Blu and Exile
By Jack Barnes
With his fluid, incisive rhyming style and his intellectual lyrics, L.A. rapper Blu found his ideal aesthetic match in the dusty, soulful beats of crate-digging producer/DJ Exile. Ten years ago, Blu and Exile released Below The Heavens, a contemplative, confident, and wistful masterpiece beloved by critics and embraced by the West Coast underground as an instant classic. Today, Blu and Exile proudly announce In The Beginning: Before The Heavens, a follow-up and companion piece to the classic record. Comprised of unreleased tracks from the original Below The Heavens sessions, In The Beginning captures the same ineffable energy of the original record. Today, the duo shares “Constellations,” an organ-driven boom-bap banger premiered by Mass Appeal, featuring some of Blu’s best bars of the project: “I’m showin you an older Blu in hopes that you embrace it/like a soldier do with gauges/Motor you through pages that I wrote for you/Laid it in the vocal booth/Press it up and sold it to the places that you go into.” With appearances from Aloe Blacc, Co$$, Donel Smokes, Blame One, and others, In The Beginning: Before The Heavens, coming October 20th via Dirty Science/Fat Beats, proves that the Below The Heavensstyle feels just as fresh in 2017 as it did in 2007.
“We planted the seeds of creativity and grew about 40 plants,” Exile says of the release. “We picked the ones that we thought were the best for an album, but that didn’t mean that the other flowers weren’t beautiful. I’m super happy to re-release [In The Beginning] to people and have it actually get some attention that it definitely deserves. It’s amazing.”
A former high school basketball star raised by a pastor father who hated rap music, Blu is an idiosyncratic and emotional rapper with a maverick sense of self-determinism. A well-respected producer in the L.A. underground, Orange County native Exile produced tracks for the likes of Mobb Deep, Kardinal Offishal, Jurassic 5, and others before teaming up with Blu for their fruitful partnership. Released in Summer 2007, Below The Heavens received rave reviews from tastemakers and appeared on many year-end best-of lists. The momentum from Below The Heavens led to Blu’s signing to Warner Bros. Records, and propelled the young rapper onto the 2009 XXL Freshman List alongside B.o.B, Kid Cudi, and Wale. In 2012, Blu and Exile reunited for Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them, expanding the palette of Below The Heavens and showcasing Blu’s multi-syllabic dexterity. Separately, the duo continued to make music, with Blu releasing countless mixtapes, most notably York, which received an 8.1 from Pitchfork, and collaborated with the likes of Madlib and Nottz. Exile remains an in-demand producer in the West Coast scene, forming Emanon, a duo with Aloe Blacc, and producing records for rappers such as Wiz Khalifa & Snoop Dogg, Big Sean, Fashawn, and Pharaohe Monch.
In addition to the new album, Blu and Exile announce the extension of the Below The Heavens 10 Year Anniversary Tour, which finishes its West Coast leg in Seattle on September 13th. Embarking on September 26th at Beauty Bar in Las Vegas, the 10 Year Anniversary Tour continues for 29 headlining dates spanning from Salt Lake City to Miami. Featuring support from L.A. underground stalwarts Dag Savage, Choosey, Cashus King (fka Co$$), and Pistol McFly, tickets for the tour are on sale now.
Pre-order In The Beginning: Before The Heavens: https://bluandexile.
Buy tickets for the Below The Heavens 10 Year Anniversary Tour: http://thedirtyscience.
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