Blu & Exile‘s latest album Miles feels like…just a warm, reassuring hug in these dark times, man.
That’s the absolute vibe I get as I listen to this, their first album in eight years which dropped last week. 90 minutes (!) of feel-good, reassuring, and bright hip-hop, with celebrations of Blackness, reflections on life and upbringing, and brimming with confidence and positivity.
Honestly, I really needed that, man.
Blu & Exile have had a trajectory. In 2007 they dropped their debut, Below the Heavens, a breath of fresh air in a time when many was worried that hip-hop was getting stale. That record was a wildfire on release, with those in the know raving about Blu’s thoughtful lyricism and Exile’s spacey and bouncy beats. Blu became celebrated in the underground, landing several guest spots, issuing collaborative albums, and experimenting heavily with his music while Exile produced for a number of left coast artists (like Fashawn). They would link together again to drop a follow up in 2012, and throughout the 2010s stayed in their own lanes, building impressive resumes.
Miles, a tribute to Miles Davis, feels right in step with Below the Heavens, returning right back to those days when optimism was still a thing. Blu gets right in the groove. He’s older, wiser, and very much aware of the world we live in today, and he spend a good deal of the record speaking about the world’s ills, but he also spends a lot of time seeking comfort in God, the trailblazers who have made a way for him, and the power of music. The album feels like a celebration, just reassuring listeners that there is still a bit of good in the world and we can work to make it better. A double-album of sorts, with 20 tracks, Miles does start to get a little long with interludes and bits that run a few minutes over, but there’s really no clunkers here, which is spectacular. I also love how the album features many of the artists Blu and Exile have worked with previously, making for a nice little reunion, including the superstar Miguel, Aloe Blacc, CashUs King, Aceyalone, and Iman Omari.
“Miles Away” is one listen that has made me hit repeat a few times today. The beat is absolutely soulful and vibrant, with C.S. Armstrong‘s affirmations on the hook hitting all the right spots. Blu is in his element, reflecting on friends, family, and balancing goals with his everyday grind. Well done.