“Retroactive” is a series in which I highlight a music album from my past. In the late 90’s early 00’s, going to buy an album when it came out was a big deal. My goal is to revive those memories as well as illuminate new ones we might have missed the first time around.
The year was 2007 and I was going into my senior year of high school. I wore my uniform to school everyday with my JanSport backpack, my SB dunks and my headphones hanging from my ears. I checked blogs like “OnSmash,” “2dopeboyz” and “The Smoking Section” everyday and had new music bumping through those headphones daily as well. Finally, I was beginning to form my own taste for Hip Hop. I had studied the classics and bumped what’s “current” but now I was noticing the specifics in how I liked my Hip Hop…underground.
Below the Heavens is at it’s core an underground rap album. Packed full of bars by Blu and jamming to beautiful jazzy boom bap production by exile it contains more samples and DJ scratches than hooks but the album moves seamlessly throughout it’s 1 hour 6 minute runtime. Blu makes rapping look so effortless and easy, it’s hard not to be drawn into his imagery and wordplay. Some songs are soulful and empowering while others highlight the darker side of life but every song touches you in some way. Blu is able to speak to his audience in a way that makes it seem like he’s standing right there with you.
This album holds a special place for me because of the amount of times it’s come back throughout my life. Since it’s release in 2007, I’ve continued to find new aspects to enjoy with this album. When I was working 14 hour retail days, “Blu Collar Worker” was my jam; “First things First” with my first girlfriend; “Soul Rising” before basketball games and reminiscing with friends to “In Remembrance.” It’s an album I can listen to anywhere and anytime but I think it’s most effective cruising near the beach on a sunny day, “California Soul” style. Originally, I ripped this album off whatever service I was using at the time and all I had for years was that burned cd. I now own the vinyl copy and have a Spotify download of the album but I think that combo right there perfectly symbolizes the timeless nature of this album. From burned/ripped Mp3’s to digital music at my fingertips, this album has never been far from me. This album truly spoke to me in a way no album had or has since. If you’ve never heard it, I encourage you to sit back, relax, listen to it front to back, and vibe with Blu & Exile. And remember, if you “see the ‘E,’ drop em.”