Welcome to the fourth installment of Fuse's newest column, Then & Now! Throughout this interview series, we chat with some of your favorite artists from the '90s and early aughts about their careers' biggest highlights and what they're up to today. This week, we spoke to Blu Cantrell.
We first witnessed Blu Cantrell propel into stardom in 2001, thanks to the release of her debut and Top 10 single "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)." The kiss-off anthem led to two Grammy nominations for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and for Best R&B Song. The Providence, RI native (now 40 years old) released two albums—2001's So Blu and 2003's Bittersweet—before taking a hiatus.
Read on to see what Blu Cantrell told Fuse about being ready to make a proper return.
FUSE: Have you been in the studio working on any new music?
Blu Cantrell: We are in the makes of doing a new album right now, but we’re just looking for producers.
Do you have an idea of what sound you’re going for?
Umm, I think it comes down with working with the producers and doing the tracks. Whatever catches my ear, I’ll go with that.
I want to take it back to your first big smash, “Hit
‘Em Up Style.” That song was so inescapable on the radio at the time! Did you
think it was going to be so popular?
I actually didn’t. The process of that was really funny. The producer was tired from working in the studio from the night before, so he fell asleep in his bunk. I was in the session with the engineer and I ended up recording the song. It was the last one we did for the album. I never thought it was going to be big until Dallas Austin let L.A. Reid hear it. He was like, “Oh my god. That has to be the first single.” When it started getting plays on the radio, then I really started believing it was going to be a hit [laughs].
My favorite song of yours is “Breathe,” and I feel
like that one was a little more underrated.
“Breathe” is so big overseas, and they don’t even know about “Hit ‘Em Up Style.”
What was it like working with Sean Paul on the remix?
He’s great! He’s a handsome, sweet guy. The VP of the label hooked that up.
The song’s reggae influence always stood out to me
back then. And now it’s become such a trend in pop music.
I think it’s great. I’m glad people caught on to what I was doing.
After all these years, how do you think your singles
Oh they’re still timeless. I’ve been eating off of those records and have been doing shows nonstop. I’m about to go to Australia and do a tour there with Nelly, TLC, Blackstreet, 112, Mya. Those records keep going.
Do you have anything planned for the performance?
I just go out there and sing my heart out. I think that’s what the fans expect of me, you know? Most people do a lot of flashy stuff, but not me. I like to just sing, kind of like Adele.
There’s always been this stigma of artists who were big in the New Millennium not being able to stick around.
The thing with that era from the late ‘90s up to 2002, Napster came in, and they blew every label out of the water. Most artists couldn’t be pushed and they fell into the pit. It was hard for them to get back on their feet.
Do you want to venture out to try out something other
I’m actually looking into doing some acting, I’m really serious about that. I’ll probably do comedy.
Out of all the singles you’ve released, which one is
I would have to say “Hit ‘Em Up Style.” It was my first baby.
After being in this industry for such a long time,
what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
To be true to yourself and don’t let people try to mold you into what they want you to be.
Looking back, is there anything that you would’ve
I wish I could’ve opened up more. At the beginning [of my career] I was very young. I should’ve spoken up more for what I wanted. I still did, but not enough. I could’ve done a better job.