Why is Blueface called Blueface

Blueface from Los AngelesPothole rap - on purpose

Sascha Ziehn: Los Angeles-based Blueface is currently the most controversial figure in American rap. In his early twenties he is the great innovator for some, for others just an amateur who knows how to make good money as an Internet phenomenon. This is his biggest hit so far, "Thotiana". And now his official debut album "Find The Beat" is out, and our hip-hop man, Axel Rahmlow, has been following the discussion about Blueface. Beautiful good day!

Axel Rahmlow: Hello!

Rap next to the beat

Pull: What is so controversial about this whole discussion and this Blueface character?

Rahmlow: We just heard that pretty well. Blueface always sounds like it's not really on time. So like he can't really keep up with the flow of the beat. Or whether he's just talking too fast, you sometimes ask yourself, regardless of the tempo of the music. At the end of the day, the impression I always get is that he stumbles over the beat a bit. You have to imagine it a bit like on a balance bike, but that doesn't match your own speed. But in this case that is fully intended and the term for it is off-beat rap, i.e. rapping next to the beat. It's actually a kind of deadly sin in rap - it doesn't hit the beat. That has always been a devastating judgment, and I notice it in myself, for example. That bothers me very often, when there is no harmony in rap for me, when it bumps. My term for this is always pothole rap.

On the other hand, you have to say that you hit the beat, it's such an integral part of rap that it's almost dogmatic, because it's clearly stated what is good and what is not, what is in harmony and what is not . And Blueface deliberately breaks with this basic rule. And because he is also successful with it, it is discussed so passionately and so controversially.

Pull: Yes, what would you say? Is he more of an innovator and has really tickled something really new out of hip-hop, or is he just an amateur who can't rap?

Rahmlow: So, especially on the American west coast, there have always been rappers who rapped off-beat as their own stylistic device. But no one has done it as consistently and as permanently as Blueface. And in this consistency, as a stylistic device and not as an accident, I have to say, it is really innovative. And it's also brave because it deliberately offends many rap fans. If, for example, I can really get involved, then there is something very rough about it, something unpolished, something new actually.

On the verge of caricature

Now if I look at the rest, Blueface is by and large a pretty normal gangster rapper from L.A. He raps about his money, his cars, women, sex, his gangs. He's also a member of a gang, the Crips. This is one of the biggest street gangs in the US; and by the way, their identification color is blue, hence the name Blueface. So he raps about the standard gangster stuff. It's excessive, sexist, it's excessively materialistic. He shows it all in his videos, and of course that sounds like pretty standard rap at first and isn't innovative at all in that sense.

Pull: Is that exactly his formula for success, precisely fulfilling this standard gangster cliché? Or is this off-beat rapping already responsible for the success?

Rahmlow: I think there are two partial factors, and then you have to look together to see that there is another person behind Blueface. And this is Jonathan Porter, and I think he makes it very clear in interviews that this Blueface character is a staged exaggeration, and then there is this rap style, which has always been almost like a cartoon. It's always on the verge of caricature, but never over it. Sometimes his high-pitched voice almost sounds like he's screeching, so more like a cartoon character. That's a point.

Right from the start, he understood how to build a very close fan base via social media, for example through concerts in front of schools. The car roof was then his stage. And a third important point - he doesn't take himself too seriously. An example: The album that is coming now is called "Find The Beat" - and that is of course also a reference to the allegations that he cannot rap to the beat. On the cover he can also be seen as a tin man, like in "The Wizard of Oz", who absolutely wants to have a heart. And for me this is such a symbol that he is already aware of the criticism in himself, but can also make fun of his image. And all of that taken together makes his music less threatening and also makes him as a guy more accessible.

Pull: Does that seem real to you? Or is it a bit fake?

Rahmlow: So when I look at the interviews, it really looks very real to me. There is a slim, friendly guy who laughs a lot in his interviews and who also openly talks about the fact that marketing is very important in order to create a character that is successful. And I think there is also the fact that this authenticity can be derived from his story, because he has only been rapping for two years. Blueface first wanted to become a professional footballer, was very good at it in school, but then couldn't get through at university, and then thought about becoming a hairdresser. And then, or so the story goes, he ended up in a friend's recording studio in L.A. because he had to bring back a cell phone charger. And there he just started rapping and of course only got the leftover beats at the beginning. It was all only two years ago now.

Viral moments thanks to a face tattoo

That's a great story, of course, and there's a symbol he always carries around with him, namely a thick Benjamin Franklin tattoo on the right side of his face. It's supposed to be an obligation to make money with rap, he always says. And, of course, Franklin is a big symbol in the US for the money because he's on the $ 100 bill. That really doesn't look elegant at Blueface. But this tattoo has already caused some viral moments on the net, and of course that fits perfectly with this deliberate exaggeration that Blueface wants to be.