Album Review: Sene & Blu – A Day Late & A Dollar Short (2009)

sene and blu - day late and dollar shortAlbum Review: Sene & Blu – A Day Late & A Dollar Short (2009)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Potholes

Ever since Blu burst onto the scene and into the speakers and headphones of hip-hop aficionados everywhere with Below The Heavens, his astonishing album with producer Exile, it seems people have just been waiting for his next jaw-dropping move. Not that his solo work and projects with Mainframe and Ta’Raach weren’t good (in fact, Johnson&Jonson received great acclaim), he just hadn’t topped himself yet.

Then we have Sene, the budding Brooklyn native, fresh off a very nice mixtape, Maltas & Music. He’s got an interesting flow in that the delivery remains smooth but all the words are sharp and punctual, making sure to never fumble over any lines.

Whenever two relative newcomers, each with strong portfolios, come together, the expectations will be high, and the hype even higher. Thankfully, Sene and Blu are a match made in hip-hop heaven, finding ways to knit their styles together to create a very focused sound. A Day Late & A Dollar Short not only represents the fusion of two of hip-hop’s brightest talents, but it represents the extent to which artists in hip-hop borrow from each other, stylistically.

Blu took a noticeable turn into production this year, releasing a few beat tapes during the summer, sharpening his skills for projects like this. What’s striking about Blu’s work on A Day Late & A Dollar Short its sonic similarity to the overall sounds of Exile’s work on Below The Heavens. There is a bit of grit stirred into the silky keyboards and strings, all served over delicious drum loops that wobble somewhere between boom-bap and left field quirkiness. This is not to say that Blu is Exile; it’s actually quite the opposite. Blu has stepped into his own as a producer, simply borrowing many elements from Exile, while finding unique sounds to work with as well. Check out the horn loop on “Ain’tNoJustice” or the jazzy riffs on “OwlThruGotham”.

Sene also sounds at the top of his game here. It is clear that he has borrowed a bit of Blu’s emceeing style, but like Blu, maintained a definite individuality. The opening cut “PressPlay” makes it obvious that Sene has a positive outlook, which fuels his train of thought throughout this album. He raps often about overcoming all sorts of obstacles, from money struggles, to people putting him down, all the while retaining a remarkably humble, relatable stance, which only adds to his authenticity. In addition, it seems as if Sene has an endless supply of topics to rap about. It’s not that we’ve never heard a track about love (for example) before, but Sene finds a way to give love an original spin. It also doesn’t hurt that Sene can carry the occasional tune for a brief hook (see “EyesDry – TheAfter”).

“WonLover” is a perfect example of Sene & Blu at their best. Sene puts on his best Common-circa-1994-thinking-cap and personifies hip-hop as the one love of his life, detailing its ups and downs. From there, the duo keeps the ball rolling with a gesture to Stevie Wonder on “QuarterWaterSupporter”. It features Sene rapping about his childhood growing up in Brooklyn, proving his ability to relay stories through his rhymes, while a chorus sings a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish”.

A Day Late & A Dollar Short is a magnificent example of where hip-hop’s future may lie. It embodies the principle of hip-hop in a pure form – one DJ/producer and one emcee. And most importantly, it spotlights the extraordinary talent of two of the best artists out right now.


28 thoughts on “Album Review: Sene & Blu – A Day Late & A Dollar Short (2009)

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  1. Great review, thanks!

  2. That CL mixtape >>>>>> this shit.

  3. The album is dope. Again…I see yet another discussion on an album where people expect the album to completely blow their collective brains out in greatness.

    A lot of you need to understand the album as it’s OWN piece of art. It doesn’t have to connect your personal dots and rise the hip hop game in one fell swoop, in your eyes. Lot of you compare without explicitly comparing shit to other shit that’s come out.

    The comment.question shouldn’t be….”he’s not saying anything new”….or “what’s so new?” or whatever. It should be – “did that do the album they wanted to do?”…..”Does Sene and Blu deliver the authenticity they were looking to create?” “Is it dope…not compared to Album X….but is it just….dope?”

    I think the album is just dope….there is not need to for everything to be world beating and genre changing. I do enjoy the occasional dominant album every once in a while…but I don’t need every album to be….the fucking…Blueprint….or Things Fall Apart…..or ATLiens….or Funcrusher Plus…..or whatever.

  4. Listen to this album properly………..honestly. Listen properly. How could this be boring? His songwriting is insanely good. lol. and he rides those beats precisely each time. OwnThruGotham is a great example of that. You’re all entitled to your opinion, but make sure you LISTEN to the album precisely. lol

  5. I had so much to say about this album, and then I read these comments. I really don’t get how there can be this much hate for something I love so much.

  6. Sir Alistair|

    Soulsupreme – I personally found Sene’s rhymes to be authentic, personal and from his heart, so to me it was far from boring. But to each his own I guess…

  7. I agree with frank_bE & Jpib I found this album mediocre at best. He can definitely rap, but the hooks are brutal (please stop singing on every hook) and the production sounded the same on too many tracks to keep my attention. This album plays more like 2.5-3 and less like 4.5/5

    As Justin said earlier; “he takes the safe approach every time, so the rhymes are well written, perfectly delivered, and kinda boring.”

  8. i cannot see BTH as overated, it is my favorite album . ever. and iv heard alot of music it jus touched me in a certain way to album has. but anywayz back on topic i love both these artists, but i was expecting more.
    3/5 for me
    the production wasn’t bad but not great to me and sene, who has shined at times to me for example tracks like prisoners tune, stride right, madness, jus yesterday etc. left a little something to be desired.
    overall not bad, but my expectations were too high i guess.

  9. strollintolago|

    @Kindly Copperfeel

    I disagree with your statement “I really think that a lot of people give props to certain artists because of their affiliations” to be honest I don’t really see any similarities in this album to below the heavens, i only rated about half the tracks from that album but love this one, has a great feel to it real fresh. That said I can understand why this album wouldn’t be for everyone it does have it’s own distinct style, a lot of my mates don’t appreciate it, but I for one have this on repeat, all round awesome.

  10. I dont really know what to say about this whole conversation besides the fact that I haven’t heard the album just his recent mixtape. I think Sene and Blu have dropped some pretty interesting tracks. When it comes to beats I don’t see Blu trying to be Exile. Blu has some really strange sounds and tendencies in his beats that I don’t see in Exile. As for Sene, he has a really unique approach and voice. I could pick his voice out on a track real quick. As for content, I haven’t heard enough to say, but I think both of these artists are pretty excellent at what they do.

  11. Unfortunately I have to agree with Jbip. Mediocre at best.

  12. @Kindly Copperfeel

    Just as a clarification, I think the BEATS are superb and the lyricism is above average (by underground standards). I really can’t see how you don’t think “eyecry” or “owlthrugotham” don’t deserve a replay. It could be your speaker system. I found that the album, in general, sounds a lot better in headphones. So put on a good pair and try it again. There is simply nothing out right now that sounds like this and does it this well. So, to reiterate, I think the album pulls heavily from the familiar terrain of blu/exile but ventures out enough to sound fresh and innovative.

    On your second and third points, I agree. I think this album would have done just as well with Thes One (of PUTS) or Ra Scion (of Common Market) (in a perfect world, Malice of The Clipse would rhyme over these beats. I know they’re from different worlds, but I can dream) but I think also Sene holds his own and has a lot of potential.

    Hopefully Blu also releases an instrumental version.

  13. I’m sorry, I just listened to this album and NOT ONE TRACK screamed replay me. And, youknow!, if THIS is what you consider a SUPERB album, then your standards really aren’t that high. It’s basically an album of Sene emulating Blu (lyrically) and Blu emulating Exile (beatwise). And, neither of those emulators are seeing the originators.

    This album quickly became background fodder. I really think that a lot of people give props to certain artists because of their affiliations and (as much as I hate the godforsaken term) swagger. For example, Fresh Air (totally off-topic here, but bear with me). He was “grinding” (another trite, baseless term) hard as hell before his album released, getting beats from this and that producer, collabing with this and that artist, etc… But, at the end of the day, the album sucked. So, Sene’s affiliation with Blu doesn’t grant him any cookie points in my book.

    And, lastly, being MERELY a technically proficient rapper these days is just not going to cut it. If you aren’t adding your own spice to the sauce, then why are you even in the damn kitchen? And, why should I listen to “you” over the next “technically proficient” rapper?

  14. Thats cool,im glad people enjoy it im not a sene hater i really hope the guy pushes on from this and gets to where he wants to be.But 4.5/5?For that?Nu uh..this is where sene set the bar in my mind..

  15. If anyone thought this album was mundane, they haven’t given it a good listen. The album production is SUPERB. There is no beat on here that i’m like “oh, i’ve heard this before, this sounds like…” About the only things you can generalize about this album is that it is mellow (like bay area) and it’s sample-driven (blues/soul samples like Exile or Dilla).

    Other than that the album takes seamless twists and turns that I think are innovative and should hold anyone’s interest. I think “owlthrugotham” is a good example of this. You think the beats going one way with peaceful piano loop at the start but then hits you with a completely different vibe. Some songs are safer than others, sticking to the tried and true blu/exile formula, but even those songs (quarterwatersupport, maybe) are great.

    This is my first time listening to Sene, and he’s definitely a technically able rapper. The only question is if his style is unique enough. There are a lot of technically able rappers/groups (Lightheaded, Blue Scholars, Common Market, PUTS etc.)–they are all great (although, I think Sene is just as good if not better than most of those), it’s just that the spit-fire rapping style just doesn’t set you apart from the pack. Though, the way he rhymes/croons(?) over hooks is catchy.

    4.5 is right.

  16. I can see why some people like this album, and why some dislike it – I find it pretty good, but not even close to the masterpiece status. And also, even though I know everybody has their own opinions about it, I can’t see in any possible way, how someone could describe “Below The Heavens” as being overrated, I mean WHAT!!?? And neither the “Piece Talks” or the “Johnson & Jonson” album where even close to BTH, they were sideprojects, and not supposed to be anything like BTH. To me, saying that BTH is bad is the same as saying, “Ok, I haven’t really listened to it”. Just my opinion.

  17. The Seperator|

    im with steve1.
    laughing at some of these comments which come from the same poster with dft names. research.
    i just heard the album this week. love it. i only wouldn’t give it a 5 cause i would have maybe liked to hear one or 2 more features. as far as nothing new? if a rapper is telling personal stories, it shouldn’t really have to match up with what you wanted to say imo.
    hasnt left my player since…

  18. strollintolago|

    This album is so good, had it on repeat all last week, so fresh!

  19. I can see why people would think Sene is saying nothing new. He’s a very competent technical emcee but he takes the safe approach every time, so the rhymes are well written, perfectly delivered, and kinda boring. On first listen, though, I really dig this album…it’s funny because it reminds me a lot of Jern Eye’s album — again, a technically solid emcee who just has nothing original or noteworthy to say.

    Lyrically, both albums feel like paint-by-numbers, but I thought this one was way, way more cohesive…more of an ALBUM. I think the most important point is that Sene is what….20? 5 years from now he’s going to be doing really amazing work because he’s already done everything else right. Now he just needs to find more of a voice…he’s already got the network, the experience and the talent. (Same with Jern Eye, who I felt was way stronger on Lunar Heights tracks than his solo work.)

  20. I’m a bit surprised at the comments here. Everybody’s entitled to their opinions but I thought this album was near flawless. Sure, Sene does sound a bit like Blu at times, but that definitely isn’t a bad thing. I’m a huge fan of Blu and my only disapointment was that he didn’t rap on this album. However, Sene holds it together on his own. Great album, great review.

  21. to be honest allister..just seemed like sene was saying,nothing new.Like the rhymes were just a rigmarole.I dont know really i dont want to be too harsh because senes a dope artist and just because im not feeling it doesnt mean its whack.I just thought it was sub standard,and the production wasnt what i was expecting after hearing some of blu’s beat tapes,and i really feel giving it such a high review is gonna get alot of peoples hopes up,sene just isnt “there” yet.You should have kept that review for when he drops a classic!

  22. frank_bE – Thanks for the comment; I do appreciate any and all opinions. As far as this album goes, I found a lot of similarities between this and BTH, so if you weren’t really feeling BTH, then it doesn’t surprise me if this album doesn’t resonate with you much either.

    Jbip – Again, I appreciate the comment. What did you feel was mundane about this album? The production? Emceeing?

  23. Yeah, I’m with Jbip regarding Below The Heavens. And I even heard it after a fair amount of hype was thrown its way. But I still thought it was incredible after listening several times. Anyway, I still have to listen this Sene record. Hopefully I can do that soon.

  24. hell no..below the heavans was great.That album really touched me,but im glad i found it before it was given the titles its been given.Otherwise..maybe id be expecting something and finding something else..anyway..Sene and Blu are both dope..but this album was too mundane if im honest.We need to here sene on the N.A.S.A vibe.Thats one of his greatest tracks..

  25. and lol at the statement about his work with ta’raach and mainframe, both topped Below the heavens, aka the most over-rated album this side of jay’s blueprint

  26. i agree with Jbip. i actually have had songs from this for a minute because a mutual friend is close with sene and blu and the 5 tracks i have none have any reply value. their is no way this album is a 4.5

  27. Dont agree with this review at all.Thought this was a terible album and im a fan of both blu and sene since day1.No feel to sucked.2/5 potholes

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