lue Raspberry earned her musical black belt in the mid '90s singing hooks and swinging ad-libs on some of the best recordings by New York's legendary Wu-Tang Clan. Then, this soulful samurai songstress made a pilgrimage to Motown, laid down roots and claimed the Motor City as her home.
Now Blue Raspberry is gathering strength, polishing her vocal sword and preparing for her next musical attacks.
Blue Raspberry first visited Detroit in 2009. She had developed friendships with local emcees and when she came to town they helped her connect with the city's close-knit hip hop community. She immediately got to work and decided she was staying.
"I knew I was going to live in Detroit even when I was young," says the artist whose legal name is Candi Green. "I always said, 'I want to go to Motown.' I was raised on Motown."
In December of last year, Blue Raspberry released the 23-track "Blind Fury: Blueminati" mixtape as a free download. Her renditions of classics like the Tammi Terrell version of "All I Do" and Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" display Blue Raspberry's range and power.
The mixtape offered a preview of the two albums she is currently recording: "Out of the Blue Revisited," comprised of new material along with a couple of songs from her debut solo album, and a still untitled tribute project on which she'll sing covers of songs by her musical heroes and heroines. The first is scheduled for a spring 2012 release and the latter will be release by year's end.
In 2004, Blue released her first solo project "Out of the Blue" on the Chamber Musik label. The soulful hip hop sounds on that limited release offer a striking glimpse into Blue Raspberry's potential as a grittier Mary J. Blige.
"My sound is jazz, hip hop and soul with a little bit of jalapeño and chili pepper," she says. "My sound isn't the bandwagon."
Born to a musical family in Pleasantville, N.J., near Atlantic City, she came of age listening to the sounds of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Terrell. Her father bought a piano around the time she was 2, and she would sing notes and play along. She started writing poetry in elementary school, and later began singing melodies with those poems for her own enjoyment.
"I wasn't thinking about being a singer," Blue Raspberry admits. "I wanted to be a lawyer."
Her chance meeting and impromptu audition for the Wu in 1992 changed that. The IMPACT Music Convention, a then-annual urban radio convention, was held at Bally's Casino in Atlantic City where she worked as a valet parking cashier. As she and her cousin walked across the casino floor after work, Patti LaBelle's "Somebody Loves You" came over the loudspeakers.
"I was just singing [along], and these guys in bandanas were standing by one of the pillars," she remembers. "They said, 'Yo, do that again!'"
At her cousin's urging, she sang the song again. The gentlemen introduced themselves as Wu-Tang Clan and gave her a copy of their demo "Protect Ya Neck" on a white cassette tape. Later that evening she says she met the "generals" of the crew, and Wu-Tang producer Rza promised that when they blew up, they would bring her along.
Over the next 15 years, Blue Raspberry became a staple on Wu-Tang Clan members' solo albums, beginning with Method Man's 1994 "Tical." Most recently, she is featured on Raekwon's 2009 release "Only Built for Cuban Linx, Part II."
She performed with Wu-Tang Clan live a few times, most recently in Raleigh, N.C. But these days, she is focused on making a name for herself apart from the Clan.
"I got great reviews on the 'Blueminati,' but I just offered it for free so people will know that real vocals, real music is still out there," says the songstress. "Everybody ain't in it just to sell their soul, to get the diamonds, the recognition and the fame. That ain't even me."
According to Blue Raspberry, "I wanted people to get a taste of what's coming."
J. NADIR OMOWALE IS A MUSICIAN AND FREELANCE WRITER BASED IN DETROIT.