Blu & Exile – “In the Beginning: Before the Heavens” review

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To commemorate the 10 year anniversary of their classic debut Below the Heavens: In Hell Happy with Your New Imaginary Friend, Blu & Exile are returning with their 3rd full-length album & it happens to be a prequel to that debut. The opener “Soul Provider” gets braggadocious & Exile’s production enhances the happiness of Blu finally making it. The next track “Another Day” vividly talks about a day in the hood over a lush boom bap instrumental while the song “Constellations” gratefully speaks on success & the hook on there is just as beautiful. The track “All These Ladies” talks about gold diggers over a funky yet smooth instrumental & the song “Party for 2” gets romantic over a jazzy instrumental.

The track “Back to Basics” tells the listener what he’s gonna do for the culture & gets vividly reflective over a laid-back instrumental. The track “On the Radio” vents about wack shit getting mad radio play over a hard boom bap instrumental & his hook is super catchy. The song “You’re Gonna Die Someday” gets vents about the current state of over a soulful instrumental that actually has an amazing J Dilla vibe to it. The track “Life’s a Gamble has some decent verses from Blu & the 3 artists that’re featured & I love how the beat starts off with some spacey synths & a fitting Marvin Gaye sample during the first half, but the switches up during of the second half was unnecessary to me. The song “Things we Say” with Emanon sees Blu & Aloe Blacc both rapping about the stuff they say hypothetically coming to life over a soulful piano boom beat.

The track “Hot for Y’all” has a joyous instrumental & for some reason unlike “Life’s a Gamble”, I think Blu & Donell Smokes compliment each other very well on here. The song “Hard Workers” with Blame 1 gets insightful (especially the latter) over a funky boom bap instrumental & the scratch hook hits the nail on the head. The penultimate track “Sold the Soul” has a nice smooth boom bap beat, but I was Blu was actually rapping over it rather than just talking & then later singing on it. The album closes out with “Stress Off the Chest”, where Blu’s talking about keeping his head up despite the bullshit around him over a nice Latin sample.

This definitely feels like a Below the Heavens b-sides compilation with some of the tracks already being previously released, but it’s a well put together thank you to the fans for supporting them for the past decade

Score: 4/5

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