Blu – “The Color Blu(e) review

Blu is a 38 year old MC from Los Angeles, California who became notorious in the underground in 2007 when he & Exile dropped their debut album Below the Heavens: In Hell Happy with Your New Imaginary Friend. Since then, he’s managed to put out a handful of collab projects & solo efforts of his own. The most notable being: Her Favorite Colo(u)r, the M.E.D.-assisted Bad Neighbor produced by Madlib, the Oh No-produced A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night & the Damu the Fudgemunk-produced Ground & Water. But with the 1-year anniversary of the 3rd Blu & Exile album Miles: From an Interlude Called Life passing by over the summer, Blu is enlisting Nature Sounds to back up his 7th full-length solo outing right here.

“I Am Blu(e)” starts off the album with some keyboard embellishments going on about how magnificent he is whereas “Everyday Blu(e)s” has a bit of a jazz flare to it saying he shakes off negativity every day. “People Call Me Blu(e)” incorporates an ill ass blues sample reminding everyone who the fuck he is, but then “Because the Sky’s Blu(e)” harmoniously proclaims himself as a reflection of God.

Meanwhile on “You Ain’t Never Been Blu(e)”, we have Blu jumping on top of some pianos to get conscious leading into “I Was Born to Be Blu(e)” flipping the Ella Fitzgerald cut of the same name telling us he was destined for this. “Blu(e)r Than Blu[e]” fuses orchestral & boom bap bragging about himself just before “We’re Darker Than Blu(e)” serves as a heavenly pro-black theme.

The song “Mr. Blu(e) Sky” is an upbeat ode to living in the moment while the penultimate track “Mr. Blu(e)” has some crooning vocals & trumpets sending a message to the youth. “Blu(e) World” ends the album with an angelic sample & paying tribute to the coolest kid in his city named Ricky.

This dude’s been in the game for nearly 15 years at this point & still come together with incredible music like it’s nothing because I think The Color Blu(e) is amongst his best solo efforts. Blu’s jots down some of the most personal lyrics of his entire career & the production is very creative.

Score: 4/5

Blu & Exile – “Miles: From an Interlude Called Life” review

This is the 3rd full-length album from the critically acclaimed California hip hop duo Blu & Exile. Their 2007 full-length debut Below the Heavens: In Hell Happy with Your New Imaginary Friend is rightfully regarded by many to be one of the best hip hop albums to come out within the past 15 years. This was followed up in 2011 with Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them & then the 2017 rarities compilation In the Beginning: Before the Heavens. But as we enter the 2nd half of 2020, they’re returning with the double-disced Miles.

Things starts off with “Blue”, where Blu makes a bunch of witty references to the titular color on top of a heavenly beat from none other than Exile. The next song “When the Gods Meet” tells the story of an African American meeting a caucasian on a Saturday over a hypnotic instrumental while the track “True & Livin'” sends an impassioned message to the people over a soulful beat. The song “Miles Davis” speaks on how his opponents are washed up & his crew is superior over a jazzy boom bap beat while the track “The Feeling” talks about hope over a gorgeous piano instrumental.

The song “Music is My Everything” with Choosey of course is about how hip hop is their #1 passion over a soothing instrumental while the track “Bright as the Stars” with Aceyalone touches down on their earliest memories in the culture over a delicate beat. The song “Blue as I Can Be” of course talks about how unique he is over a forlorn keyboard instrumental while the track “You Ain’t Never Been Blue” is pretty much Blu talking his shit over a minimalist boom bap beat.

The song “Miles Away” talks about touring over an upbeat instrumental while the track “Troubled Water” comes through with some fiery bars over a harmonious soul sample hanging in the background. The song “Roots of Blue” is an amazing 10-minute black power anthem while the track “African Dream” talks about Africa being “the motherland” over a tribal instrumental. The song “Requiem of Blue” reflects on 2 points in his life in ’83 & ’88 over a flute-tinged beat whereas “The American Dream” talks about wanting it all over a luscious boom bap beat.

The song “Dear Lord” talks about a dream he had where everyone was united backed by a gorgeous horn section while the track “To the Fall, But Not Forgotten” pays tribute to a bunch of famous celebrities who’re no long with us & I really dig the Saloon-style piano chords on here. The song “All the Blues” tells the life story of Miles Davis over a jazz-flavored beat while the penultimate track “Spread Sunshine” talks about positivity over a joyous instrumental. The album then finishes with “The End”, which is a decent Dirty Science posse cut.

Double albums are usually hit or miss with me personally because many of them are just bombarded with filler cuts, but the duo manage it to pull it off very well. For this to be their first release of original material in almost a decade, it’s almost like they never left. Blu reminds us of his place as a West Coast underground titan & Exile’s extravagant production fitting his conscious lyricism like a glove.

Score: 4/5

Blu & Exile – “True & Livin’” review

Blu & Exile are a legendary West Coast hip hop duo consisting of Blu on the mic & Exile on the boards. The 2 exploded onto the scene with their 2007 debut Below the Heavens: In Hell Happy with Your New Imaginary Friend. Easily one of the best albums of the previous decade & one of the greatest underground albums of all-time. However, it wouldn’t be until 2011 that they would follow it up fantastically with Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them & just in 2017, they released a rarities compilation In the Beginning: Before the Heavens to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of their iconic debut. Now with them on tour, they’re celebrating with their debut EP.

The EP starts off with the title track, where Blu delivers some pretty smart bars over a soulful instrumental. The next song “Spread Sunshine” is a self-explanatory yet beautiful positivity anthem & then the closer “Power to the People” with Aloe Blacc, Blame 1, Cashus King, Choosey, Fashawn & Johaz is an empowering posse cut.

Yeah, this isn’t a bad EP at all. Could’ve used at least 2 or 3 more tracks, but they really go to show that their chemistry is still strong in 2019 as it was a decade ago. Hopefully, this is just an appetizer for something bigger to come down the pipe in the future.

Score: 3.5/5

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