Bleu's most prominent manifestation came last year when he declared that he would work with Drake. As fate would have it, Bleu's dream became a reality when NBA star DeMarcus Cousins first listened to his EP Love Scars and fell in love with Bleu's melodious single "You're Mines Still." Cousins texted Bleu and vowed to get Drake on the record. A week later, Bleu received an Instagram DM from the 6 God himself, gushing about the song's potential and his desire to collaborate. Two weeks after "You're Mines Still" was released, Bleu and Drake's remix quickly followed.
The love-drunk single swept through social media and ballooned into a massive hit for Bleu. Peaking at No. 52 on the Billboard Hot 100, "You're Mines Still" finds the melodic twosome in a heated quarrel with their respective partners.
"I got different goals. I got different manifestations," says Bleu. "I need one more solo [record] after this that's so crazy that it'll solidify me as a hitmaker. That's why I'm trying to work on the next record right now."
Billboard spoke with Bleu about the success of "You're Mines Still," him and Drake teaming up for an EP, pursuing R&B full-time and more.
How would you compare the rap scene in Alabama now versus when you first came into the game in the early 2010s?
When I was coming up doing it, it was kind of all on me for real because I was the only one trying to get the world to recognize Alabama. Once I started blowing up, they started discovering other artists. [Mobile] became one of the cities with the most upcoming artists right now.
You were first signed to Boosie and now you're with Meek Mill over at Dreamchasers for management. What are some of the biggest gems you received from both guys that you still keep close to you today?
As far as Boosie, I just get the grind from him. He always told me that I was going to be a star from the beginning. As far as Meek, he's very creative. He always gives me creative ideas all the time. He made me feel like a star. He just gave me more confidence to do what I do and believe what I do with him being like a big artist and making me feel like a big artist too. I just take from every situation what I can.
You were already successful before "You're Mines Still" with "Ice On My Baby" and "Miss Me," both going gold. How would you compare the difference in attention and success between those records versus your current hit?
Like I said, I've been in the game for a little minute. So I've been selling out shows, I've been on tours and stuff like that. I just think with this record, it's another audience. It's kind of like a mainstream audience -- a broader audience. With my other songs, I was touching everybody on the underground scene. Everybody on the underground scene knew about Bleu, ya feel me? It was just getting to that next level that I had to break through and I think this was kind of that attempt towards that.
Let's bring in NBA star DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins and speak on his role in orchestrating the remix with you and Drake.
[Laughs] Boogie and me were already chopping it up. He's from my city too. He’s always on all the artists from the city. So when I dropped Love Scars, with him listening to it, he was excited about it and he had hit me up like, "Yo. I can hear Drake on this record right here."
That was the record I was going to push anyway, that "You're Mines Still." So, you know, I ain't really thinking too much about it. I was just laughing like, "That would be crazy." So he said he's going to hit him up. I said, "Cool. Appreciate it," not really thinking nothing of it, for real. Then, like a week later, Drake hit me on the DM telling me he's sitting on the record and s--t like that. I appreciate Boogie. We were tight, but we're super tight after that.
What's interesting about the Drake feature is that you manifested the collaboration in a past interview with HipHopDX last year. How important is the power of manifestation in your life and career?
I'm real big on manifesting. That's why I always speak on things. Even when I dropped the record and put it out for the city, I said "Drake would kill this" because I was thinking of a feature to put on it. I just ended up putting it out and it just happened. I always believed in myself and knowing the kind of music that I make, it's always just getting the right ear to hear it. I know I can be like that mainstream artist, ya feel me? I always make that kind of music. I only used to make street records because I was still underground and I just wanted to keep that fanbase and that element, but I was really waiting to break through mainstream so I can do the music that I love to do.
I really wanna go full-on R&B on some The Weeknd-type s--t. That's what I really like even though I can rap, but this kind of gave me the lane to do that. This let me know that I can really do what I wanna do and it's still going to relate because what I'm talking about inside the song is street s--t anyways. No matter how I deliver it, at the end of the day, it's still street s--t. It's street, but delivered in a different way. I can deliver in a mainstream and street way.
That reminds me of when Future came out with his back-to-back albums a couple years back. One was for the streets and the other, Hendrxx, was more geared towards R&B.
Yeah, that's what I'm envisioning. Like Love Scars is really my first concept album where I sat down and said I'm gonna make an album about one theme. I wanted people to visualize it. It was a random idea. I just went to the studio, went to the chalkboard and started writing down song names. I wrote down the song names before I even made the songs. Then, I went and made songs about the song names. I made that s--t in, like, seven days. I put it out and that s--t be blowing my friends' minds. Once I get an idea, I just go with it.
If you can do a five-track EP with another R&B star, who would choose and why?
Man, I'd definitely pick Drake. His s--t just slid so good. We even talked about it before. I don't know if it'll ever manifest to something real, but we have talked about getting in the studio and [coming up] with ideas on working on a collab project. It would flow perfect. That man flows perfectly on a song. That song was made for that n---a's verse. I believe in s--t like that.
The Weeknd too. I like PartyNextDoor. All them type of artists I feel like I blend with. That's where I was kind of trying to get to anyway in my career, like collabing with artists that I can see myself working with. I was forced to collab with the artists that I collabed with in the past because that was my lane. I was like this one R&B n---a trying to satisfy the streets until I get my mainstream look, but I'm trying to go that route, for real. I can do what they do, but can't nobody do what I do. I wanna keep bringing people into my world instead of going into other people's worlds.
Before going independent, you were signed to Columbia. What did you learn most about yourself since departing from a major label?
I really took from it that I wasn't stupid. It's just like if I'm sitting here telling y'all what I need and what I'm trying to do and nobody is listening to me and y'all can't seem to break me, but y'all one of the biggest labels in the world ... then I go independent and now I got one of the biggest songs in the country without a label? That's why I kind of came to the decision of where I'm at.
People really gotta come with it. People gotta really come and show me you wanna do business with me. It's more than just signing to say you're signed. Nobody don't really care about that no more -- being signed to a major label -- it's all about what you're going to do after that. I ain't beefing with no major label.
Of course, I'm talking to 'em, but I got more leverage. It's way bigger than before just because I know what I can do on my own. I do feel like eventually I'll have to sign to a major label to go where I wanna go just as far as mainstream, but I don't think it's necessary right now because I still kind of wanna prove myself and show people I know what I'm doing for me. By the time I do sign, people will trust me.
I'm sure you know that the Drake Effect is real and that some artists struggle to get a record bigger than the one that they previously had with him. How do you make sure that the remix doesn't overshadow what you do moving forward and become the last big hit of yours?
Just continuing doing things that I've been doing. It would have been different if it was my first hit or like my first plaque, but it's going to be my fourth. So you can't take away nothing that I did. I'm coming off on a billion and half streams before the Drake feature. So you can't really take anyway anything before that. A lot of people be like, "We been knew about Bleu. Y'all just late." It's like that. So I'll forever have that core fanbase even after this.
I'm still making great music. Of course that's Drake. It's gonna do what a Drake song gonna do, but I'm eventually climbing to the front. It ain't just a luck of the draw that I made a song that good. It's easy. I made that song in, like, 20 minutes, ya feel me? So when I get in the studio, I do it fast and consistent. I know what people wanna hear. I know what to say in the song. I kind of got a formula. Like I said, I've had records before. Platinum, not just gold. These are records I had before even one big feature. It was nothing but me on the mixtapes. Everybody wanna work with me. I'm sure another big feature gon' come.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Jan. 16, 2021, issue of Billboard.