The enigma of Dean Blunt

todaySeptember 26, 2023 120 2 5

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By Jewel Ogungbamigbe

Music Journalist

Elusive. Multi-faceted. Undefinable. All words that I would use to describe Dean Blunt. What makes him different from every other artist? Why should you be tuned in? While he’s not necessarily underground due to him accruing quite a passionate, although somewhat niche, fanbase in subsequent years; I would still consider him underrated at most. Roy Chukwuemeka Nnawuchi, commonly known by his stage name, Dean Blunt, is a British singer-songwriter, musician and producer from London. Along with his solo work, Blunt is also part of many other musical projects, his most known ones being experimental hip-hop group Babyfather and Blue Iverson (R&B, soul, funk) all released under his record label “World Music”. I first started listening to him back in 2020 and ever since then he’s quickly become my favorite artist of all time.

Dean Blunt album collage in a 3 by 3
Dean Blunt’s albums

Blunt’s been making music as early as 2007, when he was a part of the group “Hype Williams”’ which consisted of him and Russian born artist, Inga Copeland, amongst other members. There’s not much to be said about the experimental and artistic dynamic of this group, having been around since 2005 but not reaching the public eye till Blunt and Copeland joined. Hype Williams’ sound, like Blunt’s own, embodies several influences of different genres ranging to R&B samples from well-known artists like Sade, to hip hop to rock to lofi. Blunt and Copeland released some music under Hype Williams together and eventually in 2012 released a full-length album “Black is Beautiful” under both of their names which was received well. In 2013, Blunt and Copeland parted from Hype Williams, going their separate ways to embark on solo projects. Although Copeland would still make appearances on quite a few of Blunt’s tracks.

The Narcissist II was the first full-length album released by Blunt in 2012. The song “The Narcissist” off this album was the first song I listened to by Blunt and also featured Copeland. Copeland’s distinctive vocals, mixed with Blunt’s equally unconventional one pair well and tell a story of scorned lovers with lyrics such as “Do you recognize me girl? I phone you every night girl” (Blunt)  and “Takes a lot of lies for you to make, step into the side or come my way” (Copeland). The song is slow, dark and somewhat eerie, striking a resemblance to Twin Peaks soundtrack due to Blunt sampling some of the instrumentals from the soundtrack composers, Julee Cruise’s, song “I Float Alone”.  The theme of the album, which is one that can be seen in several of Blunt’s albums, is heartbreak or getting over a past lover. This can be seen from many of the song’s lyrics, as well as the song titles: “Caught Feelings”, “And Ill Show U Heaven If U Let Me”, and “Are You as Good as I Remember.” The theme carries over to the second album he released in 2013 “The Redeemer” which again featured Copeland and another female vocalist, Joanne Robertson, who he also collaborates frequently with.

In 2014, he released his album Black Metal, notably one of his most popular albums featuring his most well-known song “100”. This is the album that really got me invested in Blunt, as I took the time to listen to it in its entirety, which I don’t usually do with albums unless I’m very intrigued on what they have to offer. There are several different factors as to why I was so intrigued upon first listen, one of them being Blunt’s voice, which I mentioned earlier as being unconventional. It reminded me of what I can only describe as a black cowboy’s voice. You either love his deep, drawn-out vocals that seem to almost have a southern lilt or you don’t. Second were the instrumentals, which never failed to keep me on my toes with its encompassing range as I listened to each track. “100” has to be one of my favorite instrumentals off the album, which Blunt, being the sampling genius that he is, sampled from the song “Over My Shoulder” off of The Pastels 1993 album Truckload of Trouble. If you’re interested in getting into Blunt, this album is a great starting point and encapsulates many of Blunt’s stylistic choices that are prevalent in his earlier and later works.

In 2020, Blunt released his album Zushi which again featured Joanne Robertson on many of the tracks, along with some more well-known artists making appearances such as A$AP Rocky, Sauce Walka, Panda Bear (of Animal Collective) and Jonatan Leandoer96 (a.k.a Yung Lean). ASAP Rocky has appeared on Blunt’s earlier album “Soul On Fire” released in 2018 and Blunt worked extensively on ASAP Rocky’s album Testing, also released in 2018,  helping produce “Gunz N’ Butter” and “Purity”.  Blunt has also collaborated with artists Delroy Edwards producing an album together in 2018 called, Desert Sessions, which consisted of lofi instrumental “audio tracks”. The experimental and eclectic artist Arca has also been featured in some of his work under his other project Babyfather.

Black Metal 2 was released in 2021 and fans were highly anticipated to hear the sequence Blunt had created in regards to his first well received Black Metal album. After listening to the album the night it was released, I was surprised to find that I liked it a lot more than its beloved predecessor. My stance on this might not be the popular one, but Blunt’s eccentricities on Black Metal 2 resonated more with me this time around and I appreciated the storytelling, along with all the quirks that made the album so unique. The album again features beautiful hypnotizing vocals from Joanne Robertson. The songs range atmospherically with different tones. Some being tongue in cheek, witty and conversational, such as “Mugu”, “Nil by Mouth” and  “Zaza”, the instrumentals being driven by simple slower beats to match Blunt’s own slow yet clearly enunciated vocals. It almost creates a sneaky, up to no good sort of ambiance which matches Blunt’s persona and can be seen in many of his other works. Others are more sentimental and deep like “Dash Snow” and “The Rot” both being my favorite songs off the album, especially the latter with it being the last song to finish off the album. Both songs feature Robertsons light floaty vocals that, paired along with instrumentals, create a sense of nostalgic tranquility that leaves you hopeful, yet reminiscent of the past.

Blunt’s music, with its sneaky and undefined traits, truly matches his own personality. The fascination simply doesn’t stop with his music for me but him as an artist or more importantly a person. Little is known about Blunt’s personal life; he’s simply evasive and shrouded in obscurity. He’s a hard guy to catch, aloof and distant, there’s only a handful of interviews that you can find with him. Blunt does not seek to open himself up to the media or general public. This extends over to his concerts and live performances, as he never announces his shows, until last minute so you just have to be in the know. He doesn’t have any social media presence except for an Instagram account that’s under his record label’s name and you must search around for. Sometimes he’ll make a post on upcoming releases, shows or merch, but quickly deletes soon after. If you really want to find out more about Blunt you have to go deep diving and by that I mean hop on a Reddit thread to get into the lore. He’s described as a trickster as he indulges in his clever sense of humor. He once won an NME award in 2015 for “Best Up and Coming Artists” but did not collect it himself and instead sent some man people thought was his bodyguard to retrieve it in his stead. This is only one example, among many, of the mischievous shenanigans Blunt has done that can be found by doing a deep-dive and one of the reasons I find being a fan of his so rewarding as you feel like you’re in on a big secret.

In conclusion, you should be listening to Dean Blunt because he’s an artist that simply does it all. He does not cater to be held down by a genre or a particular sound, he finds his own through the sampling and collaboration of artists that span multiple genres. Whether it be from sampling artists such as Kate Bush or small 90s indie bands to collaborating with pop artists and rappers such as A$AP Rocky, Blunt achieves his own avant garde sound by creating something entirely new from the helping hands of his muses. There’s truly no other artist I can fully compare him to as he sounds like no other, which is extremely hard to achieve today.

Written by: Preethi Mangadu

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