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Conquering The Blues: 8 Reasons Why Billy Blue Has A Bright Future In Hip-Hop

Billy Blue talks about his difficult rise to fame and his life-changing tour with Lupe Fiasco.  

Talented rappers have experienced numerous periods of struggle and despair, however, there aren’t many who can match up to the trials and tribulations of Billy Blue. The New Rochelle born Haitian-American earned the nickname “Blue” once his devastation had evolved into a depressing character trait after his mother passed away. At the age of 10, Blue was sent to live with his aunt in Miami only to be neglected and left to fend for himself.

Eventually, “Billy” was forced to hone in on his survival skills thus taking on the aura of the notorious “Billy The Kid.” Billy Blue didn’t think he would become the mentally strong and socially conscious rapper he is today. Music was Blue’s only positive form of therapy as a kid. Years after being locked at the tender age of 13-years old and then being sent to live with his uncle in Haiti after his release -- the Blumanati rapper has developed his authentic lyrics to help cope with being robbed of a childhood while trying to survive without the love from his own flesh and blood. This accumulation of unfortunate events is what drives his intense themes in his music.

“I rap about everything that stresses me or gives me problems or makes me emotional,” Billy Blue told VIBE. “Of course I’m on my street sh*t too, but most of the time I’m in a f*cked up mind state.”

Although he nearly lost faith in himself as an artist altogether, Billy Blue has triumphed over his doubts and has ascended to a level that only existed in his dreams. As an established MC with five projects under his belt, Blue has had the pleasure of working under Timbaland and Akon as Poe Boy Music Group’s rising star. Now the North Miami resident continues to make the right power moves with his own independent label Black T Music Group in order to further his career.

After opening up for Chi-town’s finest Lupe Fiasco during his "Tour For The Fans," Blue is still feeling the satisfying high he’s been searching for all of his life. Now that his career has successfully flourished, the "Chopper" rapper plans to execute his next power moves with fresh, revitalizing energy to spread the gospel with his upcoming album Revelations.

Over time, Billy Blue has had to make several pivotal strides to get to the top and etch his name into Miami rap history. We allowed him to tell his side of the story of his journey to stardom.

Billy Blue aimed to destroy all doubts about his career right before his major break.
"One day I just finally gave up and said 'I don’t wanna do this shit no more.' Then I was working and I remember there was a song that kept bothering me and bothering me called “Ball Like A Dog.” I called this guy I knew Super Nova, and I told him I got this new song. He was like ‘What you telling me for?’ I thought you didn’t want to rap no more?’ I said I don’t wanna rap no more but I want to record this song. So I pulled up to his house, I went in his room and he started playing the beat. I finally record the song and get it out of my head… and I don’t like the song. It’s garbage, at least to me. Before I know, I’m playing it at the club on a Saturday night and people just started vibing. I still didn’t like it but one thing went to another and I met this dude named E-Class. He took me to Slip-N-Slide first and then to Poe Boy. Then it was smooth sailing from there. So I thank E-Class and Poe Boy for giving me that break.

He has mastered the art of storytelling thanks to legendary lyricists like Scarface.
"Scarface has really affected my craft. It was just the art of storytelling like really seeing that you can paint a picture so vivid and people can actually feel it and see it. He has a song called “Hand Of A Dead Body” and I remember just closing my eyes and just seeing and picturing everything that he did. That song… it was the greatest feeling on Earth. It was around the time I was actually living that life. It was before I even made it or before I signed into a major label. That [song] was actually a pivotal moment for me as a child. It’s like 'Yo you can actually explain it to people and they can actually see what you’re talking about without you even having to sit down and tell them.' You could just rap about it and they’ll know. Other experiences like my mom passing away when I was young and having to deal with my bullshit, it was like a Cinderella story from there."

Billy Blue has established a new lane in Miami rap that hasn't been duplicated.
"When the music came out, all I had was just me. Again, it’s a different perspective. It wasn’t all shits and giggles, it was just shits. We didn’t have it like that. Everyone didn’t have money. We were really stressed out. For me to go ahead and express that feeling, that emotional like we don’t really want to be gangsters, but we do what we gotta do even if it’s gangster shit. Yea, the lights are off. Yea, I got a 9 to 5 but I still gotta sell dope. All types of shit. It’s just being able to give them that real life, and they loved it. That’s my contribution right there."

He learned the ropes of the music biz from the best in the music industry including Timbaland and Lupe Fiasco.
"When you’re a rookie in the game, sometimes it could be 10-15 years before you make it. But it’s all a learning process. I’m over here in the studio with Timbaland and Akon and just sit there with them. But you’ve got to take everything in. You’ve got to be a sponge. Just because you’re here, doesn’t mean it’s your time. It may be your time to learn and understand so that when your time comes, you know the ins and outs. You know what not to do and what to do. It’s been at least seven years, closer to a decade. But all of that has helped me. It’s helped me become a better person and better artist. It’s showed me more discipline. It showed me what I need in my life and what I really need to focus on."

He keeps his raps authentic by weaving dark bars into his most personal records.
“I’m Just Me” where I’m in my late teens to early 20s where I learn to understand you need to get it how you live and you need to do what you gotta do to make it. Nobody wants to be broke in this world so some people just be broke and say “fuck it.” Get rich or die trying you know? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlBGfX5_1ps “No Pain No Gain” where I’m talking about losing one of my best friends and watching him die in my arms. Losing him wasn’t even the hardest thing for me. It was actually knocking on his mother’s door and having a bloody t-shirt. That was the hardest thing. He wasn’t with me so for her to see that it was the worst. It was one of thing I was I could take back in real life."

Billy Blue knew Lupe Fiasco as a fan before they worked together.
"I have a song called “Every Man For Himself” and we shot the video. Shout out to Vision 13. Lupe heard it. He heard the song. That song is one of my “Scarface moments” where I tell the story so vividly that every word and lyric would project through your eyes and on to a screen. That’s one of his favorite songs. In 2011, he came to Miami because he had a tour going on. He stopped and jumped on a radio station and before their interview was over he said “Yo before I leave I want to give a very special and big, big, BIG shout out to one of my favorite gangsta rappers and as a matter of fact, he’s from Miami. People were like he’s probably going to say Trick Daddy or Rick Ross or someone like that but then he said ‘Billy Blue.’ Then my phone went to ringing! After that, it was all uphill from there. He called me. We met up with each other and we became real cool fucking friends. This tour right here was what really brought us together."

The Tetsuo & Youth rapper also taught him think outside the box.
"I’m already a humble person, but [Lupe Fiasco] made me even more humble. He’s broadened the way I see things. He showed me that this world we’re in is like a box that we all live in. This box doesn’t have a locked door. There’s a door to this box and you actually open the door and walk out the box. You can extend your thoughts, broaden your vision and see from a different perspective. Read, you know what I’m saying? It’s not hidden. The books are there. But he says to read this book, read that book, learn about that person. He’s a great educator man. When it comes to education, he takes it so serious that it motivates you to know knowledge and learn more knowledge."

But, above all, Billy Blue keeps God as his mentor.
"God actually helped me progress and finding him, understanding him, and being one with myself. You know you go through so much in life that you come to a point where it’s like you reach a fork in the road where you say “Fuck it, I’m going to just go through this shit and get it how I live and do what the fuck I want or I’m going to do this right and be at peace with myself and understand that everything I’ve been through is really for a reason. That makes me the better person. I think once people find that confidence in themselves to make that right turn and understand what they go through, that will help them speak up and express themselves along with knowing of a higher power. You are your greatest confidant."

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Tekashi 6ix9ine Identifies Cardi B And Jim Jones As Nine Trey Members And More Takeaways (Day 3)

Daniel "Tekashi 6ix9ine" Hernandez's witness testimony continues to shock the masses. On Thursday (Sept. 19), the rapper took the stand again to elaborate on his kidnapping as well as interviews he gave about his broken relationship with members of the Nine Trey gang.

Interviews by Angie Martinez and Power 105.1's The Breakfast Club were analyzed due to the rapper's subtle jabs towards his former manager Shotti and defendant Anthony "Harv" Ellison. 6ix9ine's social media personality was also broken down as he explained the definitions of trolling and dry snitching.

But perhaps the most questionable part of his testimony arrived when he name-dropped Cardi B and Jim Jones as members of the Nine Trey Gangster Bloods.

Below are some of the biggest takeaways from today.

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Day 3 1. Tekashi Claims Cardi B And Jim Jones Are Members Of Nine Trey Gang

Hernandez provided context to a wiretapped conversation between alleged Nine Trey godfather Jamel "Mel Murda" Jones and rapper Jim Jones. Complex notes a leaked 'individual-1' transcription revealed who appeared to be Jim Jones. During Mel Murder and Jim Jones conversation, the two discussed Hernandez's status as a Nine Trey member.

"He not a gang member no more," Jones reportedly said. "He was never a gang member. They going to have to violate shorty because shorty is on some bullshit." Hernandez went on to identify Jones as a "retired" rapper and a member of the Nine Trey.

Prosecutors play phone call between Nine Trey godfather Mel Murda and rapper Jim Jones. Tekashi says Jones is in Nine Trey.Jones: "He not a gang member no more. He was never a gang member. They going to have to violate shorty because shorty is on some bull--it."

— Stephen Brown (@PPVSRB) September 19, 2019

When it comes to Cardi B, the rapper named the Bronx native as a Nine Trey member. He was also strangely asked if he copies Cardi's alleged blueprint of aligning herself with gang members in her early music videos. "I knew who she was. I didn’t pay attention,” he said. In a statement to Billboard, Atlantic Records denied 6ix9ine's claims that she was a member of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods. 

In a now-deleted tweet on her official Twitter account, Cardi B responded to the allegation writing clarifying her affiliation, “You just said it yourself…Brim not 9 Trey. I never been 9 trey or associated with them.”

2. Tekashi Defines The Term "Dry Snitching"

In a quick back and forth with AUSA Micheal Longyear, the rapper gave an odd definition of dry snitching. He also made it clear that he was open to becoming a witness to reduce his prison sentence.

Q: Who is Jim Jones?#6ix9ine: He's a retired rapper.Q: Is he a member of Nine Trey?A: Yes.

— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) September 19, 2019

3. Tekashi Was Willing To Pay Hitmen $50,000 To Take Out Friend Who Kidnapped Him

Shortly after he was kidnapped by Harv, the rapper went on Angie Martinez to slam those in his camp. Without saying names, Hernandez promised he would seek revenge on those behind the kidnapping. The court was then showed footage of the incident which was recorded in the car of Jorge Rivera who was already a cooperating witness in the case. Hernandez reportedly confirmed he wanted to pay a hitman $50,000 on Harv after the kidnapping.

4. He Believed He Was "Too Famous" To Hold Gun Used In Assault Against Rap-A-Lot Artist"

The alleged robbery of Rap-A-Lot artist was brought up once again when Hernandez confirmed that he recorded the incident. A weapon allegedly used in the incident was tossed to Hernandez by his former manager Shotti. When asked why he refused to hold the gun the rapper said, "I'm too famous to get out the car with a gun." As previously reported, the rapper was kicked out of the car after the incident in Times Square and was forced to take the subway back to Brooklyn with the gun.

5. Tekashi May Be Released As Early As 2020

Cross-exam Q: If you get time served you'd get out at the beginning of next year, correct?#6ix9ine: Correct.

— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) September 19, 2019

There's that.

6. Footage Exists Of Tekashi Pretending He Was Dead

Harv's lawyer Deveraux: Do you recall publishing a video pretending you were dead?#6ix9ine: Can you show me? For now, a private viewing.

— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) September 19, 2019

Before wrapping up, the court briefly touched on his trolling ways. From setting up beefs to strange notions like faking his death, the videos were viewed privately.

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Tekashi is seen in Los Angeles, CA on November 8, 2018.
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Nine Trey Trial: 4 Takeaways From Tekashi 6ix9ine's Testimony (Day 2)

The second day of Daniel "Tekashi 6ix9ine" Hernandez's witness testimony provided insight into the handlings of several incidents surrounding the rapper including the attempted shootings of rappers Casanova, Chief Keef and former labelmate, Trippie Redd.

As Complex reported Wednesday (Sept. 18), Judge Paul Engelmayer noted the leak of the rapper's testimony that hit YouTube by way of VladTV. Shortly after, Hernandez explained how the Trey Nine gang began to fall apart–or split into four groups–leaving him to take sides. In the end, Hernandez was robbed and kidnapped by his own manager as video footage revealed. The rapper explained how his initial deal turned into extortion as he provided over $80,000 to the gang.

See more details from the trial below. Hernandez will take the stand again Thursday (Sept. 21).

Day 2 1. Tekashi Arranged A Hit On Chief Keef For $20,000

The hit against Keef was widely reported last year but Hernandez provided clarity to the incident. The rapper admitted to arranging a hit on the Chicago rapper after a dispute over "my friend Cuban," a reference to rapper Cuban Doll. Although Hernandez planned to provide the gunman with $20,000 he paid him $10,000 since the hitman fired one shot and subsequently missed.

2. 6ix9ine Credits Anthony “Harv” Ellison For Barclays Center Shooting 

 

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A post shared by Tr3y (@tr3yway_ent) on Sep 6, 2019 at 3:11pm PDT

Hernandez's brief beef with fellow Brooklyn rapper Casanova sprouted from Cas' diss song, "Set Trippin.'" After hearing it, Hernandez said he was ready to "run down" on the rapper. Seqo Billy tipped him off about Cas' alliance to the Bloods set, the Apes and how they would more than likely retaliate if Cas is harmed.

“There’s a kite out saying if any apes happen to cross ya path to fire on you or anybody around you… smarten up,” Seqo wrote in a group chat presented in court. Ellison allegedly replied, “Apes can fire on this dick… They don’t want to war with Billy’s [Nine Trey]." From there, several shootings took place in Brooklyn with one inside the Barclays Center.

3. Tekashi's Beef With Rap-A-Lot Crew Caused Bigger Fallout With Trey Nine 

Hernandez went on to detail the very complicated story behind his beef with Rap-A-Lot records. The debacle started when Tekashi and the Treyway crew didn't "check-in" with Jas Prince before taking the stage at Texas' South by Southwest in March 2018. The incident was further muffled since Trey Nine members like Ellison and Billy Ato were beefing with Hernandez and Shotti at the time. In the end, Hernadez never performed. His crew would later go on to rob and attack an artist from Rap-A-Lot in New York a month later.

4. Footage of the Robbery/Fight Was Filmed By Hernandez aka 6ix9ine

As he and Shotti fled the scene, Shotti kicked the rapper out the car forcing him to take the train to Brooklyn with a gun in his possession. All of the incidents led up to the kidnapping scenario which Herdanaez claimed was in no way staged.

“I’m pleading with Harv,” Hernandez said. “I’m telling him, ‘Don’t shoot. I gave you everything. I put money in your pocket.’ I told him that I was tired of being extorted.” The robbery/kidnapping was filmed by Ellison but also recorded by Hernadez's driver Jorge Rivera who was already a cooperating witness in the case.

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Jeremy O. Harris Is Prepared To Make You Uncomfortable With 'Slave Play'

September is a tricky time in New York City. Some days the ninth month can be charming with its cool breeze and clear skies, you forget Old Man Winter is three months away. Other days, September is deceitfully chilly dropping 10 or 15 degrees after sunset. You hug yourself to create warmth and to also block shame for not knowing summer has packed its bags. On the fifth day of September in New York’s East Village, the weather, however, is kind. Clouds like stretched cotton balls float through the sky, while the sun peeks through adding just enough heat without being arresting. It was, like Bill Withers described, a lovely day.

The beauty of the weather was only matched by Jeremy O.Harris’ bold yet inviting presence. Wearing head-to-toe Telfar Clemens, the Yale School of Drama playwright mingled with friends, castmates and the press inside the penthouse suite of The Standard. Holding the last puffs of a loosie and a black purse, O’Harris and I make eye contact. He smiles. I wave and a second later he's pulled into another round of congratulations, cheek kisses, and praise.

Such is the life of an award-winning playwright.

Harris’ production Slave Play earned chatter while at the New York Theater Workshop and has since made its way to Broadway, making the 30-year-old the youngest playwright of color to accomplish the feat. Yet before the mecca to the world's theatrical stage, Slave Play merited quite the hubbub and scathing critiques for its plot. Set on the MacGregor plantation in the antebellum south, three interracial couples work through their relationship woes made present by their sexual disconnect.

And that’s all that will be said about Slave Play. The rest must be witnessed to be understood or at least examined. Harris knows the play will make many uncomfortable and he's okay with that. The Virginia native stands at a towering 6-foot-5 and has always known his mere presence was off-putting to some. Add his Afro to the mix and Harris, a black queer man with hair that defies gravity, is too much to digest. Thankfully, he doesn't care.

He walks over to the terrace and we both lean in for a hug but stop prematurely and settle on a professional yet distant handshake.

“Are you a hugger?” I ask.

“Yes,” he smiles.

Relief. Huggers finally able to hug.

O’Harris is pressed for time so we only chat for 15 minutes but we gag over both being Geminis, talk about white discomfort, why, of all names to give a play, was Slave Play the best choice and whether or not white America can fully love black people.

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VIBE: When creating Slave Play was white discomfort ever a thought?

Jeremy O. Harris: I had this moment with someone the other day and we were talking about the importance of mirrors and seeing each other inside the mirrors of the set. Well, the reason the idea came about was because at Yale the theater was in a three-quarter thrust and the second year project is one of the smallest projects to do. The audience, I think, is 70 people every night. It wasn’t a huge audience, maybe 90, I don’t know.

Anyway, it’s a three-quarter thrust. I went to Yale at a historic time. There were more people of color there than at any other time. The craziest thing about the show for me was while watching, I saw all the people of color checking in with one another throughout the play and them having these moments of revelation together and looking at white people like, "Why are you laughing then?"

I make people uncomfortable. I make people who are straight uncomfortable. I feel like everything I do, I do loudly by accident.

What’s your sign? I’m a Gemini.

Oh my God! I’m a Gemini. When’s your birthday? June 2nd.

I'm June 17. (Laughs) I think being a Gemini is also part of why I live loudly. I don’t shy away from who I am. My hair has always been big. People might eroticize my hair or fetishize my hair but they’re still uncomfortable by it because their hair can’t do this. Also, because I went to predominately white institutions as a child, I learned quickly that my intellect made people uncomfortable.

Were you usually the smartest one in the room? Yeah, or at least the teacher would say that. I think part of the problem with growing up in the south is everything is so racialized, even compliments. It would be "he’s smarter than the white kids and the black kids."

Did you have any other names for the play besides Slave Play? For me, titles are what make a play and the minute I thought of this play was the minute I was thinking about all of the different slave films. The first thing I thought about was on Twitter there was this whole discussion about 12 Years of Slave with people saying, "Why do we always have to be in a slave movie?" and then I thought, "Oh, a slave movie. There are so many slave plays...Oh, Slave Play!

There’s a litany of narratives that can come from that and a litany of histories that come from that. I was like, "Let me try and make something that was the end all be all of these histories" for at least me. It doesn’t have to be the end all be all for the next writer who wants to interrogate these similar ideas and similar histories, but it gets to be my one foray into this question.

I saw Slave Play off-Broadway and it was a lot to take in. However, I think the play isn’t so much about interracial relationships as it is white people’s relationship with black people. Am I correct?

I think you are. I’ve never written a play that’s going to be about one thing.

Because you aren’t one thing.

Exactly. One of my professors said the problem with a lot of American writers is that they write plays that function like similies. This is like this, whereas in the U.K. and Europe and a lot of places I love, those places function like metaphors. I wanted to have a play that functioned as a metaphor. So it’s not like, "Being in an interracial couple is like..." It’s "An interracial couple is" and it becomes a container for a lot of different histories and a lot of different confluences of conflict which I think are important.

Relationships can become an amazing space of interrogation for a lot of our interpersonal relationships, our historical relationships and our thematic, deeply guarded emotional truths that we haven’t worked out on a macro, but we can work them out on this microcosm of a relationship in a way like white-American politics and black-American politics are also in this weird symbiotic relationship.

Do you think white America can ever fully love black people?

I think love is something that’s beyond words. I think its something we have to only know in action in the same way that I don’t know if black America will or should ever love white America, do you know what I mean? How do you love something that’s harmed you so deeply?

Super facts.

But then again, if we’re using relationships as metaphors, [then] we’ve seen people try and make sense of that love in a lot of different ways. You see black America’s relationship to capitalism, which is something that benefits whiteness more than it could ever benefit us, yet there is this sort of weird romance that happens in so much of our music. So much of our literature and so much of our art, with the idea of capitalism even with its own interrogation and criticisms. But there is this weird push and pull. It’s similar to someone who’s in this battered relationship with an ex-lover.

I read you didn’t expect to receive so much criticism from the black community. How did that make you feel? 

It made me feel sad and reflective in a lot of ways. I wanted to make theater for a certain audience and, for me, the best vehicle for making theater for that audience was the Internet. I was like, "How can I flood the Internet with these ideas about what my plays are so I can maybe get a new audience into the theater with more excitement?" And that worked in a certain way. What I didn’t take into account was that I basically asked everyone to learn how to ride a horse bareback without ever learning the fundamentals of riding a horse.

People were interrogating the ideas on the Internet of what this play might be without an understanding of how the theater functions, and so I think that made them feel very displaced from what this play was, and when you feel displaced from something you have to react to it. I don’t blame anyone for their reactions to the title or the images they saw. Some of those images aren’t images I would’ve ever wanted people to interrogate without the context of the theater. In hindsight, I now know, like, "Okay, cool." I do this experiment and I saw some of the false positives of it and I saw the actual positives of it and now I can move on and keep building and repair the relationship. I get to now watch it with more careful eyes.

What questions do you hope white people ask themselves?

I think the whole play is about: how can people listen in a way that’s not shallow but deeply? I think at this moment a lot of white theater audiences believe they’re listening deeply to the black artists that are having this moment right now. But I think when you read the words they write about it, and the quickness with which they have an opinion about it, you recognize they’re not listening deeply. So quickly they’re telling us what they think we said and it’s like, "No, take a second, and let us speak on it." Take a step back.

Slave Play is playing at the John Golden Theater. Get your tickets here.

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