To try and follow up an album like "Blind Joe Death" with anything in the same genre just wouldn't work, because well...it's so good. The only option, as I can see it, is to get a leeetle bit out of the box. Thus, I give you one of my underground hip-hop personal favorites, Blu & Exile.
Left coast rapper/producer team, Blu & Exile, came onto the scene in 2007 with their out of this world debut collaboration, "Below the Heavens (<------full stream linked). Blu raps over Exile's homemade beats and the team puts out an atmospheric first effort. Nostalgic of the powerhouses in the Native Tongues movement, Below the Heaven's is the 90's revival hip-hop heads begged for for years.
Blu's lyricisms RUN. THIS. JOINT. He spits about everyday things like empty pockets, bumming drinks and cutting out on good times when the mic calls or the studio's free. The whole album's introspective without being indulgent or isolating, a rare feat that solidifies it's status as a slept-on underground hit. Look at his flow on the opening track "My World Is"...
"I don't pack stadiums yet, I still rock em/ and they still spell my name fucked up on they flyers, it's B-L-U/ and if you see the E, drop em/ it's like they droppin E from the beats E is droppin/ got you peeps eavesdroppin/ and the world keeps watchin him."Don't miss out on Exile's flavor holding this album together. His fade outs and patience with the samples are a thing of beauty.
On the fourth, Blu & Ex released a re-issue of their long awaited follow-up album "Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them." A previously leaked version of G.M.M.F.W.I.C.S.S.T. suffered from poor sound quality and a couple klunkers so the guys went back and gave the record a second polish.
I caught some of the tracks when the album leaked in December; they didn't stick. This release is much better. While Blu's lyrics starred on Below the Heavens, Give Me My Flowers is where Exile really comes alive. The beats are weird, samples are everywhere and seamlessly layered over the laid back style that the duo has cultivated in the 5 years since we've seen them. Don't buy it? Pop on "Good Morning Neighbor." Yeah, that's Mister Rogers getting dopified, BANG. Stick around for Fashawn's verse on "Everybody Nose" (probably the best cut of the bunch) and get funky with the horns on "Money."
While it's more than worth a couple laps around a turntable, the album ultimately falls into the traps a lot of sophomore records come across; success and over expectation. The talent's still there. Clever raps are littered all over and Exile works the beats left and right but something falls just short.
It's hard to have an sleeper hit when everyone's waiting for the next tour and scouring blogs for any new material that pops it's head above water. "Give Me My Flowers" swung for the fences and fell just shy. With substance that goes miles and beyond the top 40 charts and style that's overflowing out the ears, I think B&E pushed the arsty envelope a little too hard on this one.
No matter what it's issues are G.M.M.F.W.I.C.S.S.T. is not the last we'll hear of this pair. While Blu & Exile don't put out the clubbangers or boast raps and their style's unassuming compared to most mainstream artists, these two are always on point. Get lost in a set of earbuds on the T or a burnt copy waiting in rush hour traffic and absolutely stay tuned for the B&E third installment; it has the potential to blow the world apart.