Chi Orengo walks down his Bedford Stuyvesant block with collaborator Justin Schmidt and it feels like we’re strolling with the mayor. Orengo drops a knowing joke or a quick hi to every third person while the other two get dapped out and keep it moving. When we get to a corner bodega, it isn’t just a place where you score a Bacon, Egg & Cheese, it’s also serves as the semi-de facto public home of “dark freestyle” band Blu Anxxiety.
The glass in front of the bodega is partially ads for local councilmen or deli meats, but still leaves plenty of room to advertise the Plaay Dead LP due on Toxic State (order here).
We pick up a couple things and head to Chi’s stoop to continue the discussion about Plaay Dead but like any native New Yorker, he starts to discuss the old city. While digging into how NYC has changed in his lifetime, the conversation shifts to his upbringing with hip hop, specifically a love for Cam’ron, 2Pac, Biggie and Big L.
As if on cue, Chi hollers at a guy wearing an Onyx Bacdafucup shirt, similar to one his mother bought him at age 10 that almost got him suspended from school. The bald-headed Queens crew were more than just a favorite as a youth, they were quietly formative– spelling out the foundation of all that Chi was about in New York music. “I grew up on hip hop– it’s my first language,” explains Orengo.
“But the rawness I heard in 'Throw Ya Gunz' spoke to me as a kid with a dad from the streets. I was around sex, drugs and violence a lot then, and that song felt like a lullaby from a hell that I was comfortable with.”
That gritty New York that created Orengo also helped create his previous band, Anasazi. And while their dissolution was a disappointment to those familiar, it helped propel the interest for his new project Blu Anxxiety.
Formed in 2017, the trio of Dracula O (Chi), Justin Schmidt (X-Harlow), and Rob Hoffman (ex-Informant) mixes electronic beats with in your face vocals. While in theory that may bring to mind favorites like Nitzer Ebb, Skinny Puppy, and EBM, the band is much larger in concept than a rehash of old material, no matter how classic.
Blu Anxxiety could only have been birthed in NYC– an amalgam of seemingly disparate influences found in Onyx (aggression, hip hop) as well as punk and freestyle music. The result is a band that is quietly political and forward thinking yet more concerned with delivering that message in a party-rock package.
“Blu Anxxiety is PTSD from the police state– anxiety from the boys in blue,” explains Chi. “The two x’s stand for two strikes.” Schmidt adds to that thought by emphatically pointing out that the band’s ”themes are serious but we present it all in a playful or fun way to get that message across. Ideally, we’re a gateway to real revolutionary ideas.”
In keeping with that idea, Blu Anxxiety’s “Internet Terrorist” video is an excellent gateway to understanding one of NYC’s most unique bands with a campy and playful critique on internet trolls, cowards and keyboard warriors who talk a large game. It’s all perfectly in line with the Blu Anxxiety way.
“I have a morbid sense of humor for sure,” says Chi with a smile. “How could I not? You can see the precinct half a block away.”
It’s that dark sense of humor, a healthy dose of high energy and a sense of fun that propels the “Internet Terrorist" video as well as the new LP Plaay Dead as a whole.
Order your copy of Plaay Dead via Toxic State Records.
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