Blu and Exile
Below the Heavens


3.5
great

Review

by plane EMERITUS
August 18th, 2007 | 35 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Decidedly down-to-earth hip-hop by a talented new up-and-comer.

Where 2007’s other great hip-hop album, Pharoahe Monch’s Desire, dealt on a grander scale (tackling New Orleans and conspiracy theories), Blu and Exile’s Below the Heavens is very much its counter-balance. More homebound and ambitious with the excited newcomer naivety, Blu and Exile, making their auspicious debut (in an album too long for the casual listening) are more interested in the war behind their walls and in their streets. Blu might berate you (the guys figure you should have heard of the album, and if you haven’t, you’re the motherfucking idiot who put the motherfucking ‘e’ on the motherfucking poster), but when need be, Blu is more down-to-earth than cocky. Clocking in at 60 minutes, Below the Heavens runs the risk of drawing itself out to a breaking point, belittling its greater moments by surrounding them in fluff. But Blu, sticking close to the unexceptional meaning of the title, is more interested in realism while Exile is more interested in fiddling with concept, keeping things simple without making it an exercise in minimalist.

Aside from the self-indulgent album opener found in the form of ‘My World Is…,’ a catchy, sample ridden, ego stroking number devoted to Blu and his abilities as a rapper (more tongue-in-cheek than self-gratifying), Blu is content in penning and discussing real world stories. In the album highlight, ‘Narrow Path,’ he details the growing difficulties to be a young underground MC in modern times, toeing the edges of the “narrow path.” Here, in the superb chorus, diluted almost to a whisper, Blu sings, “I need a pen, I need a pad, I need a place to go to get this shit lifted off of my soul.” It’s this same mentality that plagues the chronicling of an average Joe’s routine life in ‘Dancing In The Rain;’ it’s atypical insights like these, ones that branch out from Blu’s typical topic (sometimes that of, but not limited to, religion), that fuels Below the Heavens. And even if Blu stoops to generics (his argument that it’s love not lust[!] that drives his relationship in ‘Greater Love’), Exile’s production rounds it out well (‘Greater Love’ features prominent samples of “greater love!” in an airy tone, giving a slight romanticism to Blu’s otherwise blunt delivery). He even inserts a little humour into 'Good Life,' a song that finds its protagonist a new father ("When it comes to being a man, shi, I'm barely getting my feet wet").

But really, it’s DJ Exile’s production that makes the ends meet, the key behind Below the Heavens success. ‘Soul Rising’’s production wouldn’t seem out of place in Nas’ line-up, while ‘First Things First’ slides down easy on its laid back atmosphere, riding smooth with Blu’s flirty, party mood. Mostly, Below the Heavens calls to mind the hip-hop that rose in the early ‘90s, fitting snugly with the nostalgic ‘In Remembrance’ that seems peculiar in the one-off feel of Blu’s delivery; you can almost hear others agreeing with him when he starts detailing the drama of his high school years. Below the Heavens, sorely overlooked in a wave of new, almost equally tasty hip-hop, battles its running time with consistency; it builds in both Blu and Exile’s repertoire, ending on its best foot. Beginning with ‘Below the Heavens.. Pt. I,’ the album ends gracefully with the stripped bare ‘I Am…’ that is decidedly low key after the two-part title track that throws in as much production as it can get before toppling over. It may get graphic (violence, sex, C-sections, oh my!), but it’s tighter than that, never letting itself become memorable for its shock value.

Even if Below the Heavens finest tracks are the ones tricked out in sincerity, the album isn't without its instant catches. In 'Blu Colla Workers' (clever!), Blu almost simultaneously gets some and "bruises the mic," all while "misery loves company, but I don't need shit so don't come to me." It may lack class, but Exile's production sways with Blu's sauntering. Even in the profanity lined 'Juice n' Dranks,' Blu and guest Taraach are too busy chuckling to give any real offense; its computer laser noises provide a stark contrast to its freestyle rapping.

So Below the Heavens signals in a new, talented MC in the form of Blu, one who, aided by Exile, finds himself with a debut that’s heart may lie in conventions but doesn’t cater to them. Devoid of skits, Blu writes what he knows and, as unoriginal as it may be, he is so endearing that the fact that he never tries to be flashy makes Below the Heavens all the more intangible. To quote Blu: "It's hard to explain over beats."

We hear ya.



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Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
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...



Comments:Add a Comment 
plane
Emeritus
August 18th 2007


7338 Comments


uh rap?!

This is equal to or better than Desire for me.

MeowMeow
August 18th 2007


662 Comments


Great review. I'll give this a listen.

plane
Emeritus
August 18th 2007


7338 Comments


Whole stream is up on Blu's myspace.

www.myspace.com/bluroc

La Revolucion
August 18th 2007


1060 Comments


Great album.

Athom
Emeritus
December 17th 2008


17240 Comments


This needs more love.

bastard
December 17th 2008


3432 Comments


Someone told me about this, Might listen to this tomorrow during the two hour break between my finals.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
December 18th 2008


4970 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

it's solid, probably at the same level as this year's Johnson&Jonson (Blue and Mainframe)

Rhaegar
December 26th 2008


24 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

god damn i like this

AziHaka
January 24th 2010


6 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This album is a classic! This is way better than Johnson&Jonson. The production is, well, amazing. And the lyrics are on point. The worst song is Juice N' Dranks, which isn't even a bad song.

Tupik
August 25th 2010


680 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album is amazing.

musicConsumer
September 4th 2010


494 Comments


this site needs more blu

EaglesBecomeVultures
November 30th 2010


5529 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Exxxxile!



Classic record. Blu is ridiculously talented. And this is infinitely better than J&J, even though I love that record, too.



Edit. Well written review, but as good as Exile is, I think you're severely underrating Blu as an MC here. Very much so.

samr4563
January 13th 2011


43 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

why do neither of these guys ever get recognition? exile is one of the best and Blu is one of the best rappers out there right now

kingsoby1
Emeritus
January 13th 2011


4970 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is equal to j&j definitely. both slightly different but great records.



blu is a much better producer than exile and mainframe tbh. i hope his next record is completely his creation.

PuddlesPuddles
April 10th 2011


4798 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Album is almost completely Puddles

cirq
May 19th 2011


9349 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

this shit is a fuckin work of art

EaglesBecomeVultures
September 14th 2011


5529 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Classic.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
September 14th 2011


3912 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Pretty damn good.

EaglesBecomeVultures
September 14th 2011


5529 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Best album cover ever:

http://www.hotimg.com/direct/uWG85at.png

gabethepiratesquid
February 4th 2012


4522 Comments


This is just so happy. I wish Blu's other stuff was as good as this. And I normally don't like Exile's production but he really does a fantastic job on this and proves that jazzy turntablism hasn't been COMPLETELY done to death.



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