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Listen: Closed Sessions, Vol. 2

Chicago-based independent hip-hop record label, Closed Sessions, has just dropped the full mixtape for Closed Sessions, Vol. 2. They have been dropping singles for the last couple months and Vol. 2 features classic hip-hop artists such as Blu and Raekwon and also many rising talents such as Freddie Gibbs, Action Bronson and Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire. You can also listen and download Vol. 1, which was released 2010. Check out a series of behind-the-scenes videos for the making of Closed Sessions, Vol. 2 here. Download or listen to the mixtape on Soundcloud below. You can also check out a trailer for Vol. 2 below.

Interview: Blu

A little over five years ago, a still unknown rapper named Blu teamed up with Emanon producer Exile to release his debut album Below the Heavens, a record that captivated the hip-hop world and is still recognized as one of the few modern rap classics. Fueled by his sincere storytelling ability and a certain way with words, the Los Angeles rapper soon became a West Coast legend, landing a spot in XXL’s 2009 Freshman Class, teaming up with esteemed producers like The Alchemist and Madlib, securing a deal with Warner Bros. before defecting back to the more welcoming underground, and delivering two of the most thought-provoking verses on The Roots‘s How I Got Over. Along the way, the mysterious-yet-highly-respected poet and wordsmith also found himself experimenting with a lo-fi and experimental sound, stepping away from the soul-filled boom-bap beats he came up on and tackling work from experimental producers like Flying Lotus.

Despite such a star-studded resumé, Blu has remained much of an enigma for most mainstream audiences, while still becoming one of the most celebrated lyricists of all time, as well as my own all-time favorite rapper. To get a glimpse into his life and his artistry, I spoke to Blu over email and asked him about the many projects he’s currently tackling including the Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them release with Exile due out September 4th, the Bombay-produced solo album Good to be Home, and even reflected on Below the Heavens and j e s u s.

First off, you and Exile will be releasing the remastered Give Me My Flowers very soon. How are the studio dynamics between you two nowadays?

Well, we just cut a great tune last week, so great I wish it made the album but it will most likely be on my upcoming solo record. Right now, we are gearing up to hit the road. It’s been a while since we killed the road last and we are looking forward to a chance to do that again.

Below the Heavens recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. How do you feel about it looking back? Do you ever think of revisiting the Below the Heavens sessions? I know you told Complex you had around 75 songs recorded.

Evil politics behind those sessions, I wish I was the me aster behind those masters!

Bombay will be producing your new solo record Good to be Home and I haven’t been able to find much information about him. Can you give us an idea of how the album will sound production-wise?

Dope, phat, like a phat tape, phat soul, big.

What about lyrically? What themes are you aiming for this time around?

Cali man, so much inspiration there; it’s a record mirror the album I ever made called California Soul, an underground tape.

Are you interested in pursuing another record deal with a major in the future?

Yeah possibly, but right now it’s fun running shit down here!

How about those films you were planning on releasing?

Soon, come June.

Your recent single “Kiss the Sky” had a Lupe vocal sample on it and he once called you “the only emcee in the game that scares me.” Have you kept any contact with him? Will we ever see any new material from All City Chess Club or has that project already been abandoned?

Most likely, we talk every now and then but Lupe is killing the electro-rock sound and we killing that lo-fi soul map, so it’s like whenever we get on the same page, we will be definitely making something special. Jesus!

You, Sene, and ANTHM recently teamed up for “Young Leaders”. You’ve worked with both artists individually, is anything else in the works?

Yeah, we got a group called “RakimKRSOne&Chuck” — of course ANTHM is Chuck.

It sounds like you’re extremely busy with new projects right now. Can we expect a full RælBlz project in the future?

Yes, titled GRO produced under the moniker, GODleeBarnes. SD cassette shit!

You’ve also mentioned a new solo record with The Alchemist. Could you speak about that?


Fair enough, what’s your songwriting process like?

I use a pen.

What happened to the No York band?

They fell off, and Todd finally got a girlfriend.

Your father is a reverend and you talk about your views on religion quite often in your music. From “A Man”, it appears you disagree with the institution of organized religion. What do you think needs to change? Do you and your father agree?

No, but yes. He sees me clearly, better than any fan would, coming from a more divine perspective, respectively, and I respect him to the utmost for upholding some high morals and values in Christianity and his faith.

How does the j e s u s LP play into this? Can you explain the “j e s u s” song?

It’s what I felt like telling “Jesus” in 2011 bro. I may make another song to him next year, GOD willing!

What constitutes success to you?


Listen: Blu – “Kiss The Sky (feat. Mela Machinko)”

When it comes to Blu, you know that whether or not his new music is mastered, mixed, or even finished, he’ll come hard with the rhymes. With his newest release though, there’s absolutely no need to be worried as it’s about as finished as can be. Released through Coalmine Records, new single “Kiss The Sky” features top-notch and not lo-fi verses from Blu, a fitting chorus from Mela Machinko, and some vocal samples from Lupe Fiasco‘s “Kick, Push”.

I’m still a fan of his glitchy, lo-fi style but I know a lot of you have been waiting for the Below The Heavens-style music to come back. If you’ve been a long-time fan of Blu, this is definitely a huge surprise and a great one at that. Blu hasn’t sounded this focused in quite a long time and it’s refreshing to see that he’s hopefully returning to the style of music that originally got him signed to Warner Bros. Give it a listen below and grab it on iTunes here.


Download: King I Divine & ScienZe – Divine ScienZe

A few days back, the producer-rapper duo of King I Divine and ScienZe dropped off their collaborative mixtape Divine ScienZe for free download over at 2DopeBoyz. All the tracks are produced by Queens native King I Divine, who gives the entire project a unique boom-bap sound that meshes really well with ScienZe’s sharp rhymes and smooth flow. To top it all off, the duo enlisted the help of a hard-hitting supporting cast that includes features from rising artist Sene, West Coast legend Blu, and more. If you’re a fan of old school hip hop, then these two will definitely find a regular spot in your headphones. You can download the mixtape for free below and if you’re not already convinced, you can also preview two songs, one of which includes guest verses from Sene, Blu, and Britain Parker.

DOWNLOAD: King I Divine & Scienze – Divine ScienZe (Mediafire)

MP3: King I Divine & ScienZe – “Happiness Is (feat. Sene, Blu & Britain Parker)”

MP3: King I Divine & ScienZe – “Hero”

Stream: Blu & Madlib – UCLA

If there’s one thing that’s consistent about Blu besides his sharp rhymes and quick wit, it’s the fact that he’s always full of surprises. After randomly uploading his second album with producer Exile onto his Bandcamp page earlier this year, Blu has done it again by posting up UCLA, a brand new album completely produced by Madlib. The two California legends have been reported to be working with each other on UCLA for quite a while, but few details were ever released, with many believing that Blu had once again scrapped a project. Today, we can listen to the entire album or purchase it for a cool 15 bucks.

I’ve yet to understand Blu’s affinity for unmastered, lowish-quality tracks and UCLA is no exception. Although Blu and Madlib deliver and the plain fact that Blu is one of my favorite MCs of all time, the quality isn’t necessarily the best and the project sounds like a work in progress. You can listen for yourself below and purchase it here.

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

It’s been a long few years for fans of the mysterious California MC Blu since he dropped his critically-acclaimed album Below the Heavens with Exile manning the tables. In the meantime, Blu’s been working on his own production, left Warner Bros. before dropping his major label debut, and has only been releasing a few unmastered tracks every now and then.

But today, seemingly out of nowhere, Blu posted his unfinished second album with Exile, Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them. Recorded back in 2009, the new 15-track LP is unmixed and unmastered, but the rhymes and the beats are both solid. No word on whether or not the two are collaborating again.

Give it a listen below and if you like what you hear, you can purchase the whole thing for $15 on Blu’s Bandcamp.