Blu & Exile Release A Prequel To Their Below The Heavens Album (Full Stream)
Ten years ago, Blu & Exile’s Below The Heavens debut sparked an enthusiastic reaction, with fans and critics immediately claiming it as a classic and last call of the booming Underground Hip-Hop movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Listening now to previously unreleased tracks from the same sessions, packaged as In the Beginning: Before the Heavens (Dirty Science) it’s striking how while the music transports us back to a specific time and place, the quality of the music makes it timeless.
Part of the first Below the Heavens mystique lay in its rarity, as Billboard reports, “after suffering a premature leak online, months before the release date, the physical CD was hard to come by, as only around 3,000 copies were pressed.” A similar sense of anticipation has been building over this new/old release, with fans impatient to hear previously unreleased cuts from the same sessions that birthed the much-loved album from 2007.
Featuring on the new record are stable-mates from the duo’s label, Dirty Science: Aloe Blacc, Donel Smokes, Trek Life, Cashus King (fka Co$$), Blame One, Dr. Oop and Lyric Jones. Some of In The Beginning’s strongest songs feature guests, say the tougher-edged “Life is a Gamble” (with Donel Smokes. Trek Life & Cashus King), or the Lyric Jones-assisted “Constellations” that has Blu’s turning extra-personal and intimate as if he is speaking directly to the listener.
One highlight is “Another Day” where Blu condemns “Cold-hearted vandalists f*cking up the culture,” to end on the heartfelt lines that explain his motivation and why he is different. His goal as an MC is “fighting for freedom / That’s why I only write in what I believe in …”
“Below the Heavens was about being underground while comparing mainstream success to living in heaven,” Blu shared in his Billboard interview. “This is before that. The only thing that happened before God made the heavens and Earth [is God] says, ‘In The Beginning,’ so this is like the training wheels.” When putting together the release, the team whittled down the selection from 75 tracks. “There are at least another 30 songs,” said Blu. “We had three versions of the title track alone.”
Last month, collaborations also released with Blu and Talib Kweli, and Blu with Elzhi. Exile and Fashawn released the exceptional Boy Meets World eight years ago today (October 20). Yesterday, Fash’ dropped the video to his self-titled single, produced by Large Professor.