Blu Cantrell: I'll bare my soul if I want to - Features - Music - The Independent

Blu Cantrell: I'll bare my soul if I want to

Blu Cantrell has gone from glamour model to global singing star. She discusses her career choices with Charlotte Cripps

Sitting behind a long, frosted-glass table in her London hotel room, as though chairing a boardroom meeting, Blu Cantrell, the former glamour model and beautician turned American R&B superstar has just been told she will be switching on the Christmas lights in London's Camden. "Camden? What the hell's that?" she asks, bemused. One explanation later and the singer decides, "It'll be so cute to ride one of those old red buses."

Cantrell is wearing an asymmetric black top with a massive, pink letter "B" on the side, a pair of three-quarter-length trousers and stocking boots, which, she explains, are attached permanently to the leg-warmers she's sporting. She offers me her leg to touch under the table to verify that this is indeed the case.

The former Tiffany Cobb (she admits to being in her late 20s but the suspicion lingers that she may be more than a tad older) had a hit in 2001 with "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)", a withering put-down of boyfriends who cheat. But her career really took off earlier this year with the global No 1 hit "Breathe".

The video for the new single, "Make Me Wanna Scream" - a fusion of R&B and reggae - sees Blu spray-painting the car of her boyfriend with words like "pig" (nothing too strong to be seen on MTV). When the boyfriend quite naturally, freaks out, Blu walks off, as cool as a fridge. The boyfriend, Tony De Niro, is now her real-life beau. Introduced to him by Puff Daddy, who gave her a job as a backing singer, Cantrell is now so smitten with the braid-sporting, tattooed De Niro that he has been promoted to tour manager. It's rumoured that she is to transfer her management to him from Violator, who look after Missy Elliot and 50 Cent.

Cantrell, now a resident of Los Angeles, is in townnot to bathe north London in light, but to promote her current album, Bittersweet. It includes all the hip-hop and ragga-inflected upbeat hits that make her shine. But when, on "Unhappy", she sings "Been saying I'm overweight for a while/ but did you forget, I was carrying your child", or ventures the Mariah Carey-esque "I Love You", it is with a rare intensity.

"I don't sing songs about cars. I like emotion - the passion and the hate," Cantrell says. "And I've had enough hurt to know what I am singing about. My lyrics do help women," she continues, yawning. "But, y'know, a woman came up to me once and said she was cleaning out her husband and had stolen his cash cards. I couldn't commend her for that. I mean, 'Hit 'Em Up Style' is only a song!"

Cantrell was discovered in a hotel lobby in Atlanta, in 2000, by an associate of "Tricky" Stewart of Redzone Entertainment, "who hit on me". She was introduced to the boss of Arista records, Antonio "LA" Reid, who signed her precisely 30 seconds after hearing her sing. "I used to be told to quit daydreaming about becoming a singer," she says. "But I always knew I was blessed with music."

Born in Providence, Long Island, Blu spent many years "having to pay the bills", on occasion as a glamour model in adult magazines. She posed naked for Black Tail in 1995, only for the pictures to resurface in May 2002. Cantrell is direct about her past, and is not averse to exploiting it. She performed "Breathe" at Hugh Hefner's mansion a few months ago, and talks are underway for a Playboy shoot, reportedly for a million dollars. "We were all born naked and we will die naked," she asserts. "So I really don't see what is so wrong with having our clothes off."

"Look, I'm not gonna go pick up some music award and say sweetly, 'Thank you very much'.Being phoney is old-school. I might have done all that shallow, media-trained bit at the beginning, in my first year, but now I've broken out. I leave that kind of thing for everybody else."

'Make Me Wanna Scream' is out on Arista on Monday

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin teaches Clara to shoot an arrow
doctor who
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week