Miles - Blu & Exile: Review
Below The Heavens and Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them are two albums that polar opposites in style for the duo Blu & Exile. Their newest release Miles is no different. The duo has had the repertoire that exceeds most in the industry with their consistent outpouring of quality production and illustrious lyricism, but their notoriety doesn’t match most heavyweights. The two, however, stand on the pantheon of many artists on the middleweight level.
Unlike their previous two albums, Miles doesn’t share similarities with style and approach, but instead stands on its own two feet with seismic samples underlying these bombastic jazzy instrumentals. This follows the consistent themes of race, religion, the American dream, and nostalgia (to name a few). It further creates an overall rounded concept of imaginable heights.
Race and Identity is driven heavily by Blu’s acknowledged history of his ancestors and the pioneers they are. “Roots of Blu,” explores this down to key details through historical contexts and facts, often comparing himself to these people in the way he sort of brought light to the underground hip-hop genre as a whole. Though not a sole leader, his debut with Exile Below The Heavens was a pioneering force that brought back attention. And though the dynamics of hip-hop has changed with many influences from various artists outside the spectrum.
Blu has always been the virtuoso lyricist with an old soul, modernizing music for the world without selling out. His flows and rhythm embody the spirit that made Jurassic 5 and Tribe Called Quest so distinct in hip-hop‘s sphere. His capabilities to adapt to any instrumental can’t go unnoticed, like on NoYork!, an electronic/experimental hip-hop album from 2011. On Miles Blu does similarly with the instrumentals containing their own distinct touch. From the nostalgic and sharp scratches and boom bap styles. He adapts the samples and instrumentals with ease into the core base of the music, like the African Drums that highlight both "Roots of Blue," and "African Dream."
But contrary to To Pimp A Butterfly it paves the paths it creates with bombastic sounds and lyricism, enticing that inner righteousness. This is where Blu shines with his aggressively smooth prowl and when he pounces, he really pounces. Kendrick pounces like the lion on TPAB, but with more personal and resonant reflection when it comes to identity and heightened success. Blu walks in like the tiger, always hungry and a representation of the world, using personal experiences from his life in various ways.
There are rare moments Blu comes in with a corny bar or two, but it gets diluted by the assist from the featured artists. He brings in fellow friend and contributor Fashawn back into the mix after a three year absence from the scene. Their track “Requiem of Blue,” is this lush piano base instrumental where Blu and Fashawn trade off verses talking about their turning points in life.
Miles is unlike any release this year, a 95 minute album devoid of filler is a rare find. Especially when every track lands on the marker with bright lights. It feels like something you'd find in a time capsule from the 90s, but themes ring truer with our social political climate.