Blu and Exile reunite for 'Give Me My Flowers' LP
Four years ago, a scarcely known local rapper-producer combination named Blu and Exile dropped "Below the Heavens" on the independent label Sound Is Color. It's impact far exceeded what everyone could have guessed at the time.
The last decade found underground hip-hop fans periodically seeking saviors. As with Talib Kweli, Common and Little Brother before him, Blu briefly shouldered the burden of being a would-be messiah. Along with that distinction, his debut was hailed as a classic in quarters sympathetic to soul samples and nostalgic lyrics.
The problem was that Blu clearly never relished the role. Rather than make a "Below the Heavens Part 2," he signed to Warner Bros and practically fell off the face of the Earth. While many of his peers concoted slick marketing campaigns or cultivated massive Twitter followings, Blu released under-promoted psychedelic, jazz-tinted mixtape/albums, unmastered and with dubious sound qualities. Some of the music was excellent, some was clearly slap-dash, but the San Pedro-raised rapper's talent always allowed him to keep things interesting.
So, in keeping with that theme, Blu and Exile reunited with no advance notice. "Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them" has had no press lead-in. There are no videos or interviews. The producer and rapper quietly put it up on Bandcamp late last week. It's on sale for the almost comically high price of $15, especially considering it's unmastered. But for those who loved "Below the Heavens," it's a solid return to form.
As with Dilla and Common, Hi-Tek and Talib Kweli, there's just a natural chemistry between Blu and Exile that invites easy comparisons. Give both men credit. They're obviously aware of the expectations this sort of thing invites. So, rather than feel like a make-or-break proposition, "Give Me My Flowers" feels like a welcome pop-in from a longtime friend. Reportedly recorded in 2009, this is the sound of Blu and Exile catching up, with familial ease. It's loose and relaxed and there's talk of delivery cheesecake and Michel Gondry films.
It remains to be seen whether it will earn a psychic foothold like its predecessors, but it's already better than getting a backpack under the tree.
-- Jeff Weiss
Photo: Blu & Exile. Credit: Exile's Facebook page