Music Review | posted 13.02.2012
Blu & Exile
Below the Heavens
Sound In Color, 2007
Text Carlos Steurer , Translation Julia Frohn
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Cover Blu & Exile  - Below the Heavens

Years before Californian Teenagers started yelling »Swag« into every microphone they passed while wearing too tight jeans and thereby killing off the complete coast for further rap-purposes, there was an album released which the wider public didn’t even notice. The year was 2007, and Blu & Exile’s Below The Heavens was a long-lasting, path breaking Hip-Hop-album. In the tradition of Gang Starr, EPMD and Pete Rock & CL, Blu & Exile soon founded a team consisting of a producer with clear ideas about sounds and songs and an über-talented, hungry MC, complementing each other perfectly. When Blu raps on In Remembrance Of Me: »My Mum said, that I was too young to make this song«, it’s probably due to the fact that no one’s ever heard a 22-years-old rapping as light-footedly, yet with utmost technical skills, about topics like teenage pregnancy or life after death. Exile’s soul-bombast serves as the perfect carrier for Blu’s day-dreamy poetry. Joe Tex, The O’Jay’s and Roberta Flack are processed in a unique, creative and enjoyably concealed way, placed into a Hip-Hop surrounding and and further contextualized by Blu with his personal history of a hard-working, aspiring artist full of soul and wisdom. Hence, he helped paving the way for a certain kind of vulnerability and the right amount of understatement – ubiquitous in today’s Hip-Hop – with tracks like Dancing In The Rain, which should even make the hardest gangster shed a couple of joyful tears. Now, five years later, the re-release proves us right in saying that Blu & Exile have created a timeless genre-classic and, almost as if passing by, have breathed new life into the West-coast and the whole rap-scenery. As annoying as all the Nas-comparisons, concerning debut-records by young lyricists, might be: To me, Below The Heavens is the same kind of life-changing album that Illmatic was to many others.

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