rikki blu

How an up and down two years led Rikki Blu to his debut album, and a piece of salvation.

Rikki Blu is from Pleasant Grove, Texas. It’s Southeast, Dallas if you want to be specific. If you’re going to stretch your knowledge further into demographics, demeanors and more, it’s an area wherein 2015; the most prominent news stories were of crime around the intersection of St. Augustine Drive and Bruton Road. Rikki Blu, for all of his rap breakthroughs, has not wholly left Pleasant Grove. He can’t. The lessons imparted and hardships endured are inked into his skin now. The logo of Dallas rests on top of his right hand. The INFY flag, an emblem that has taken on significant meaning in his life rests near one of his eyelids. So again, the most straightforward identifiers of Rikki Blu, of the Blu family anyway, reside in Dallas.

You speak to his brother Rodney, and he’ll dive deep into the history of the Texas’ metroplex that isn’t Houston. The one that got its subculture and legacy due to the Cowboys, JR Ewing and the oil money that turned college football and the Southwest Conference on its ass. You speak to either of the Blu boys, and they’ll first tell you about their mother, who passed away a few years ago. You talk even more to Rikki, and he’ll pique your mind about his music. That music is mostly about survival, but not in the ashy knuckles kind of way. It’s survival of the breath in every day, exhale out every day and avoid the trappings of the rat race, kind of way.

Rikki Blu makes gorgeous music. There’s evidence of this dating back many years but for a quick refresher, there’s “Flow River” from 2015. It’s part of a longer collection of work, appropriately titled Pleasant Grove. “We did a whole lot with a little bit,” he rapped then. “Stop reaching, you see it? Just be it…”

That mantra stretches into his debut album, You Can’t Make Me. It has existed in an open space for about a week and the main things that come out of it sound well beyond Pleasant Grove. They sound well beyond Dallas for that matter, a toothy collection of records both dipped in Texas blues and optimism.

Knowing the Blu’s, the album starts off right in a moment of solace. Rikki is jovial yet restraining all of his emotions when talking about his mother. He thanks his sister and brother for being his support system and how his mother was right in telling them that the trio was all one another had. The album fidgets a bit between these woozy, crystalline moments and standard chest thump rap and even finds a middle groove on “Life Is Good.” Rikki’s rasp kicks up a notch before settling back down into a relaxed tone, “My n**** had a dream and a legacy / I carry that,” he raps about a friend no longer here.

I’ve spoken to Rikki on numerous occasions, whether it be in regards to music or life in general. There were the days in Los Angeles, trying to piece it all together. There were the times in Dallas when he was back, healtheir and smiling harder than ever. He made glowing records of inspiration such as “Glory” where he saw the light through his dimly lit tunnel. “A n**** need a rebate for all of the days / All of the days that I didn’t have wage / Better match my pace,” he rapped then. It set off in motion a year in which he couldn’t do anything except record and release music. Some of that music has been doxed off the internet but Blu’s passion persists. Those sparring sessions with The House, the Tennessee collective that bore TUT and Isaiah Rashad got us here. Dallas, always did.

His peers rapped about their despair from a tight clench; a defensive hold that acknowledged and did very little to slip away. Blu did the same, slick nods to taking Xanax to chase the demons away but also reckoning. He got cleaner and it showed in his ethic and music. “Reign,” with its plodding yet parade procession drumline announces who Rikki believes he is. “I’m your brother, I’m your cousin, I’m the black homie / Pardon my ignorance, what do you rap about?” The mantra continues to live around chunky drums and progressive chords for “Diabetes” where “ain’t shit sweet” turns into a refrain for life. When his debut comes to a close, he presses forward without looking. “N****s be liars for dollars,” he says of other rappers frauduently carrying on. “Don’t ask me my opinion, I think most of them suck.”

Perhaps the crux of You Can’t Make Me revolve around what make Rikki Blu, lanky black man from Dallas with a dream and a passion him. “Bruton Bazaar” figures around that same stretch of street that lives in infamy in South Dallas. It also ties together because Blu and Inftry Damier combined to make Bam, their son who proudly is seeing chewing his fingers on the album’s cover. It’s a dance between the two even as chaos exists all around them. There’s no boiling their love and power down to a single adjective. Together, they made one another bigger and stronger.

You Can’t Make Me serves as a debut album where being loss was a necessity. No matter how many people have come in and out of Rikki’s life, there are those that stick. It’s about family with him. His salvation exists in his young son with who is helping mold him into a man. It also lies within his fiancé and his siblings. Most importantly, it comes passed down from his mother, who taught him game and lessons and in his words, he “will never stop singing her praises.” Rikki wasn’t fighting for closure from his bruises and sleepless nights looking for somewhere to lay his head. He was looking for the here and now. Forget trying to please every aspect of your past. The only convincing Rikki Blu needs from here and beyond? That he’s doing right by Bam and his people.

Let the rest fall as it may.

You Can’t Make Me is available now on iTunes.