I first heard about the Chicago-based music artist Blu Bone from a performance artist friend in Los Angeles. At the time, they insisted Blu Bone was the it boy on the rise with their unique melange of ballroom and hip-hop and I immediately agreed after tracking down his INTO NEBULA EP on Soundcloud.
Less than a year later, I traveled to the Chicago’s West Loop to meet them for a photoshoot.
During our shoot, we spoke about food (we both skipped breakfast), our respective ambitious undertakings, and the tender angelic vocals of Kelela’s latest: Take Me A_Part. From walking in an Ib Kamara runway show, to walking his category at the balls, to performing at Red Bull Music Festival in Chicago on the night of our photoshoot, Blu Bone is the multidisciplinary artist you need to know about.
In the days following our shoot, we caught up over the phone ahead of the one year anniversary of the INTO NEBULA EP.
Navi: How’s it going?
Blu Bone: Good. I’m at the gym. Downloading the body, you know.
N: Downloading, I’ve never heard it phrased that way.
B: It’s a Blu phrase.
N: I’m in LA. It’s sunny. Is it snowing in Chicago?
B: It’s not snowing. The snow is melting but I mean it’s still dreary, gloomy, all of those.
N: What’s the story of Blu Bone?
B: I’m from North Minneapolis. I started off as a visual artist and right now I go to school for film, etc., but I’ve been making music since my freshman year of high school by myself, you know, on GarageBand and putting out little things on SoundCloud. After I graduated high school and went off to college, I started to take music more seriously. I am a visual artist first. I consider myself to be interdisciplinary but that’s my story. I moved to Chicago. I got in touch with the house music scene here and I was put in the right place to do what I wanted to do and to make the kind of music that I wanted to make so it happened like that.
N: How many years have you been performing?
B: I’m been performing for almost 12 years now. I did a lot of experimental theater. I’ve written my own show before. So I have a lot of experience with production. I’ve been performing music now for maybe two years? I might also add I did a film, New Neighbors, that went to the Sundance Film Festival.
N: Looking back, what are some thoughts you have about that project INTO NEBULA, one year later?
B: I had so many thoughts after I had just released it. I am so critical of myself. Like very hard on myself and it became immediately like “What’s the feedback like?” But really, though, after a year, the message here is trust the process, let the art burn. Let the art do its work. There is no rushing. The work is always being responded to. It will be responded to years from now, decades from now, let it do its work. Let it take you where it takes you. And don’t stop working, most importantly. And just be ready. When the work is ready to be received in all its glory, it will let you know. And when it’s ready, you just need to make sure you’re ready. There are some things that of course, like, technically looking back I would change, but really, I’m just like amazed at the growth. Like skill wise, there are so many things that I know I can do better but looking back I think, “Wow, this is still fly.”
N: Tell me about “BQ Militant.” The flow in that is insane and it’s just so good.
B: That’s my most recent release. That was kind of just made as a fun track. I feel like because I’m the type of busy bee where I always have to be doing something, and I also feel pressure around releasing work making sure the girls have a new little beat to shake their ass to. And the thing is, people are asking me like, “OK when’s the next bop?” And [laughs] I’m like “Oh my god, the way you guys want music released nowadays is so crazy.” First, I dropped “FOLLOW BLU B.” About a month or two months after that, I made “BQ Militant.” I work this little administration job doing boring Excel spreadsheet shit and literally the whole time I just play beats and I write rhymes and flows on a little notepad. I stumbled across an instrumental beat from Junior Mafia and ‘Lil Kim and I just started spittin’ and rhymin’ over it and it became “BQ Militant.” With INTO NEBULA, because of some production things, I was more on a commentating format than a rapping format. Like people hadn’t really heard me spit some bars, you know? So with “BQ Militant,” everyone’s kind of like “Oh?” and I’m like “Yeah. I write. I write for real for real.” My pen is very dangerous and very hands on.
N: You have a lyric in “BQ Militant” that I love: “All my brown butch queens around the world, grab your cinnamon and do your twirl.” What does a brown butch queen look like?
B: I’m definitely speaking about the butch queens all around the world, you know, because it’s a different position to be this brown, black, beautiful butch queen in this world. It’s like, we aren’t exalted at the rate we should be and lifted up. I’m singing to me. So I just wanted to make a song exalting us, lifting us up. Something about the things that we face, the struggles in our day-to-day lives and experiences.
N: You mentioned that people were asking you for a bop. Do you feel any pressure to create at other people’s pace or create in abundance?
B: I don’t know if it’s about releasing music for me as much as are people seeing the world, you know? Am I ever-evolving and creating this world that I want to see? When I’m not doing that, I’m not happy. But that doesn’t always have to be music. That could be film, that could be a performance. There’s many ways I can see myself as an artist and feed my spirit. But as far as the music, I’m learning a new craft, like I’m in a vocal jazz class right now. I’m learning some techniques. Learning some shit. You know, getting my Ella-Fitz on, my Rachelle Ferrell on. I want to learn guitar and I just want to learn my craft, learn my skills and change it up, switch it up. So I’m not in a rush but I’m thinking I would love to have some music in an EP, a collection of songs by next spring. I’m definitely thinking some features before then.
N: Anyone you can confirm now?
N: What’s the ultimate goal for your projects?
B: I feel in conflict with the world as it is. I feel it’s my duty and obligation that my work be dedicated to living the life and making way for the world that I want. When I actualize the world that I want, all of my people can enjoy it with me and feel that world with me. Sometimes I struggle with that: I don’t know if I’m looking for an escape or if I’m looking to tear this shit all the way fucking down. I hope it’s the latter, but sometimes I fear it’s the former. It’s a process. I don’t know if I really have any goals beyond speaking in my highest truth, living my fullest life. I’m not going to let them kill me slowly. That’s how I feel so I utilize my art, my tools, to combat that. Always fighting in this world. I’m far from carefree. Every waking moment. Every catwalk, every duckwalk, every bar I spit out my mouth – there’s a resistance. I think the resistance is with the world that is handed to me. I rebuke that and my art is how I rebuke it. It’s how I pray out the devil, by creating.
N: You were recently featured in the Ib Kamara and Gareth Wrighton NYFW showcase casted by Ms. Boogie.
B: You know, Ib is a lover of my music, my artwork. Ib had heard the song “Icyburg” on my Instagram a year and a half ago and wanted to shoot a video for it. Of course they were based out in London so it’s kind of hard for those things to happen, but we’d always planned to connect. So when he told me he was coming to New York City and wanted me to walk in his show, I was like “OK, I got to get out there.” So I had got my little $300 check from the university and I went right away on skiplagged and I got that little ticket to New York. I stayed at my friends’ cribs and I walked in New York Fashion Week – you know, stayed with my little Jamaican software boyfriend in his little house in Brooklyn. It was kind of fab. It’s always a vibe in New York so I had to go. I mean, Ib is one of the premiere artists to me of today, so it was a complete honor and yes, I will work with Ib a million times over and dance with her a million times over. She’s the best.
N: Jamaican software boyfriend?
B: Well one of my boyfriends – well, he’s kind of cut off now. He’s a software developer. It’s very fab. He has this little cute penthouse in Brooklyn that I usually stay at when I’m out in New York. So, that was cute. He’s on probation at the moment with Blu B.
N: You must be really proud of walking that show.
B: I am. I had those big ass boots on, though, like ah! But I am the king of the big, big boot. So I, of course, I had to be in a big, big boot. They were like “Yo, these boots is everything. You are the daddy of our show” and I was like “Well fuck. You know, I am that.” I was like, I manifested this with these lyrics in my song. So I had pump the boots on the runway, and it was a very fab affair. Scandalous, in the words of Ib Kamara.
N: You mentioned a big highlight for you was the Red Bull Music Festival. How were you feeling on that night? You took a lot of time to prepare for that.
B: I think it was just affirming for me as an artist and just knowing my ability and what I can do. That’s how I was feeling and that night – I was feeling anxious but I was also feeling good. I was feeling kind of prepared but I’m not going to lie to you. I will worry them, I will worry you down.
N: Was there anybody on the lineup you were particularly excited to perform side by side with?
B: As far as artists that I was excited to be on the bill with Kidd Kenn. I think they’re so cute, young little butch queen poppin’ their shit and I just fully support it and endorse it. So I usually see her on Twitter or whatever but when I saw that she was on the bill, I was like “This is fly – we should definitely be on the same bill.” Like “This is perfect.” I definitely already rock with Roy Kinsey, the cool mom, Mister Wallace, KC Ortiz – I already know all of those girls from the scene and music making. But Kidd Kenn, yeah, that was my first introduction to him in the flesh. That was cute.
N: There was a moment at Red Bull Music Festival downstairs, after your performance. You were voguing and Fatima was on the mic.
B: I mean, we opened the show so we had to carry one more time and it’s just what we naturally do. Like me and my bitches, we come through and we carry We storm the floor because that’s the lyrics: Might storm the scene / Or might murk your dreams / clutch all your pearls and your rosaries / Blu B, if you ain’t ever heard of me / might storm the scene but might murk your dreams. We will commentate. We will spit for our lives and that’s just going to be that. It’s always a riot. It always has to be a ki, a cackle.