Blu Is The Shelton Benjamin Of Hip-Hop

Posted: June 9, 2012 in Blog, Dyscyplynary Action, Hip-Hop, Wrestling
Tags: , , , , , ,

Hey guys, it’s yours truly resurfacing from my writing hiatus. It’s been a long while since I did a column/piece/blog of this nature as I’ve been hounded with school, work, or just being a lethargic, lazy fuck. In the meantime, I’m preparing to bring something a little unique combining three of my first loves: Hip-Hop, Pro Wrestling, and Basketball. Every once in a while, I will write a lengthy column with analogies that can be easily relatable to one another or whatever craziness I can think of. Today, I decided to look at two people that had all the potential in the world to be more of what they are.

As I went on to mow the lawn today with my iPod on shuffle, one track came on that put me in a good place and left me wanting more from the artist. That song was Blu’s “Just Another Day” and with the honest storytelling and lyricism, I remembered how it was one of the best songs I had ever heard from him. It brought me back to a time where I thought that he was going to be the next big thing in Hip-Hop. While his name still appears from time to time, he still kept himself in stagnation. He’s neither showing progressing or regressing, but is just there a purgatory wasting what could have been a major career for the enigmatic emcee.

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It’s no secret that I consider Blu one of if not my favorite artist currently. He’s one of those rare breed of rappers that will drop significant gems in subtle fashion akin to Mos Def and Evidence. Ever since hearing his critically acclaimed 2007 album Below The Heavens with Exile, I knew that he was something special and could easily be a force in the genre. That thought was further solidified with his spot on the 2009 XXL Freshmen Class, arguably the best/most prolific class the magazine has produced. While many of his fellow “classmates” found a lot of success into the mainstream realm of Hip-Hop, Blu kept himself in the background.

He would release a number of mixtapes and independent LPs over the span of three years that showcased his talents and experimented on different styles and sounds. While the input may be valiant in nature, the output has been nothing short of a disappointment. Even with so many projects, songs, and even a guest-feature spot on The Roots’ How I Got Over LP, Johnson Barnes really hasn’t gotten over at all outside the blogosphere. When I look at the career of Blu and number of routes (of lack thereof) that’s been taken, I quickly liken this to the rise and eventual fall of one Shelton Benjamin.

The parallels between Benjamin and Blu are pretty easy to pinpoint. These are two, young men that are very talented at what they do, and maybe too talented for their own good. Benjamin started out in the WWE debuting on Smackdown as a part of Team Angle with Charlie Haas (who later became known as The World’s Greatest Tag Team). After having a successful run with Haas, the team split during the WWE Draft in 2004 and that’s when Benjamin began to shine. Immediately, he was pushed into a major singles run going over Triple H in his first match on RAW and defeated him on two more occasions. It was clear that the promotion was looking to build Benjamin up to be a future star in the brand and the crowd soon followed that.

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With his athleticism, amateur wrestling background, and in-ring acumen, Shelton captured the attention of many, which included having a match of the year-candidate with Shawn Michaels. He would have his first singles title in the Intercontinental Championship in October 2004 and participated in the first Money In The Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania 21 in where he amazed the crowd with some of the most memorable spots in Ladder Match history. With his momentum riding high and a core fanbase that wanted to see him succeed, it looks as the stars are all aligning for him to be in the World Title picture right? Well, it didn’t happen.

For some unknown reason, creative stopped pushing Benjamin. He ended up dropping the IC Title to Carlito in late June and turned him heel with a storyline involving his “momma”, nearly turning him into a comedy act. It looks as it was working however, as he feuded with and won the IC Title from Ric Flair and returning in the 2nd MITB Ladder Match at WrestleMania 22. After losing the title again, he was paired up with Haas once more, but since has been stuck in the push-pull midcard purgatory. He moved from brand to brand, winning the US Title on Smackdown but was never able to recreate the momentum he once had in 2004.

Now you readers are sitting here thinking, “Why the hell would Chris compare the career of a rapper to that of a professional wrestler?” It’s really simple as the many common pros they had, the cons weigh just as much. For much of the reasons on why Shelton Benjamin has never managed to become a bigger star than he was in the WWE, he never showed any signs of getting better. Sure he was great in the ring, but he lacked on the talking skills. That became evident during the “Momma” storyline and often having Jonathan Coachman as his mouthpiece. It also didn’t work wonders that Benjamin only tried whenever he was receiving a push and was lazy when he got in the doghouse.

With Blu, his sound quality in projects and concert performances have always came in question. Fans of his music would eagerly await a new tape from Azulito only to have the exact same complains as his previous effort. “Why is the quality sound like it was recorded in a crackhouse basement?” or something along the lines of that. He also have been known for having unenthusiastic live performances, often slurring or forgetting his lyrics in songs along with the sound being either too low or too high. Even a fan had to confront him on his actions.

Now I may not be the most proficient musician around, but I do know as a writer that there has to be a certain level of respect to your craft. Actions such as not adding in crowd participation and energy into the live shows and leaving room to improve on your artistry but not acting on it is a sign not taking the work seriously. But many say that’s how he rolls and actually enjoy staying in the background.

There are a number of entertainers that are the exact same way. Another easy rapper I could compare this to is Charles Hamilton, but that’s for another time and completely different discussion. All it begs for me to wonder is what if these two tried a little harder in improving their skills and capitalizing on major opportunities.

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