Johnson Barnes III, better known as Blu, is a prolific rapper and record producer hailing from Los Angeles. With a career spanning over a decade, he’s become renowned for his laid-back style and sagacious writing. He rose to prominence with the critically acclaimed 2007 album Below The Heavens – a collab with producer Exile – which Pitchfork recently dubbed, “an enchanting hip-hop classic with an almost mythological history.”

In recent years, Blu has continued to showcase his versatile creativity. His 2019 collaboration with Oh No, A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night, got into the gritty realities of LA’s underground life, and earned praise for its vivid storytelling and cohesive production. In 2021, Blu released the EP For Sale produced by Sirplus, followed by The Color Blu(e), a concept album that marked his first multi-producer project since 2013. This ambitious record features the word “Blu(e)” in every song title.

Blu’s collaborative spirit has led him to work with esteemed producers such as Madlib, Nottz, and Union Analogtronics. His music, deeply rooted in his LA origins, continues to endure with fans worldwide, with standout albums such as Her Favorite Colo(u)r and Miles. Since the 2015 release of Bad Neighbor with Madlib and M.E.D., he’s embraced his role as a lyrically rich everyman who weaves relatable anecdotes with intricate wordplay and rhyme schemes.

His recent work, particularly the 2023 album Bad News with Real Bad Man, shows his ability to blend jaunty battle raps with everyday reflections, supported by eclectic beats. Tracks like “The Hurt” highlight his introspective side and poetic precision. Whether trading bars with longtime collaborators or exploring themes of faith and personal growth, Blu has solidified his reputation as an innovative and influential figure in hip-hop.