Rappers have always been more than just people who lay verses down over a beat. They can become actors, designers, directors and most importantly, they’re owners. There’s a long list of rappers who have become successful entrepreneurs through their many business ventures, and there will be many to follow in those footsteps.

One rapper, in particular, who’s been riding down that path has been making smart business decisions since his debut in 2013. Yung Bleu hailing from Mobile, Alabama, describes himself as a rapper but makes it clear he’s a businessman first.

When he first entered the game, Bleu released the first edition to his mixtape series Investments and worked his way up through the Alabama Hip Hop scene before linking up with Boosie Badazz. Under the Badazz Music Syndicate banner, Bleu was able to learn a thing or two about the business and how to manage his money right.

When the time came for him to branch out on his own, Bleu got out of his deal with Columbia Records and entered the independent market. It’s never an easy task going indie, but if done correctly, the profit of the investment is lucrative, and most importantly, all yours.

“The labels these days not willing to give. They want some shit that as soon as you drop it, it has to blow up or go viral every time or you ain’t the primary thing,” Bleu tells HipHopDX in regards to doing business with major labels. “If you ain’t got something that’s going viral right now, you ain’t the primary artist right now.

“With that being said, if I was independent, shit, I know I’m always going to be the primary artist. It’s just better for me to go to independent really because I have more leverage,” Bleu added.

Speaking of independence, a September 30 VladTV article attempted to debunk DX’s report on his association with Boosie Badazz. In a since-deleted Instagram post, Bleu spazzed on the publication and now that cooler heads have prevailed, his team has reassured that his solo situation remains intact.

“We are independent but we have a distribution deal with Empire,” Bleu’s management relays to DX, pointing to the recently released Love Scars: The 5 Stages Of Emotions which dropped on the distribution giant on October 1.

Leverage is important in this Hip Hop game. Without it, things may not work in a rapper’s favor, and that makes opportunities that much harder to get. Fortunately for Bleu, he has a lot of it, especially in his city.

In 2019, the 26-year-old opened Gwen’s House, his first soul food restaurant in his hometown. Along with the restaurant, Bleu has several food trucks with plans on opening several stores around Mobile. If anything most rappers his age are just getting started when it comes to investing their money, but Bleu says he’s ahead of the pack.

“What inspired me to do it so early is just sitting back and just watching, like I study shit,” Bleu told HipHopDX. “I study the game and stuff like that. So just watching other people’s mistakes and applying it. You have to be able to learn from other people’s mistakes.

“When I first started getting hot I was spending a lot of money. Buying foreign cars, shit like that. Just spending a lot of money on bullshit, jewelry and shit like that,” Bleu continued. “I’m glad I did it so early because I got it all out of my system. Now I can give a fuck about a Lamborghini. When I get these big ass publishing checks, royalties and shit from the deals and shit that I was doing, I’m not chasing nothing. I’m investing back into my career.”

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Bleu is fresh off the release of his latest project Love Scars: The 5 Stages Of Emotions, and has plans of releasing new music very soon. On top of the new album, Bleu finished building his new home in Mobile and acquired quite the large payout for all his guest features lately. Despite the world coming to a halt thanks to the ongoing pandemic, Bleu hasn’t slowed down and doesn’t plan on it with the business mindset he has.

HipHopDX spoke more with Yung Bleu about Bleu Vandross 3, his business acumen, his views on major label and independent deals, being a fan of R&B music, the background of his nickname Bleu Vandross and more.

HipHopDX: With your brand of music, you’re giving listeners a blend of street raps and singing. Where did you develop that?

Yung Bleu: I always knew I could do both. So why not just do both, right? I’m really into both styles. Really 50/50, to be honest. First it was just full-on rap, and then once I started chopping a few R&B songs, they started going crazy, I was like, “Shit. I’m going to start doing more. I should start doing more,” until it got 50/50, for real. I label myself as an artist, man because I could do really anything. Shit, I could do pop f I really wanted to. As far as music, I can do so. I just create anything that I feel like at that moment and that I feel is true to me, I just create that. So I’m going to label myself as just an artist, for real.

HipHopDX: I read you’re a big fan of R&B music. How did you start listening to that genre?

Yung Bleu: My mama was playing it and just after hearing it for so long, you know what I’m saying? We was coming up with Lauryn Hill playing on the radio, or on the CD while we cleaning up and shit like that. That just made me fall in love with that style of music. Then, my dad, he did R&B stuff too. He was my musical inspiration, really.

HipHopDX: It’s interesting because you started your career making street records then transitioned into more emotional songs about love and relationships. Why do you feel that was the best route for you to go with your career?

Yung Bleu: Making street records was what I felt at the time. I was rapping about more street stuff when I was in the streets and then once I started getting into relationships and stuff like that, I started rapping about love and all that. I was basically just rapping about at the time what I was going through, really. The emotional work started to just really resonate with a lot of the fans and stuff, so that’s when I decided I should probably push into this lane a little bit more. Came up with my alter ego, Bleu Vandross and shit like that.

HipHopDX: With you calling yourself Bleu Vandross people automatically tied that to you being a fan of Luther Vandross and R&B music. Is that the case?

Yung Bleu: People was thinking a lot about words. I said I know a couple of songs from Vandross, but I ain’t name myself Vandross because of Luther Vandross, you feel me? I named myself Vandross because of people and the style my music was going into, you feel me? I think I saw some people just saying Bleu Vandross one day because like, my deep voice and shit like that. I got some relatives with the last name Vandross. I just ran with it, you feel me? I fuck with Luther but he ain’t inspire my name. I feel like that name really is already in my family tree, for real. So yeah, it ain’t really got nothing to do with Luther.

HipHopDX: What’s the inspiration behind Bleu Vandross 3?

Yung Bleu: The inspiration behind this project is really just, man, I don’t really too much know. It’s just the same shit. It’s the same shit in different ways I’ll say. People already know what I’m fixing to talk about, but I’m fixing to talk about it more. They already know I’m fixing to come with the muthafucking love shit. They know I’m fixing to come with the sexy shit and that street shit. It’s just all type of vibes, really.

HipHopDX: How does this album stand out from the other two entries in the Bleu Vandross series?

Yung Bleu: Like I said, this the album right here. This album right here different because all my other Bleu Vandross projects was all R&B. It was nothing but R&B, you feel me? And this album right here, this album right here is rap and R&B. It’s like a full album. All my other Bleu Vandross projects, they was six, seven songs, you feel me? This one has 17 songs.

Bleu Vandross 3, this is probably going to be the last Bleu Vandross. Now I ain’t going to lie, it probably be somewhere in my future when I can just get big as fuck and I probably just say Bleu Vandross 4 to please all my goddamn day one fans, you feel me? Because I want to let this bitch become the classic. I want to let it live and be classic, you feel me? I don’t want to drag it out too long.

HipHopDX: You have a lot of features on this project. What’s one feature you would want on the next project that you have gotten done already?

Yung Bleu: Damn. Nah, bro. I ain’t going to lie, the game got so weird to me, bro, that I can’t even say who I want to collab with. I’m really down to work with whoever want to work with me though. I ain’t chasing nobody. I go in the studio and my head be on my shit. I don’t really be thinking about who I can get on this beat, or who can hop on with me. Now if somebody like Drake or some shit reach out to me, hell yeah, I’m going to be like, “Hell yeah, let’s do it.” But as far as just hitting somebody or just saying I want to work with somebody, nah.

HipHopDX: There’s a balance between the love songs and the edgy songs on Bleu Vandross 3. How do you maintain the balance between those two different songs?

Yung Bleu: It has to be believable. If your shit ain’t believable, then it’s going to be hard for you to make people see that shit. But if your shit believable, and they really just vibe with it, like street niggas going to listen to what you talking about, how you saying that shit, and what you talking about. A street nigga can tell when a nigga ain’t really from the streets by your music and what you say in your music. I just keep it true and that’s how I keep the balance. It’s like a proportion too because making that first song on the album a street song will have all the street niggas feeling me. But then that second song, it’s totally different, you feel me? It probably be some females that don’t like the first song, you feel me? But it going to catch them on the second song.

You got to look at it, if a woman go to look at your album you know what they looking for. So if they play the first three songs and it ain’t what they looking for, they fixing to click out the app. If it’s a street nigga, they going to do the same thing. So you want to mix it up like one, two, three, four, street, R&B, street, R&B. You feel me? That’s how I do my shit. I be putting myself in the brain of somebody else because I listen to a lot of music, I put myself in the brain of me listening to somebody music.

HipHopDX: You’ve given your fans so many mixtapes and songs that I’m sure they’ve taken something away from each release. What do you want your fans to take from Bleu Vandross 3?

Yung Bleu: On this one, I really just want them to know how versatile I am. Shit, hopefully this will be the first album that hits Billboard somewhere. I done had so many accolades but that’s one accolade I’ve been just trying to get. I don’t really do a lot of media like that, so it’s like all my shit do numbers over time, but it’s like, as soon that it drop, it don’t necessarily be available for everybody to know that it’s out. But they’ll eventually know that it’s out, and then it start doing numbers. So that’s why I do a lot of numbers. But on this one, I want all the fans to come out the woodwork at once, you feel me? So a nigga can listen to them. That’s why I say yeah, I’m going to do some interviews. I’m going to do some stuff in the media and do something different with it. I got to try to come out of my shell a little bit.

HipHopDX: You have a track coming out with Wiz Khalifa called “Parachute.” How’d you link with him?

Yung Bleu: Man, Wiz just always fucked with me. We first connected one time when he had posted a video singing my shit on his tour bus. I had hit him in the DM, I was like, “What up, bro?” He hit me back. He ended up sending me a song for one of his projects. We ended up getting in the studio and doing the “Parachute” record. We done linked up a couple times not even on no music shit. Me and him cool. Everybody I fuck with bro, it’s just on some extra shit, really.

HipHopDX: The business world is a place you’ve found yourself involved in early in your career. What’s the biggest investment you’ve made so far?

Yung Bleu: Probably my house. I got restaurants and stuff too. Food truck, stuff like that. But my house probably the biggest investment that I got because I ended building like a one million dollar house, wheeling and dealing so much. Really basically using my connections, you know what I’m saying? The fraction for what I can sell my house for, and how I built it over time, is crazy. So that will probably be like one of my biggest investments, for real.

HipHopDX: Most rappers your age want to blow all their money on things they really don’t need. You’ve managed to avoid that so far.

Yung Bleu: Yeah, when you first start getting money, if you were young, you playing with little Lamborghini cars and shit, you are going to go and get you a Lamborghini. It just what it is. But after that, I got that all out of my system. Now I can give a fuck about the expensive shit. I don’t give a fuck about it, you know what I’m saying? You get money and everybody like, “Getting money. You getting money.” But once you got that, now you putting up for your kids. You investing back into your career. You really turn yourself into a boss.

I’m going to put it like this. Just say as a rapper, you got $400,000 in your account. You don’t got a house, right? Now just say that your label say, “Fuck you.” You know what I’m saying? “Fuck you. We don’t want to do nothing with your shit right now. We don’t feel like we want to do shit with you right now.” All right. You got $400,000 right? Okay. A nigga come up to you and say, “Man, shit. I can get your record going. Shit, we can go and do radio 150,000, 200,000.” Okay, there’s always a chance that this shit might not go as planned. So now you only got $400,000 but nowhere to go besides what someone says they can do for you.

Now if you already had a house, you already had cars paid for, why would you spend the $400,000? You know what I’m saying? If all else fails, you have a home to go back to. But if you don’t you’ll be scared to spend that money if you felt like, “Damn. Shit. If I blow this shit, it’s over and I’m back at the bottom. Shit, I’ll probably be back staying with my mama. Goddamn.” You feel me? If you got your shit in order, you will be more comfortable spending money, you know what I’m saying?

HipHopDX: Do you still get the rush of making expensive purchases anymore? Like, say you bought the newest exotic car.

Yung Bleu: If a nigga come say right now, “Bleu, I got you 400 grand.” I wouldn’t even be happy, bro. That shit don’t even excite me no more because I know how fast money flows when you’re a rapper. But the only way it excites me right now is if I know that there’s a profit in it. I already got my house, I got a fucking NBA sized basketball court, I got a $100,000 pool, I got a movie theater. I got everything. You feel me? I’m on seven acres of land that I own, you feel me?

So it’s like, shit. Yeah. Ain’t nothing but profit for me. We could do a lot of shit with this. A lot of young people don’t really got a mind state like that because they just too out of here. I don’t know if it’s these drugs or whatever but their priorities ain’t right, so they don’t got their mind. They don’t even got a mind to move right because these niggas be so gone, they don’t even know when they career in jeopardy.

Photo: Sierra Lever

HipHopDX: You recently went the independent route. What about the industry made you go down that road?

Yung Bleu: Just looking at how things are set up. We make a hit song, we make radio and we did everything but damn why would the label want to stop? You probably be thinking like, “Damn. Why the fuck they stopping? We supposed to keep going.” But you got to look at it like the labels really be hating sometimes, you feel me? They probably feel like that they just made they money back. Labels be wanting to see five times the profit, you feel me? Or they don’t feel like they made shit.

So you probably be making them a couple dollars back, but it ain’t enough for them. You feel me? Now the reason why they hating because off that same song that they spent all this money to put out there, you making a million dollars on shows. They don’t get a piece of your shows. So they seeing you flex with all this money and shit and then you were wondering like, “Damn. Why they ain’t put the next record on the radio? Why they ain’t do this? Why they ain’t do that?”

You got to be the artist that say, “Okay, they stopped. Damn. Let me take some of this money over here and let me keep doing it before shit start going backwards.” You feel me? So if you ain’t got that mindset, you like, “Fuck that, I ain’t spending my money because they going to spend that shit,” if you got that type of mindset, it’s over with. You going to stay on your decline right there. Because shit, you got to keep it up, you feel me? Especially if you don’t keep it up.

HipHopDX: You have a point there when it comes to managing your money especially with how messy label deals can get. It seems like you’re very passionate about this topic.

Yung Bleu: I hate talking about that. I ain’t going to lie. I go crazy. Niggas talk about labels and independent talk, shit I could speak all day from that shit. Because boy, I really struggled in this shit to keep myself afloat to the point that if I was weak minded, man niggas would be like, “Yung who? I ain’t heard of that nigga in ages,” you feel me? I have this mindset that I have because I ain’t really had nothing major that kept me relevant. I don’t be in the news or blogs like that. What other thing that kept me relevant right now besides good music and a fan base that wants to hear my music? Ain’t shit else kept me relevant for three, four more years.

HipHopDX: Do you feel you have an advantage over other artists because you have this knowledge on the game?

Yung Bleu: Yeah I really do. I try to educate everybody I can that I run across, but Hip Hop has the most un-loyal fans out of anybody. If you create a cult-like fan base in Hip Hop, then you good forever. But if you don’t, it’s new niggas every day to take it from you. What about you? What about you that’s memorable and will keep people listening? A lot of niggas envy that shit.

Checkout more Yung Bleu content here and here. His latest project, Love Scars: The 5 Stages Of Emotions, can be streamed below.