Written By: Brandon Basile
Classic Is As Classic Does
Originality: (4.0 / 5) Vocals/Flow: (5.0 / 5) Lyrics: (5.0 / 5) Production: (5.0 / 5) Average: (4.8 / 5)
The Skynet robots have pushed humanity to the brink of… Oh wait.. I mean..Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop has gone through a lot of changes throughout the years. Even within the past 10 years the genre has experienced many changes in sound, markets, and themes. Complications of schools and generations nowadays create a dichotomy of waves and trends that can make the game a temporal sea of social land mines and hairpin trigger personas. Flashback to 2007. Hip-Hop hadn’t experienced the exponential growth of soundwaves brought on with social media and music streaming services. Rap purists were still beefing with party rap profiteering, but hey Kanye was killing, and Jay-Z was still the (reluctant) king of New York, so hip-hop wasn’t dead yet (Right?). The state of depth of the game could be in question, but with lyricists like Kanye West, Common, and Lupe Fiasco dropping their brand of black life social documentary, lyricism was contending with the rise of ringtones well enough that consciousness was the voice of the youth of the era, let us millennials tell it.
Along comes hip-hop duo Blu & Exile with their critically acclaimed debut release Below The Heavens, which only found its way to you by download because it was leaked to the internet prior to its release, but pressed twice since going out of print in 2009. Below The Heavens was a major success among underground and independent rap sites and charts for Exile’s production of soulful hip-hop beats and Blu’s lyrical flows and was a big win for West Coast hip-hop. 10 years later, here on 2017, the pair have released the long-awaited and teased prequel In The Beginning: Before The Heavens, a collection of songs that were recorded while creating Below The Heavens.
Blu was ripping and rapping a lot of bars back in 2007, and since. Below The Heavens shows a different perspective of artistry than the songs of Before The Heavens, but Before The Heavens is still polished work in sonics and scripts. It is refreshing to time travel back to the youthful feeling of that era. There was a certain patient aggression with the conscious rap movement of the 2000s where lyricists leaned on authenticity to earn their audience as opposed to making sing along dance tones. Blu raps vibrantly colored rhymes on “Stress Off The Chest” saying:
My mind’s too deep, a visionary never raised to blink
Cleanse my soul brush my teeth
Spit in faces fuck a sink, repent before I sleep
Cheat religion, a nigga fina piss on each amendment
Wipe my ass with the Constitution
Constipated feelings trying to shit it out
And get it out of my system
A frustrated nigga pissed, cause they tricked me
They fed me bull instead of full course real when I was empty
They made me believe the world’s against me
They told me they was friends of me
Closed my eyes and pre described my enemies
Without no one even offending me.
Though Blu was 23 at the time of the release of Below The Heavens in 2007, Before The Heavens features recordings from early interviews with radio personality Sway speaking of his influences and hip-hop journey from the age of 18. Before The Heavens is solid hip-hop of a pristine moment in music and vision of the artist at growth. When work is timeless it remains just that. Throw this joint on when you before head out for with your back back, ya heard? Bars is bars, and when it’s good don’t shit change, but the day of the week.