarah is also a former A&R talent scout for the Universal Music Scouting Program, and runs a vintage store during the day. Sarah has juried the JUNO Awards, The Polaris Music Prize, and The Prism Prize. She has been fortunate enough to interview and photograph some of hip-hop's greatest influencers including Future, ScHoolboy Q, Ghostface Killah, Moka Only, Maestro Fresh Wes, Shad, Joey Bada$$, Mac Miller, and more. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @ThisIsSarahJay

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