The Underrated: Blu and Exile's Below the Heavens

1. My World Is...
2. The Narrow Path
3. So(ul) Amazin' (Steel Blazin)
4. Juicen Drinks
5. In Remembrance Of Me
6. Blu Colla Workers
7. Dancing In The Rain
8. First Things First 
9. No Greater Love 
10. Show Me The Good Life
11. Simply Amazin
12. Cold Hearted 
13. The World Is (Below The Heavens)
14. You Are Now In The Clouds With 
15. I Am

Intro By @TrueGodImmortal 
-There are many albums in hip hop that fly under the radar. The underground scene has produced countless classic moments and solid projects over the years. One project that remains to be the most solid that I've heard to this day is the 2007 release from West Coast MC Blu and producer Exile. Exile infused his form of samples and knocking drums to provide Blu with the perfect soundbed to create the ultimate album. Over 15 amazing tracks, the album is quite a journey and is a shining example of cohesion in hip hop. When I first heard of this album, I was reading a XXL magazine inside of a Wal Mart (ah the good old days), when I saw a review from the underground section of the album reviews and was instantly intrigued. Now, I had seen reviews of indie projects at the time before in this same section, but to be fair, I had never felt compelled to check out any of the music from the guys I read about.

To be honest, after reading some of the lyrics of Blu and this album, I decided to take a listen to his music online and I believe I heard the snippets through Amazon. From the beginning of the album, I knew I was in for something special just based off 30 second snippets of each song. I remember going to a local Record and Tape Traders store and searching for the album. They had about 3 left in stock, and only had a total of 15 that got shipped to that store. I remember picking up the album and being excited to listen to it in full. I played the first few songs and I was amazed. Combining this level of lyricism, production and most of all, relatability, was the biggest key to my enjoy of this album. That has always been the key to Blu and his music anyways: the ability to make you relate to this music, his plight and touch on personal topics. In my own music, I've incorporated that, and while Blu didn't necessarily influence that in my music, this album is still a hip hop inspiration to me.

I vividly remember running back the sounds of "Blu Colla Workers" and thinking how this sound was upbeat yet spoke to the everyday struggle in many ways. Blu wasn't out for millions. He didn't seem to be out for the fame or adoration. He just wanted to talk about his experiences and the things he had gone through from an honest perspective and present the art to the world. There's two songs that stick out so much to me on this album, both for their personal nature and soul. While "The Narrow Path", "Simply Amazin", "My World Is", "Blu Colla Workers", and a few others all are classics on this damn near flawless album, and songs like "First Things First" (featuring a younger Miguel) were truly dope listens, the best music on this album comes from two different sides of the spectrum, but similar in essence.

"Dancing In the Rain" is quite possibly the best song Blu has made over this career. The beat is pure perfection, the lyrics are amazing, and Blu provides just enough of that signature melancholy yet hopeful vibe in his verses to make it work. The sound of the sing songy hook works very well here and Blu delivers it in a way that speaks of pain, but also shows vibes of positivity hidden within his pain. He has a moment where he considers leaving behind this music and also speaks directly to depression and all the elements that can come with it. The song is like his personal call to keep it going despite what life gives you or the setbacks. It is an inspirational song, but far from the usual corny inspirational cheesy variety. It is real, raw, and almost a celebration.

Speaking of celebration, Blu celebrates what he feels is the greatest love on "No Greater Love", speaking about his relationship at the time and the woman he loved. I related to this song when it first came out and on the revisit of this album, it is still a great sound overall. It's a strong listen, as Blu covers the ups and downs of a love far from perfect, but perfect for him. The arguments, the anger, the moments of disarray all seem worth it when it's all said and done. Rarely in hip hop do we see a song uplifting love at the highest power, but this is one of them. It works and it is perfectly placed on the album.

If you haven't heard this album, please do so now and enjoy the experience. Before you do that though, I gathered a few guys from the team to give their thoughts on this classic album. Let's get into that.

Blu and Exile's Below The Heavens remains one of my favorite albums ever. I first heard it in high school, and I still remember my boy telling me I HAD to hear it and from the opening track ''My World Is..'', I was hooked. Flow, Lyrics, beats... everything was perfect. Blu's ability to tell a story pulled me into every line. The album was amazing to me in the way he painted the picture of his life and tracks like ''Blu Colla Workers'' encapsulated the struggle of trying to get a girl while pushing for what you want. That, ''No Greater Love'' and ''Show Me The Good Life'' are my three favorite tracks on the album. But make no mistake, from beginning to end, ''Below The Heavens'' is undoubtedly a classic album from one of the most complete and talented lyricists out there.

Funny how things work out. I was planning to write something on the first Johnson&Jonson album, since "Hold On John" was one of my favorite Blu-affiliated tracks. But, let's talk Below the Heavens. I'm admittedly biased, but it's a lo-fi piece of genius. From the numerous "blue" samples (from soul samples to a Sesame Street song, Blu and Exile pull out some stellar DITC skills on this one), to a pseudo-introduction to the auditory wonder that is Miguel (then performing as Miguel Jontel), Below the Heavens offers up something for every sort of listener without compromising its themes, lyricism and so on.

If you haven't heard it, get off here, stop reading my words and do yourself a favor. Your earholes will love you for it.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal 
-Yes, Speed is right. Your ears will love you for it. This album is a classic in every sense of the word, and within the last 10 years, it is a top 10 hip hop release. Don't believe me? Listen for yourself. Not familiar with Blu? Check out his catalog. You won't be sorry.



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