Blu and Exile (briefly) reunite on Exile’s new mixtape


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First things first: Let’s give props to the powder blue-clad gentleman known to his family as Aleksandr Manfredi. With just under 90 days left in the calendar year, Exile’s ‘4TRKMIND’ is a sure bet for most absurd album cover of the year. It’s Lloyd Christmas-endorsed, and an ideal gift for the cellar dweller in your life.

For the last four years, rap fans with subterranean stripes openly wondered when L.A.-based rapper Blu was going to reunite with Exile, the producer of his highly regarded debut, ‘Below the Heavens.’ In that interim, Blu has been darting in artistic directions ranging from lo-fi scuzz raps to Low End Theory futurism, to goofy psychedelic mushroom rap. Even if it hasn’t been orderly, it’s been unexpected and interesting.


Though quietly experimental in his sonic approach, the Garden Grove-raised Exile has taken the more traditional career path. He’s established himself as a highly in-demand underground producer, freely offering beats to gifted up-and-comers such as Fashawn and established legends such as Freestyle Fellowship. And no doubt somewhere in the middle, he’s sold enough beats to deep-pocketed rap aspirants to keep himself flush with corsages and polyester prom wear.

Released Wednesday on Soulspazm Records, ‘4TRKMIND’ finds Exile picking up the microphone to play host to a crackling and affable collection of songs in the key of Madlib. As one might expect, one of the highlights arrives when Blu and Exile trade bars and blunts on ‘When Nothing’s Left.’ Flipping classic Stax-era soul, the chemistry between the two is as seamless as Sam and Dave.

If you don’t go in expecting the coming-of-age sagas of ‘Below the Heavens,’ it’s tough to deny the microphone swapping and punch-line humor. There’s nothing fancy -- just the usual underground bluster about loving grimy dirty beats and everyman empathy as overt as Bill Clinton on the campaign trail. But as Blu points out, they’re as ‘solid as a tree stump.’


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MP3: Exile ft. Blu - ‘When Nothing’s Left’ (Left-Click)

-- Jeff Weiss