Keyah/Blu is in a lane of her own
London’s musical underground is a tapestry of inventive new artists, constantly collaborating and developing new mutations of genre together; Keyah/Blu is an essential thread.
Perhaps best known – thanks to a COLORS session with well over half a million views – for her work with the Warp-signed Denzel Himself, Blu has developed a unique sound among the UK’s new school of neo-soul artists, a scattered experimental take on the genre that occasionally veers into the world of experimental electronic music. Her latest single Choker is a half-sung half-rapped act of genre-defiance with a brooding, skeletal beat; a stark contrast to the honey-soaked tones of her break out track Sweet.
We caught Keyah/Blu in London to find out what the future holds.
Describe your sound in one sentence
A bit of a grey area, with splashes of like purple and yellow. Or blue. Depends how I feel really.
Who are your artistic icons?
Right now probably Frank Ocean and Tirzah. I don’t have any all-time icons. Different artists inspire me at different times for different reasons. Just depends where my heads at. I’d say my mum’s an artistic icon of mine. She made an EP that I listened to from I was about nine years old that I guess ultimately led me here.
What inspires you to make music?
I more or less just write how I feel. It’s all pretty self-centred, but I can’t be the only one that feels this stuff can I? I write in hope that someone can relate and find some solace in knowing someone, somewhere on the planet feels the same way.
What’s your biggest passion outside of music?
Constantly trying to refine myself and be a better person in whatever ways I can… Joking, it’s probably weed.
(Top) Keyah/Blu wears Charli Cohen. (Bottom) Keyah/Blu wearsMoschino & Roberto Cavalli c/o Serotonin
What do the next six months have in store for you?
The bag. More blessings, more music, hopefully, a little holiday if I work hard enough.
Most people’s first contact with your work will have been your track with Denzel Himself -how did that collaboration come about?
Synchronicity and mutual respect. Denzel and I have been collaborating for a few years now, and it was sort of just one of those things that happened and worked off the bat. It wasn’t until we did COLORS that I deeped how many people were actually gonna hear it.
(Right) Keyah/Blu wears Steven Tai. (Left) Keyah/Blu wears GentleMonster
Your latest release is Choker what was the inspiration behind it?
I made the beat for Choker about a year ago when I first started producing. I was just messing around on logic at the time and saved the project as “Choker” because I had just broken my favourite choker and I’m really lazy and bad at naming songs. I was in a weird place and was just feeling like I was coming off as a bitch for being myself and having imperfections, so I wrote the verse, and then a couple of days later I recorded the vocal, and that was that I kinda just left it.
I only went back to it a few months ago and was like ‘ah this is actually kinda cool; I wanna shoot a video for it about being trapped (or choked) by yourself, and then you break free’. The inspiration for that was drawn from the fact that the song is about being yourself and the title, which I felt reluctant to change, infers not only an item of jewellery but a mechanism that stops you from receiving oxygen. You can’t be your best self if you’re being choked.