These days, being different is a trend. People go out of their way (see: try too hard) to be “unique.” Others don’t have to try. They’re happy being themselves and that’s as unique as it gets. As Katt Williams would say, they’re in tune with their star player.
Blue is one of those people. Unapologetically honest. Unapologetically herself. Relentlessly artistic. Coming off of her last album, a five act musical entitled “Breakage: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Babylon, The Musical” (which can be found at www.bluefolktronica.com), Blue decided to take on a new challenge: Become a published author. Her first literary offering, “The Tao of Pimpin’,” answers the question, “What if Laozi and Iceberg Slim got together and wrote a book?” Both hilarious and insightful, “The Tao of Pimpin'” is one of those reads you’ll have a hard time putting down. WOHM caught up with Blue to discuss the new book, music, artistic freedom, and more. Here’s what she had to say.
For those unfamiliar, how would you describe yourself?
I wouldn’t describe myself. But for the sake of audience appeasement, all the hair on my body is nappy. That should give anyone enough information to come to their own conclusions.
You’re originally from East St. Louis, IL. Can you talk about growing up there and what led you to move to Oregon?
Growing up in E. St. Louis was easy. I was a happy kid. Back then, the over 90% black residents in the city were middle-upper middle class working folks. My teachers were black, my doctor was red and my momma’s Chevy Nova was green. It was Black Liberation central. I started playing violin in Dist. 189 public schools. I joined the local Brownie troop and sold Girl Scout cookies to make money for other people, but I never made it into the Girl Scouts because fuck that elitist shit. I remember going to Cardinals games in St. Louis and seeing Ozzie Smith do backflips on the field. And eating lemon cookies with my sister’s friends. Oh, and the Fudgery at Union Station on Market Street. And Showbiz Pizza: my favorite place in the whole wide world. My mom moved us from E. St. Louis to Peoria, IL when I was 7 because the mayor was on crack and the city was declining rapidly. Peoria was where I learned how to be a thug. Then, I went to college in St. Louis, MO where I learned how to be a Negro in Gringolandia. The only next logical step was to move to Oregon.
How did you get into making music?
I went from Dist. 189 Public schools music program in E. St. Louis, IL to Dist. 150 Public Schools music program in Peoria, IL. I stayed in orchestra. Once an orchestra nerd, always an orchestra nerd. Can I get an Amen?
What is Folktronica?
It’s a name I made up for tax purposes.
You’re a huge proponent of artistic freedom. What do you think artists need to know to be able make the music they want and still profit from it?
Based on my experiences and observations, it’s really important to know yourself no matter what you’re doing. Short of that, invest in your materials, know your craft, and love your audience. The business is always changing, the cool kids get old and fall off, money comes and goes, nobody stays at the top of their game forever. But if you know your craft and love your audience, you will always be happy to play and the people who love what you do will find you. If you invest in yourself and your materials, you’ll be able to make what you want to make when you want to make it. Art is for life, so pace yourself and don’t piss people off unless you have to.
The description depends on the “me” you’re asking. If you’re asking “publicist” me, it’s the greatest book in the world and if you want to achieve anything in life, you should own it and read it every day. If you’re asking “artist” me, it’s a satirical, yet relevant and true translation of an ancient prolific text. Through story and aphorism, it colloquially discusses how to handle business without pissing people off (unless, of course, your business is pissing people off, in which case, it succinctly discusses how to handle business with panache). If you’re asking “philosophical” me, it’s a gateway to Tao, the Way. In the context of Tao, there is no “good” or “bad”. Things just are what they are and no matter what they are, they operate under the same rules as everything else. Once value judgments are eliminated from rhetoric, people are stuck dealing with what’s really going on…which seems simplistic but is acutely profound.
The inspiration to write this book came from everywhere, everyone, and everything that was happening in my life in the 7 months it took to write it. An independent music label offered me a distribution deal to produce my 4th album, but I was too depressed to write good songs. So as a way to add amusement to my procrastination, I started translating the Tao into pimp-speak. On a sojourn to St. Louis, I shared what I had written with some friends. Every excerpt lead to smiles, laughs, funny stories, eye rolls and “Blue, you’s a fool”s, so I figured I was on to something. I wrote at least 1 chapter a day (roughly. I admittedly missed some days.). In my opinion, the best chapters were written when I wasn’t feeling inspired at all. Long story medium, one page lead to another and voila! A book!
Do you have any upcoming events you’d like to plug?
Sure do! Aug. 30, I’ll be playing music and signing books at the Jade Lounge in Portland, OR from 8-10:30. I’ll be hosting SuperThank in Portland on Sept. 9. There will be The Tao of Pimpin‘s “Tao Pimp My Life” interactive seminar at In Other Words Books in Portland on Sept. 12, and a musical performance and interactive seminar at the Black Lesbians United (BLU) annual retreat, early October in Malibu. Find all events and event updates at http://battlecryofthebutterfly.com/taoofpimpin/events/.
Thanks for the questions, Bruce! Also, thanks to Bailey Girls Publishing and Molly Ross for helping make The Tao of Pimpin’ what it is.