YOU GO GIRL (BLU CANTRELL)!
(Aug. 16, 2001) Blu Cantrell has already made a name for herself in this seemingly overcrowded stable of new stars on the horizon. The Atlanta-based beauty has given us a taste of what can be expected on So Blu with her hot debut single, "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)." The single which was written and produced by hitmaker Dallas Austin, is making major inroads at urban and crossover radio stations across the country. The song, accompanied by a hot video directed by Wayne Isham, is also experiencing heavy television play.
by Audrey J. Bernard
Although "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)" is a upbeat head-nodder, the message is not! The song showcases the wrath of her emotion -- the feelings of a woman too-often scorned. She makes it very plain that she's one woman that you don't want to mess with!
"This song is about a woman who has found out that her man is cheating," Blu explains. "She knows that the only way she can really hurt him is in his pocket, so she goes out and spends all his money with her friends." As the song goes, "Hey ladies, when your man wanna get buck wild/Just go back and him 'em up style/Put your hands on his cash and spend it to the last dime/for all the hard times."
The 25 year-old R&B singer was discovered by Arista's president & CEO Antonio "L.A." Reid who recognized her star quality upon hearing her sing. Reid recognized that she possessed a distinctive, exceptionally beautiful and heartfelt voice, and that she had the capacity to become a huge success.
"Blu's 'Till I'm Gone' brought out feelings that I hadn't felt for a very long time," Reid admits. "Her voice seemed to satisfy that yearning in my soul, not only for a great singer, but also for a sound that I felt as missing in today's music. Blue is that sound. Blu is that soul. Blue is that artist."
After listening to Cantrell -- who comes to Arista via Atlanta's RedZone Entertainment -- its hard to believe that someone so beautiful and so young could be so spiteful. But after listening closely to her wrenching lyrics, you gloat in knowing that now it's the man's time to cry.
When you listen to the painfully beautiful "Till I'm Gone" you are reminded of how hurtful her romance was. It is very autobiographical in nature and content and the centerpiece of the album. "'Till I'm Gone' means a lot to me because it was the first song I recorded (with Tricky and Tab)," she avers. "I was at the peak of my pain. Everything I was feeling at that time went into that song."
So Blu is a Cantrell production. She has co-written most of the tracks as it weaves a story of a woman who has sojourned through the bowels of a hell filled with emotional stress.
It was very important for her to select the right men to put these feelings to music. Although she might have had a bad time selecting the right man for her, she had no problems selecting the right producers to put her pain in words. Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Dallas Austin, Laney Stewart, Don Vito and Jason Rome got the calling and, unlike her lovers, did not let her down! The sultry album was executive-produced by A&R exec and co-writer Tab, producer Tricky and L.A. Reid.
Blu shared many life experiences with Tab and Tricky. She had to open up to them in order for them to write about things that made her happy and things that saddened her on her wobbly road to love. Sessions with these guys emptied her soul allowing them free access to her likes and dislikes.
"They wouldn't just write a track and go right on to the next one," Blu fondly remembers. "They would actually sit down and talk to me, getting to know where I was coming from as a person."
Blu fondly recalls her childhood in Providence, Rhode Island, and her early on influences -- Billie Holiday, Sade, Kim Burrell, Karen Clark, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Sting, Prince, and Arista labelmates Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston.
"My mother was a jazz singer. She couldn't afford a babysitter, so whenever she would sing, she would take us (Blu and her siblings) with her and we would sit in the dressing room. I would usually make my way out to the stage to watch her sing."
Blu continued her musical journey on the advent of adulthood and found soothing music medicine for her pain. "My music comes from hurt, from being in relationships where I felt I was taken advantage of," she admits. "I was in love, but the relationships didn't work out."
During a visit to Atlanta, Blu met RedZone Entertainment executives Tab and C. "Tricky" Stewart. After listening to her demo they immediately formed a creative relationship that has become engagingly stronger during the years. Like others before her, Blu sang background vocals, both in the recording studio and onstage, for some of today's biggest R&B and hip-hop artists, including Faith Evans, Puff Daddy, Gerald Levert and Aaron Hall.
Listening to an album sampler, I was shattered by Blu's bigger than life talent. As a woman, I felt her pain as I too have loved and lost. "Ten Thousand Times," about a woman who is reluctant to give in to love, spoke to my earlier flirtations with love thanks to RedZone songwriter/producer Laney Stewart who penned this one.
Another stunningly beautiful song, "I'll Find A Way," was co-written and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis -- two men who know a lot about love. Other standouts include "It's Alright," "Killing Me," "The One," "U Must B Crazy," and "Waste My Time" (featuring L.O.).
Now as to those of you who are thinking that the last thing you want to listen to is another woman's pain, you're wrong 'cause Blu shares her pain in a way that will make you proud to be a woman and to all the men that have hurt her, look who's laughing now!
"I think you can feel the pain I've experienced in my music," she says. "It's something that a lot of people can relate to. You can hear the hurt in my voice and I think a lot of people have gone through that kind of pain."
How does the saying go, "Better to have love and lost, than not to have loved at all." And with So Blu, had Cantrell not gone through this pain, than there would be nothing to sing about and we would have missed out on a truly fabulous love lost and found and lost again.