Through the chaotic, futuristically flooded streets of midtown Manhattan and beneath the alternating sun and moon, a seemingly benevolent Blu wanders on. Like the westward-bound, modernized hunter-gatherers of the California Gold Rush of the 1850s, much of the Californian’s catalog carries a respectable sense of exploration, an ongoing search servicing an adrift mind and soul.
Where Blu differs from those fortune seekers is in his detectable disregard for the materialistic, trekking regional landscapes and creative mind states not for monetary prospering but out of sheer will to wonder. Yet for all his thoughtful travels, Blu’s speckled career first steered north while recording in his native city of Los Angeles, below the (smoggy) heavens and newly exposed to those who thrusted upon him heaps of attention.
Good to Be Home – Blu’s latest body of work and entirely produced by Bombay – humbly attempts to present itself as a return to form, an auspicious answer to critics certain of a prodigious artist’s collapse, on and off wax; sadly enough, the optimistic opus overextends itself, furthering frustration as it falters away from greatness.
“In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!” exclaims an archived recording of esteemed baseball sportscaster Vin Scully, as if meant to imply, against all odds, the miraculous materialization of another Blu masterpiece. The sample concludes project opener “Home” in a moment of meta-cognition and self-awareness, though one grounded in ambitious hope rather than reality: this album is no classic, but it very well could have been.
Whether endlessly roaming the winding roads of the West Coast or embarking on a preprogrammed passage in “The Oregon Trail”, an imbalanced load of luggage threatens the downfall of any journeyman. With Good to Be Home, Blu bares excessive amounts of unneeded baggage, as if he has yet to fully unpack following a voyage-filled past.
Bombay’s grandiose, romanticized soundscape fails to save his partner-in-rhyme’s stumbling lines after a strong start on “He Man”, in which Blu awkwardly gives way to subpar couplets and a sudden, forgetful pause that detracts from the song’s potential – a familiar theme that runs deep on Home. The poorly sequenced, trumpet-driven “Summer Time” wreaks of lazily written, hollowed hooks, lackluster guest verses and a continuation of Blu’s irregularly unreliable flow: “I took her to the drive in movies with the toolie… / Yeah, in case she tried to do me.”
Apart from Blu’s own mild missteps, Good to Be Home folds below its otherwise achievable stratum at the hands of its many subcontractors. To free this album’s definitive voice of even a third of its collaborators (Thurz and Casey Veggies of “Well Fare” making for a notable exception) is to unchain and liberate a succinct, stellar and refined effort – unhindered by the third-party, lofi ramblings of “Red & Gold”; the unwelcome, questionable presence of producer Bombay behind a mic; and the endless ensemble of posse songs (“Whip Creme (Part One)”). Within the album’s 20 tracks and two discs, though, lives enough elite material to mold a formidably strong record – valuable jewels and gems lying beneath piles of worn, torn clothing in suitcases, awaiting discovery and careful curation.
Home is very much manufactured by the experiences of a blue collar American, and meant for summertime introspection inside a glistening automobile; the project holds its own when Blu, unbothered by other creatives, is at his most vulnerable, venturing through his personal valleys atop the most ingenious and colorful of Bombay’s often euphoric, always nostalgic backdrops. “Home”, “The Return”, “The 50z”, “Dre Day” & “Child Support” stand as a newfound echelon, exemplifying the evident existence of a still-poetic artist in possession of every tool used to make a rare breed of record, but unaware of the guiding maps needed to assemble the pieces properly.