EVOLUTION: Baby Blue
I ALMOST didn't recognise British rapper Baby Blue when I first saw the video for her single Magnetic Eyes with Drum and Bass stars Matrix & Futurebound.
The young tomboy, who used to spit raw bars over hard-hitting hip-hop beats as a teenager, had blossomed into an all-singing, all-rapping, song-writing stunner.
In fact, when I caught up with the 23-year-old recently, I suddenly found myself playing the embarrassing 'aunty' who spots you in the shop, pinches your cheeks and points to her knee to show you how much you’ve grown.
However, she confirms that I am not the only one who has noticed, telling me with a giggle that she “gets it all the time”.
“People always say to me now, 'where's the hoodies and the trainers?' When I first came out I was wearing the most colourful Adidas tracksuits, I had bright New Era hats and stuff; that was how people were used to me looking.
“Now, I'm just a bit more grown up because obviously I have grown up as a person so my style has changed. In terms of music, I tend to experiment more I am not really afraid to do what I want to do in the studio anymore. I am not boxed in by certain types of music.”
The emphasis on her new look automatically raises questions about the life of a female rapper, as she agrees that her male counterparts do not face the same pressure to “be perfect”.
She explains: “The pros of being a female rapper is that you can stand out more. In the UK, so many guys want to rap, so it is quite easy to get lost in the crowd, but as a female you automatically get noticed.”
She continues: “Also as a female you get to explore territory in your music that most guys don't, such as relationships and raw emotions, whereas guys often feel like they have to come across as hard,” she laughs.
“The cons are we have to work about 100 times harder than the guys just to be on the same playing field as them. People always think because you're a woman, it should be about the way you look or the way you dress. To get taken seriously as an artist is a lot more difficult.”
Solidarity amongst the few British females who have dared to pick up the mic, despite facing such adversity, can be found in the south Londoner's friendship with singer and rapper, Estelle, who found success stateside.
When Blue was 19, the American Boy hit-maker took her under her wing, and even flew her to New York to record song Hey Girl for her debut album The 18th Day, which also featured Grammy-award winning singer John Legend.
“Because she [Estelle] lives in America now I don't see her as much but we are still in touch. In fact, I went on the road with her a couple of years ago and we basically visited something like 30 cities. It was just an amazing thing to take part in,” she says.
Once hailed the 'The Uncrowned Queen of the UK,' I ask if she'll be the next star to swap fish and chips for hamburgers and fries.
“Well I think it is a positive time for the UK 'urban' music scene at the moment. It has gone 'mainstream' if that's what you want to call it but there is no point putting out music and not trying to at least sell some records.”
“I look at people like [UK rapper] Wiley doing well in the charts and it just shows that music is moving forward and people aren't afraid to take risks,” she says.
With the idea of forward thinking in mind I ask her to predict where she will be in 10 years time.
After a pensive pause she begins: “Well… In ten years time they will say…Baby Blue did it her way!”
Matrix & Futurebound's 'Magnetic Eyes' featuring Baby Blue will be released by 3 Beat Records on December 9