NME Radar: Breakout

Blu DeTiger: New York’s achingly cool bass virtuoso

Her killer bass covers of Cardi B and Anderson .Paak lit up TikTok – now the star wants to inspire other youngsters to pick up the instrument

Each week in Breakout, we talk to the emerging stars blowing up right now – whether it be a huge viral moment, killer new track or an eye-popping video – these are the rising artists certain to dominate the near future

There is a solid chance that you, sat at home with all that free time on your hands, may have stumbled upon one of Blu DeTiger’s videos over the past year. The multi-instrumentalist struck gold in March 2020 when she began posting slick bass covers to TikTok, tackling Cardi B’s and Megan Thee Stallion’s NSFW smash ‘WAP’, Anderson .Paak’s 2016 hit ‘Malibu’, and even the chart-topping ‘Positions’ by Ariana Grande in her inimitable style.

Having surpassed a million TikTok followers earlier this month, the 21-year-old is now aiming to transcend viral fame with new single, ‘Vintage’. Keeping in line with her grungy club kid vibes – a direct result of her background as a young DJ in New York, in which she would often whack out the bass mid-set  – the woozy track layers stop-start riffs with a swinging vocal. A moody aura for her first EP, ‘How Did We Get Here?’ is starting to brew.

NME jumped on a Zoom call with the bass prodigy to discuss the stellar lead single from her upcoming debut EP, growing up in New York, and her commitment to combating sexist instrument stereotypes.

Tell us about your new single ‘Vintage’…

“I wrote this song a year ago. I basically had the chords and the bassline sorted before I went into the studio, where some other people came in to help finish it. When I first laid it down, I didn’t really know if I liked it, then I showed it to my brother Rex, and he was like, ‘No, this is sick. You have got to keep it!’, so then I just kept working on it until it reached a point where I really loved it.”

“When I wrote it, I was using my voice to really push my vocals in a different way to previous tracks, so I was put off by it at first. But I’m super blessed to have a supportive family and a good support system around me that encouraged me to go with it. They inspired me, and told me to go and do my own thing.”

How has it been preparing to release new music in the current climate?

“I had been working on the songs for a while before the quarantine last year, which gave me time to really reflect on things, focus on my art and bring it all together. It was really difficult not to write about the coronavirus pandemic and I think a lot of artists feel that way. It remembers the times that I had in New York before the pandemic, so a lot of the songs take on a nostalgic feel. It’s definitely weird because I’m so used to DJing my own songs in the club, I try not to think about the current situation because I don’t want to ruin my flow, but it’s hard not to. Though a few of the songs on the EP are more on the chill side because everything around me has slowed down.”

You started playing bass at seven-years-old. What drew you to the instrument? 

“At the time Rex – who’s a few years older than me – was playing drums, so I said, ‘I want to play an instrument!’ Who knows what I was actually thinking, but everyone played guitar, so I wanted to do something different and unique. I chose bass and then just rolled with it; I just love the groove element of the instrument, and how it keeps everything together. When I first heard Nile Rodgers and all that disco stuff, I was getting so passionate and curious about it that I never considered another career. You can never really anticipate the path that you’re going to go on, so I was open to everything. I never thought I was going to end up DJing and then bringing my bass to a set in a warehouse in Bushwick! But I have always had a vision and manifested what I have wanted.”

How important has growing up in and around New York’s music scenes been to you as an artist?

“New York is everything to me; it has given me a hustler work ethic and I love that about New York. I really don’t want to live anywhere else. I said yes to every opportunity, met really funny characters and experienced nightlife so young, which really shaped everything for me and influenced my music. I think the stories behind my music come from exploring the culture of New York, and trying to take it all in and share my experiences of the city.”

How long had you been posting bass cover on TikTok before you started blowing up?

“I started posting in March last year. I had landed in London to play a gig with Caroline Polachek and I remember my first clip was popping off, so I showed everyone on the tour. But when I got home and the coronavirus lockdown hit I was like, ‘Oh, crap, I’m gonna do this every day!’ I had a routine: I would wake up, put on a cool outfit and learn a new song. I think I’ve become a better bassist from having to learn and perfect all of those songs. My cover of Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘Savage’ blew up, and from there, my account really started to pick up steam. You know, it’s a nice affirmation that people are digging this, so I should keep going with it.”

Credit: Sophie Hur

“I want to be a role model and inspire young people to pick up an instrument”

Does having such a large, cultish online following add to the pressure of releasing new music?

“Oh god, yeah. I am waking up every day to a crazy amount of new followers, and it is hard to gauge what is happening because you’re only seeing the numbers. It’s a really weird feeling. If you like music, and you’re on TikTok, the chances of my videos being on your feed are pretty high because of the algorithm. After the success of previous single ‘Figure It Out’, I felt a little more pressure to follow it up with something, but you have to write what you feel and just hope that people gravitate towards it. I have had to switch my mindset and put less pressure on myself.”

What is it about your videos that resonate with people, do you think?

“My favourite part about the whole TikTok situation is that I’ve gotten so many DMs that are like, ‘I just got a new bass for Christmas, I finally convinced my mom after showing her your videos!’ People will send me videos of them learning my songs, which really touches my heart. I also love doing virtual bass lessons, because the level of curiosity from people is crazy. I’m trying to start this whole community of young bassists; we’re gonna rise up and take over the world!”

So do you feel a responsibility to continue to rally against sexist stereotypes?

“100%. Growing up I didn’t really have anyone to look up to besides Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads. I definitely want to be a role model and inspire young people to pick up an instrument – that’s one of my main goals. That’s why I try to respond to all of my DMs, and advise people on the equipment that they need to start out. It’s the small interactions that just make me think, ‘All of this music stuff is working, and it’s helping people.’ As an artist, being able to connect with people in such a way is the best thing that you could ask for.”

What’s next for Blu DeTiger?

“The EP is coming out soon, which I’m so stoked about. I’m working on a bunch of new tunes as we speak, and I’m heading back to the studio soon. Hopefully live shows will return, but we’ll see. I’m actually booked for The Great Escape in Brighton this May, but I mean, who knows what’s gonna happen? Regardless, I’m working on a bunch of tracks and videos, and I’m so happy with how they’re turning out.”

Blu DeTiger’s new EP ‘How Did We Get Here?’ is out March 5