Blu and Roy Royal are slick and soulful on ‘Royal Blu’

The Los Angeles-based duo takes listeners to church from the moment they hit play on their latest project.
Reece Beckett
Reece Beckett
Poet and cultural critic, writing primarily on film and music. My writing has been featured in The Indiependent, The Edge SUSU, Film News UK, Cinematary, Taste of Cinema, Music News UK, The EveryDejaVu Music Blog and more. Contact: reecebeckett2002@gmail.com

Blu proudly proclaims on “The Royal,” the second track of his and Roy Royal’s new EP Royal Blu, that he “first dropped in ‘07.” In the 17 years since then, Blu has proven time and time again, with a collection of distinctive records, his position in the hall of fame for many rap fans.

Since the beginning of his career, the California rapper has always had a good ear for producers, and his work with Roy Royal shows that that is still the case. Roy Royal has no previous credits, and yet his work as a producer throughout Royal Blu is mature, clean, and quietly ambitious. He shares great chemistry with Blu despite the fact that only one of them is on the mic, closely following the mood of Blu’s verses and capturing his lyrical ideas in the sounds of his production—the two are clearly connected in their intentions, delivering soulful and chilled beats driven by top-tier sampling and supported by Blu’s wild, slippery flows.

Blu follows two main lines of thought throughout Royal Blu. The first is a didactic one, an aim to educate and uplift listeners. His lyrics show belief in the quality of his work and aren’t afraid to delve into his honest thoughts on political issues, as when he mentions Obama’s time as President or his thoughts on policing. He communicates thought-provoking and provocative ideas within a single line, as when he questions belief atop the mellow, chipmunk-soul of “The Priceless” and explains in a surprised tone that “man praise man and not God, from which man came.”

The second throughline of Blu’s lyrical style is his religious leaning. Blu’s ability to bring these beliefs into wider discussions is what often makes his lyricism work so effectively. He exudes the confidence of a rapper who has been fine-tuning their craft for years and frequently touches the heart with his open reflections on his own life and people’s universal difficulties. His flows are impeccable, too. Listeners only need to hear the EP’s first verse— in which Blu bursts into a passionate delivery of numerous dense and complicated lines—to agree.

Roy Royal’s production is consistently strong and adventurous. His barrages of different samples throughout the EP are never overbearing and always serve to add unpredictable style and flavor to the production, surprising the listener with their versatility. His style is light and bouncy, incredibly easy to listen to and enjoy. Royal shows range and precise control over his work, seen in his ability to introduce a song with a 15-20 second sample before leaping into a different sounding beat—see the intro to “Before I Go,” for example, or how he brings the drums in at the beginning of “The Living God.” Royal’s production is versatile and well-rounded, supporting Blu’s equally impressive rapping while aligning with his religious focus through the use of Gospel samples.

On the fourth track of Royal Blu,” the rapper tells his listeners directly that he knows they “can tell [he] got soul.” Considering the fervor with which Blu is rapping across this EP and the silky-smooth soulfulness of Roy Royal’s terrific ‘70s style sampling and production, listeners are taken to church from the moment they hit play.

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