Cross-genre experimentation has been a big part of this year in music. Lil Nas X broke the record for the longest charting number 1 record on Billboard. He actively created a trap-country fusion song in ‘Old Town Road’. He picked the right beat on the Internet, twanged his voice, lyrically finessed each genre so they blended seamlessly, and even secured a Billy Ray Cyrus feature. Lil Nas X showed us that pop, country, and trap, all tap into surface level escapism. He showed that, when combined tactfully, they can have a far-reaching impact.
‘Old Town Road’ has now become a stepping stone for other artists to experiment. There have been other attempts at trap-country, though they mostly seem forced and haven’t been successful. However, it has also created space for other artists. Space to freely express themselves, and create an even more authentic blend of genres than before.
Yung Bleu is an up-and-coming rapper/singer from a bubbling new scene in Alabama. Other artists like No Cap and Clever round out a diverse and authentic surge of potential out of the state. Yung Bleu, however, has the most multi-dimensional, effortless, and overall promising sound. He experiments with authenticity, and it’s only a matter of time before the entire country catches up to his vibe. Bleu has a successful series of mixtapes entitled Bleu Vandross. They fuse trap beats and topics with an R&B sensibility that’s contagious as it is humorous.
Most recently though, Yung Bleu dropped Investments 6. This being his first offering from a new deal signed with Columbia Records. Not to mention a management deal with Meek Mill’s newly formed label, Dream Chasers Records. The tape, the 6th project in the Investments series, is a triumph. Bleu really excels in the world of trap/R&B throughout the project, with obvious hits in ‘Perk Emotions’, and ‘Elevators’ featuring PnB Rock. Catchy hooks and smooth bars make those tracks repeatable, familiar bangers.
The real standout aspect of Investments 6 though, is Yung Bleu’s natural, effortless blending of his trap sound and southern country roots. The difference between Bleu and Lil Nas X with ‘Old Town Road’, however, is that Bleu’s fusing of genres does not seem conscious or intentional. Instead it’s just a product of his musical upbringing. On an early cut from the project, ‘Playing With Your Feelings’, Bleu repeats the phrase:
“I’m a thug I need love just like anyone else.”
There is something so inherently country about that sentiment. He delivers the track over a computerised guitar melody, alongside a standard trap beat. Yet Bleu’s delivery makes the song just what you’d expect from a country artist raised on trap, and the likes of Lil Boosie and Gucci Mane.
The real standout track from the tape to me is ‘On My Feet Again’. Yung Bleu legitimately floats over a smooth guitar sample with an infectious 808 drum cadence. He even flexes his actual singing ability, showing his high range with minimal auto tune assistance. Bleu rambles about his desire for a woman to be his rock through his up-and-down journey navigating the music industry and street life. He croons about his need for her to hold him down, and how he promises to put them back “on their feet again” even if they fall. Bleu then gives examples of how he has expressed this love through impulsive purchases of items and experiences, but that it was all worth it for for his loyal woman.
All of the topics seem so country in origin. Specifically, the idea of wanting a loyal woman as his backbone while he tries to provide for both of them. Yung Bleu’s flow, however, feels absolutely true to the cultural space he occupies and where he comes from.
For all its authenticity, will the hierarchy of country music ever be able to truly accept this new version of the genre? They complained when Lil Nas X became the number one song on their charts. The community also heavily boo’d Beyoncé’s ‘Daddy Lessons’ when she performed at the CMA awards. I would love for another artist like Billy Ray Cyrus to fully cross over and collaborate with a trap-country artist in an organic way. I think Lil Nas X could have really developed a path for that.
Yung Bleu could be the perfect artist to expand the acceptance even further. Inclusivity, out of pure respect for artistry, could truly eliminate the idea of genre boundaries over time—and even render award show politics extinct. This may seem like a reach now, but listen to Yung Bleu—if you haven’t yet—after you’ve read this. Maybe the distance between the two worlds isn’t so great after all.
Yung Bleu’s Investments 6 is out now.