Minority Report: Mixtapes

Clause 23 of Section 6 of Article 84 of the Hip-Hop Doctrine duly states, “If a rapper releases a 7 song EP in which only 3 of the songs feature rap lyrics, it is completely acceptable for fans to respond with outrage and/or denunciation of said rapper’s career.”

Being the ascetic Confucian that I am, I find it absolutely against my nature to contest anything in the Hip-Hop Doctrine, but in the case of Amnesia, the latest EP from critically acclaimed West Coast rapper Blu, even I must say that our founding fathers (Tupac, Nas, Ghostface and Timbaland) are sometimes wrong.

Despite being a mere 16 minutes long and featuring only 7 minutes of lyrics, Amnesia is quite far from something that should be met with outrage and scorn (unlike the Black Eyed Peas’ Superbowl Performance). The first song is “Amnesia,” a jazzy track in which Blu concurrently describes and questions who he is. He executes this beautiful paradox by using Billie Holiday’s classic song “Am I Blue” as a sample. Is Blu really “Busting chrome grills off at these soft hearted breakbeats bouncing with 808’s and gray ink” or is he just making words rhyme? In fact? Who is Blu? Is he sad or something? I’m not sure. Even he doesn’t seem to know the answer.

The listener is given more time to ponder Blu’s existential crisis on the track immediately following “Amnesia,” which happens to just be the instrumental to “Amnesia.” Although the decision to place the instrumental of the song directly after the song could be seen as an indicator of Blu’s lack of songs to include on the EP or just poor album construction, I got the feeling that that was not the case. Being able to experience the pure instrumental directly after the actual song was actually quite sublime. Not only was I given more time to reflect on the lyrics of the actual song, but I also found myself even further submerged into the EP’s Nolan-esque theme of amnesia: “Did I not just hear this? Why does it sound different?”

The Amnesia continues with the song, “Amnesia (Remind),” which also samples Holiday’s aforementioned song. In this song, again sampling Holiday’s, “Am I Blue” and rapping over an  instrumental that is noticeably more sprightly and allegro than the original song, Blu nostalgically extols a former lover, showering her with compliments and reflecting on how good she made him feel. Nevertheless, he ends the song with the lyrics, “One thing about real love: it’s worth seeking./ What’s the point in cheating if it’s something worth keeping?/ She asked why I did it. I ain’t really have a reason./ But it’s something ‘bout her grin that had me ch-ch-cheesin.” Again, Blu cannot account for his actions and is uncertain if they were even “his.”

Upholding the precedent set by the first song and instrumental pair, Blu has “Amnesia (Remind)” proceeded by its instrumental, again giving the listener the opportunity to experience amnesia, that strange yet familiar rabbit hole.

Blu emerged on the scene back in 2007 with his classic album, Below the Heavens. With the exception of some very memorable verses on The Roots’ last album, How I Got Over, much of his work since his debut has actually been below the heavens. Very far below the heavens. Thus, if his work with The Roots was evidence that he had found his wings, then this EP is evidence that he is learning to fly again. Join him in his ascent by picking up Amnesia. It’s only 6 bucks, yo. If that’s out of your budget, at least go watch Memento.