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Blu & Exile – Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them

Blu & Exile – Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them

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Dirty Science: 2012

Blu is the internet era’s Nas: a profoundly natural and gifted lyricist who released a critically acclaimed debut, only to piss off fans with every subsequent release. Where the criticisms of Nas mostly revolve around his beat selection and supposed weak thematic directions, Blu has fallen down a more complicated wormhole. Not only do his fans complain about the production choices, but the actual sound quality of his music is an issue as well. Also the randomness and conflict over who and when LPs drop has created some concern. Then add Blu’s highly questionable live performances, and he has all but taken away the mighty wind Below The Heavens placed under his sails.

Yet, here I am thinking of Below The Heavens and the second part of the album’s title: In Hell Happy With Your Imaginary Friend. In a way it describes Blu’s current career predicament. Fans have held onto BTH as an imaginary totem of Blu’s personified greatness, while he smirks from a distance, because he’s comfortable with his creative work since the supposed fall from grace. Instead of fans bitching about Blu’s sound quality or creative directions, maybe they should appreciate how varied and prolific Blu has become. In just five years he gave backpackers the sonic wet dream of their misguided nostalgia; created an under appreciated neo-Native Tongues album with Ta’Raach; effortlessly crafted a bare knuckles lo-fi rap-a-thon with Mainframe; has released various tapes that show us his growth as a beat-maker; signed to a major label and fantastically mined LA’s electronic scene, only to have it “shelved”; and created an insular rap version of dusty Motown do-wop.

Where Lil’ B is rap Dada and theater of the absurd, Blu is like our aloof beatnik Black Arts revivalist. Again paired with Exile, Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them is another high quality example of Mr. Barnes’s creative subterfuge. The opening song “Ease Your Mind” finds Blu’s melted butter on homemade biscuits flow, wax philosophical over Exile’s kaleidoscopic soul chops and crunchy drums. “O Heaven” later glides with its elegant vocal-n-piano loop, as a confident and strutting low end gives Blu the canvas to paint his images. Later “More Out of Life” and “The Only One” finds Blu in top rhyme form constructing powerful vignettes of his personal desires and conflicts with life, art, and love. Blu relates these ideas to greater society as vivid statements of where Blu is as an artist and a man; beats, rhymes and life as bliss and honesty.

Furthermore, Exile deserves a lot of love for how well Give Me My Flowers… moves. He  is in complete control of his craft here. Deconstructing, re-assembling, and pulling succulent hush-puppies out the fish grease like the most seasoned of beat chefs. Exile re-imagines the theme to Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood one minute (“Good Morning Neighbor”), then re-works Alton Ellis’s version of “It’s A Shame” the next (Berries and Juices). Of course the soulful sound adjective is fitting here, but more importantly Exile provides another full length discourse on why the art of sampling and flipping is not only alive, but a science to be practiced by the most trained and dedicated.

While I doubt Give Me My Flowers… will signal a triumphant return for Blu, like Life Is Good has been for Nas, it’s the appropriate sign post in the trajectory of his career. This album is an effortless construction into Blu’s personal achievements, desires, and recent spiritual questions and struggles (the song “Seasons” being the most revelatory). He, unlike most rappers, can construct introverted rap music about personal truth and philosophy without proselytizing, sounding cheesy or giving one a headache to relate. Blu can at times seem bored with rap, but I think it’s more a disappointment with fan’s being unwilling to follow him where he wants to go as an artist instead of the other way around. Without hesitation I find Blu to be one of the most unique and complex talents of this era in rap. While other’s hype and buzz have taken clicks away from his spot on the internet shelf, he stays true to his vision. Maybe Blu should become a recluse like Salinger so heads can truly appreciate the notebooks he’s left behind, but for now I suggest y’all appreciate the flowers him and Exile have just planted in your ears.

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4 out of 5

20 Comments

  1. Anthony
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 00:14:00

    Damn, I never thought about the NoYork situation. It’s nothing to me because I have the album but to the general public it doesn’t exsist. I agree with a lot of what you are all saying, by far the most experimental and creative artist who wont even sacrifice his vision for his fans. NoYork is a gem, I love that I can listen to something different with all of Blu’s works. This man knows exactly what he is doing, especially with the latest album. Destined to be the Van Gogh of hip-hop. Dudes like Bill Murray or somethin.

  2. Oz/Futura
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 23:58:00

    Blu does have a sketchy record when it comes to live shows. He didn’t show up last year for Manifesto in Toronto but he was in Toronto last night . Although I was around during his soundcheck, I had to slide out before he touched the stage. From what I was told (from fans and even the openers), he completely shut it down. I talked to Mainframe this afternoon and he also told me Blu’s live shows are getting increasingly better. Let’s not totally write off his performances just yet…

  3. Oz/Futura
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 23:55:00

    remastered + new songs on it.

  4. Oz/Futura
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 23:55:00

    Agreed. BTH was very straight forward and could be digested in one listen. I am just now truly understanding the beauty of HerFavoriteColo(u)r. A lot of his work after BTH, CRAC, J&J is a lot more dense.

  5. Oz/Futura
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 23:53:00

    BTH was recorded in 2007, this record was recording in 2009. I believe it was after he got back from Europe with Exile & Fashawn.

  6. Oz/Futura
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 23:52:00

    Spoke with Blu for like 45mins straight last night and he told me the entire staff who got him signed to Warner Bros. was fired shortly after he finished NoYork. Blu then asked for a released and got it because nobody had the same “vision” as him over there. He’s working on a new label with Mainframe called New World Color, kinda like a continuation Sound In Color (label that dropped BTH)

  7. Adam
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 23:47:00

    I’m sure this has already been addressed somewhere in the comments but i’m pretty sure this album wasn’t recorded shortly Below the Heavens was recorded. And the copy that came out a while back wasn’t the official. I was kind of hoping for a little more change in this one as opposed to the pre-release but I like what they did with it. I was just expecting them to drop a few songs and add whole new tracks. Either way, dope album. 4/5.

  8. Gabriel Russell
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 20:13:00

    I’ve had this album for about a year now.

  9. RickRossRoomate
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 19:01:00

    BTH was a “classic”. It’s rare for any debut album to come out as polished as BTH. Lyrics, beats, and flow of the album are top notch. NoYork was ass

  10. NYC's No Lark
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 11:25:00

    This is going to be a long comment. I LOVE Blu. I already put him in my top 5 favorite emcees of all time. He has one the greatest discographies this side of DOOM and Ghostface to me. That being said, I DO NOT get the love for Below the Heavens. I mean I get in the existential sense in that it’s unironically everything that is typical about underground rap albums from production, to song topics, verse set ups, to guest appearances. Thankfully Blu and Exile are talented enough that they transcend the mundane and typical and put out a pretty good album with BtH.

    EVERYTHING Blu has done post BtH to me surpasses it though. I like experimental rappers. Lo-fi sound doesn’t bother me at all. He’s gotten far more interesting when it comes to beat selection and his verses have gotten far stronger and all his experiments with albums have paid off for me. I’m glad Blu has been one of few heralded rappers (underground or mainstream) that didn’t punk out and keep rereleasing his first album over and over again with minor differences like so many of his BtH fans desperately want him to do.

    As for this album, I haven’t given it enough listens yet so I don’t know where I’d put it in his discography. I know I’d put it above Bth, J&J, and the Crac Knuckles albums though.

  11. HOPE
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 08:08:00

    sorry it was the same generic throwback 90s shit

  12. andrew
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 07:14:00

    love the album

  13. frank_bE
    Sep 05, 2012 @ 23:18:00

    actually they didn’t. their is a interview on Hip Hop DX with them about it.

  14. drkhrse
    Sep 05, 2012 @ 23:13:00

    Maybe my disappointment with Blu’s albums was expecting them to sound like the vocals weren’t recorded in a bathroom stall, not necessarily the production or creative choices. I’m glad they finally got around to releasing a real mastered version.

  15. Celluloid
    Sep 05, 2012 @ 19:27:00

    better be a 4 outta five lol

  16. L.X.
    Sep 05, 2012 @ 18:44:00

    This album was recorded shortly after BTH and came out hella long ago.

  17. TYSE
    Sep 05, 2012 @ 14:26:00

    Great review.

    CJ, Noyork was terrible to you? I really don’t understand why specific artists are targeted and shot down when they experiment with their sound, or, why fans refuse to acknowledge the artistic development of particular artists. Blu is certainly one of these artists. Blu’s writing skills have evolved tremendously since BTH, and other then BTH being “classic” and my introduction to Blu (not to mention that I played it over 100x’s through in the first few months), I think his recent work is much heavier and offers more to the listener. His catalog has been a bit scattered, however, I think with content and creativity as the unit of measure, he’s made albums worth of songs better than most of BTH.

  18. CJ
    Sep 05, 2012 @ 14:08:00

    NoYork was terrible. Couldnt believe it when I listened to that album and how bad it was. Lost a lot of respect for Blu after that and then seeing him live (zero passion).

  19. Simon
    Sep 05, 2012 @ 09:15:00

    And they cut out the only poor (actually awful) track; John McCain

    Good call

  20. HOPE
    Sep 05, 2012 @ 08:41:00

    shame NoYork was criminally ignored when it “leaked” :( the only good rap album that has come out produced by the LA Beat Scene. needs to get back on that future tip. perhaps the only rapper that sounds excellent over flylo and samiyam beats.

    any1 know his label situation? with flying lotus signing up rappers (rumour to be signing the underachievers) u’d think he’d be perfect for brainfeeder.

    Good to see lupe fiasco bigging up blu in interviews when asked about his favourite rappers,

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