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Blu & Exile: The Reflection of Music, like the Sky, is the Reflection of the Ocean

Posted on October 4, 2018 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

If you love Hip-Hop artists Nas, Common, J Dilla, and The Pharcyde. Chances are you will love Hip-Hop duo Blu & Exile.



Blu & Exile are a Hip-Hop duo from Los Angeles, CA consisting of Blu (rapper) and Exile (producer). Both artists met in the mid-2000s, decided to form a group, and released their celebrated debut album, “Below the Heavens” in 2007.


I became a fan of the duo when they released their second album “Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them” in 2012. Their second album will always have a special place in my heart because it was released during the time when I was a struggling senior at California State University, Long Beach.


This album was released at the perfect time because I was in a transitional period of graduating from college and looking for a good job. My self-esteem was low at the time because I never had a job before due to me having cancer twice as a teenager and getting my right leg amputated at 17-years-old.


The foundation of ‘Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them’ gave me the same spiritual experience I had after listening to Nas’ Stillmatic and The Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia.


I connected with the overall theme of the album, which showcases Blu’s reflective poetic lyricism about his life, and Exile’s beautiful and soulful beat selection created an atmosphere for Blu to speak about his personal experiences.


Their album was therapeutic for me because of the content and substance within the songs. For instance, my favorite song from the album is “More Out of Life,” which helped me realize if I want my situation to be better, I need to do something about it if I want more out of life.



“On the brink of trying to make my mind, save my soul, at the same time trying to make this rhyme. Wonder, will I be saved in time? Make Salah, say grace case God change his mind. How insane am I? Just the same as you, came here what you came to do, I’m just saying the truth.”


- Blu & Exile, More Out of Life, Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them



Other noticeable songs from the album are Ease Your Mind, Maybe One Day, O Heaven, The Only One, A Man, and Cent from Heaven to name a few.


In 2017, Blu & Exile released “In the Beginning: Before the Heavens,” which is a prequal to their debut album because the songs were from the sessions from Below the Heavens that didn’t make the album.



The Legacy of Blu & Exile 


Blu & Exile as a duo is often overlooked and underrated, not just in Hip-Hop but in music in general. In my opinion, the duo has never made a bad song or bad album because they always stayed close to the musical foundation they created.


The duo was formed in the mid-2000s, but they presented themselves like their 90s duo counterparts like Gang Starr, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, etc. When listening to their music, the listener could hear that they were influenced by the 90s Hip-Hop era.


Both Blu & Exile are solo artists and have created music outside of the duo. In my opinion, they make the best music when they are together because there is a certain level of understanding and respect they have for each other to create the best album possible.


When I listen to a Blu & Exile album, I expect nothing but the best because Blu is a master lyricist, and Exile is a master producer.


Even though they have only released three albums as a duo, they are some of the best albums I’ve ever heard because of their talent to be consistent with the foundation they created starting with Below the Heavens. Their songs have creative lyrics with soulful production and memorable melodies.



My Personal Wish List That Will Never Happen: Nas & Blu EP and A New Pharcyde Album Produced by Exile


I have two personal wish lists that include Blu & Exile, but I would like to see them collaborate with my other favorite Hip-Hop artists: Nas and The Pharcyde. I’ve had this idea for a long time, and I’ll go in-depth about who I want to be involved in the creation of these two albums.


For example, Nas and Blu are my two favorite solo rappers, and it would be great to see them collaborate on a six song EP entitled, “My Life in Color.” Both Nas and Blu are both great storytellers and master lyricists, and when I hear them rap, I envision vivid pictures from their colorful lyrics.


The content within the album will be about their experiences growing up in their respective states (Nas: New York, and Blu: California), their thoughts about the social-political climate in the United States with suggestions of how to combat racism, and the plight of African descendant people from around the world.


I’d like J Dilla to produce the album, co-produced by Exile, and executive produced by A Tribe Called Quest and DJ Premier from Gang Starr. Unfortunately, both J Dilla and Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest have passed away, and therefore this album could never happen.


Blu & Exile share some similarities with The Pharcyde because both group’s lyrics reflect their life experiences in Los Angeles, and they both prefer to rhyme over soulful-jazzy production.


When I became a fan of The Pharcyde in 2008, they reunited for the Rock the Bells festival. While touring as four, in an interview with ughhdotcom, the interviewer asked if they were going to release a new album since they were back together after being broken up for many years.


Pharcyde member Imani said the group needed to vibe with each other again first before making an album because The Pharcyde’s previous albums were built on the vibe they created in the 90s. He also said they need a producer who has creative ideas and is connected to the youth.


After listening to Blu & Exile’s ‘Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them.’ I thought about this particular Pharcyde interview and realized Exile would be the perfect producer to help The Pharcyde create a new album.


For instance, both Exile and The Pharcyde are from LA, and Exile’s production style is reminiscent to the late-great J Dilla, who produced most of The Pharcyde’s second album, Labcabincalifornia.


Unfortunately, this won’t happen either because The Pharcyde broke up again shortly after their reunion tour for Rock the Bells. As an optimist, I’m hoping they could get back together again and bless the world with more timeless music.



Blu & Exile Influences and Identity


Blu & Exile are talented musicians, and I believe Blu’s conscious and street-style of rapping is a mixture of Nas and Common, with the soul of J Dilla. Exile’s boom-bap soulful and jazz-style production is like J Dilla, DJ Premier, and A Tribe Called Quest.


If you are a fan of Nas, Common, J Dilla, Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest, and The Pharcyde. You will love Blu & Exile because they incorporate elements from these artists, but they still have their own identity, and should be regarded as one of the best duo’s in Hip-Hop music.



Blu & Exile: My World Is…: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewpVbFT1mpk


Blu & Exile: More Out of Life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHJL0IbVLYY


Blu & Exile: Stress Off My Chest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGXo_RHwF_o




Disclaimer:


I don’t own any content from the images and songs from Blu & Exile. No Copyright Intended. All content is copyright to their respective owners. All Rights go to Blu & Exile. Sound in Color, Dirty Science, Fat Beats Records. 


Amazon. Blu & Exile. Below the Heavens image. October 03, 2018. https://www.amazon.com/Below-Heavens-Blu-Exile/dp/B000QFAEHI


Amazon. Blu & Exile. Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them image. October 03, 2018. https://amzn.to/2NnsEHY


Amazon. Blu & Exile. In The Beginning: Before the Heavens image. October 03, 2018. https://amzn.to/2ybPIEh


Genius. Blu & Exile (Ft. Jasmine Mitchell) – More Out Of Life. October 03, 2018. https://genius.com/Blu-and-exile-more-out-of-life-lyrics


LiquidSwordsHIPHOP. Blu & Exile. More Out of Life. YouTube, YouTube, 2 Sept. 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHJL0IbVLYY


ProvocativeEducative !. Blu & Exile. Stress Off My Chest. YouTube, YouTube, 19 Oct. 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGXo_RHwF_o


TheRickynow. Blu & Exile. My World Is. YouTube, YouTube, 25 Aug. 2007. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewpVbFT1mpk


ughhdotcom. Pharcyde - Interview Pt. 2 (Live At Rock The Bells - Mansfield, MA - 7/26/08). YouTube, YouTube. 12 Apr. 2009. www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUG4c2z6G70


Origins of African Democracy and Spirituality

Posted on September 20, 2018 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Africans created a unique democratic and spiritual system that was before the conquest and colonization of Africa. 



I recently finished reading “The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4300 B.C. to 2000 A.D.” by Chancellor Williams.


This book opened my eyes to the rich history of African people, and why certain situations kept Africa from reaching its full potential. For instance, negative influences from foreign religions and invasions were forced upon the continent, the lack of unity and stability among the Africans, internal disputes within different African tribes, the Arab slave trade of Africans within the continent, and the European transatlantic slave trade where Africans were forced to leave Africa for the Caribbean Islands, South America, and North America.


All these factors contributed to Africa’s downfall, and the transatlantic slave trade was the beginning of the dark age era for Africans.



Chapter VI: The African Constitution: Birth of Democracy


Chapter six was one of my favorite chapters because Williams gave great insight of how Africans saw themselves, and how their complex democratic and spiritual system functioned. In early Africa, lineage was the most effective force for unity and stability. Everybody was a lawyer because everybody knew the customary laws.


Age Grade: The specific organizational structure of how the society functioned.

 

  • Age Grade I: Children up to age 12
  • Age Grade II: Teenagers from 13 to 18
  • Age Grade III: Adults 19 to 28
  • Age Grade IV: Adults 29 to 40
  • Age Grade V: 40 and above


Each grade had its own social, economic, and political role within society. Seniority was given to each grade by age, intelligence, and wisdom. Wisdom was supposed to match one’s age because those who experienced more life than others should know more about the world. This was how chiefs and kings were selected within different tribes, kingdoms, and empires.


These practices took place throughout all of Africa, and the chief or king became the mouthpiece for the society. His job was to carry out the will of the people. There were no rulers in Africa, unlike the kings from Asian and European countries who saw themselves as rulers. African kings understood they didn’t own the land, because it was God’s gift to mankind. The African king was simply an overseer of the land, and he made sure the land was fairly distributed amongst all the families.



Fundamental Rights of African People


It was interesting to find out Individual rights never came before the community. There were many laws that the Africans lived by, but the few that caught my attention could be used in the United States today.


For example, every member of the community had the right of appeal from a lower to higher court. Fines for offenses against an individual went to the victim, not the court. Also, part of the money from the loser was returned to him as a desire to renew friendship.


All money, including gifts, taxes, and other donations to the king belonged to the people. During times of relief and aid, the king would help individuals in times of need. “Royalty” in African terms means “Royal Worth,” which means highest in character, wisdom, sense of justice, and courage.


In warfare, the objective was not to kill the enemy, but to overcome them with fear through loud cries, and their marked faces. Although killing was unavoidable, it was kept to a minimum. While in enemy territory, Africans had the right to protection and treatment as a guest within the village, town, or city.


The human rights within a community included rights to have a home, and the right to earn money for themselves or for their family. The land was free of charge because Africans believed everybody deserved the opportunity to make a living, which is the right to live.


All Africans had the right to family or community care in cases of sickness or accidents, and the right to special aid from the Chief if a family couldn’t fix the problem themselves.


The right of a man, even a slave can rise to the highest position within the community if he has the ability and presents high moral characteristics.


Lastly, African religion, which is African spirituality came from the actual way of living and thinking by the Africans. The Chief or High Priest presented prayers to all the community’s ancestors in heaven.


Africans have always been spiritual people, but in early Africa, they infused their spiritual system within their democratic system. 



“When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land.” 


- Bishop Desmond Tutu



During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Africans captured for the transatlantic slave trade were prisoners of war because they never saw themselves as slaves in the New World. They believed their spiritual system would protected them while revolting against their oppressors. The colonists later enforced laws that prevented the African’s right to practice their spirituality.



My African Ancestors Have Always Been with Me


As I’ve gotten older over the years, I’ve noticed that I’ve become more spiritual than religious. Once I read chapter six, everything came full circle for me. I believe I’ve always been a spiritual person, but I didn’t know how to activate or receive it from my ancestors because there has been a spiritual disconnection from African-Americans and Africa.


I believe God and my ancestors from Africa and North America were helping me defeat cancer twice as a teenager and helped me adjust to a new way of living when I became a hip amputee at 17-years-old.



While creating “CalmandStrong,” I remember being depressed because I resigned from my first job due to my physical disability. One day, I was in my dark apartment, and I created the foundation that eventually became CalmandStrong.


My goal is to inspire teenagers and young adults with my story of being a two-time cancer survivor and hip amputee. I compare my experiences and realities with cancer and becoming a hip amputee to the digital world of the inFAMOUS videogame franchise and superhero Cole MacGrath.


I believe my spiritualty was at its highest when I created CalmandStrong, because everything came together organically.



Preserving African History 


It’s unfortunate that I can’t trace my family lineage back to which African ethnic group, tribe, or community I originally came from in Africa before European conquest and colonization. I appreciate scholars and authors like Chancellor Williams who were willing preserve the historical memory of Africans.


I realize the deep and complex system of spirituality rooted in democracy has always been inside me. I regularly seek my ancestor’s guidance to help me navigate through this physical realm, because I’ll be thanking them for their wisdom when we finally meet in the spiritual realm. 


“I dreamed that we could visit old Kemet (Egypt), your history is too complex and rigid for some Western critics. They want the whole subject diminished, but Africa’s the origin of all the world’s religions.”

 

- Nas and Damian Marley, Africa Must Wake Up, Distant Relatives



To check out Nas and Damian Marley featuring K’Nann “Africa Must Wake Up,” click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGTWK7rbmks





To check out “The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4300 B.C. to 2000 A.D.” by Chancellor Williams on Amazon, click here: https://amzn.to/2D79NRG





Disclaimer:


I don’t own any content from “The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4300 B.C. to 2000 A.D.” by Chancellor Williams. No Copyright Intended. All Rights go to Chancellor Williams. 


I don’t own any content from the inFAMOUS images. All image content is copyright to their respective owners. No Copyright Intended.


I do not own any content displayed from inFAMOUS (2009). The image displayed were captured and lifted from my personal playthrough of the original inFAMOUS video game.


All Rights go to Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), developed by Sucker Punch Productions. 


I don’t own any image content from depositphotos.com. No Copyright Intended. All Rights go to depositphotos.com.


I don’t own any content from Goldie20, retrieved from Nairaland.com. No Copyright Intended. All Rights go to Goldie20, Nairaland.com.


I don’t own any content from Nas and Damian Marley’s song “Africa Must Wake Up.” No Copyright Intended. All Rights go to Nas and Damian Marley. Africa Must Wake Up courtesy of Kanan Ghost from YouTube.com.


Africa image. Depositphotos. vektör Afrika harita. September 18, 2018. https://tr.depositphotos.com/116333886/stock-illustration-vector-africa-map.html


Goldie20. Nigerian Forum. Nairaland Forum. September 18, 2018. https://www.nairaland.com/1323700/african-history-spirituality


Jones, N, Marley, D. Warsame, K. Africa Must Wake Up. Distant Relatives. Kanan Ghost, YouTube, 27 Apr. 2010, 20 Sept. 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGTWK7rbmks


Williams, C. The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4300 B.C. to 2000 A.D. Amazon. September 18, 2018. https://amzn.to/2D79NRG


Wynton Marsalis vs. Hip-Hop: Is Hip-Hop Music More Damaging than the Legacy of Confederate Statues?

Posted on June 8, 2018 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis said Hip-Hop music is more damaging to the African-American community than Confederate statues, which represents leaders who fought to preserve slavery.



During a podcast episode by journalist Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post entitled “Cape Up.” Respected Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis said Hip-Hop music has done more damage to the African-American community than the statue of American and Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee.


Lee’s duty was to defend his native Virginia. He saw himself as a Virginian first, and an American second. Lee defended southerners right to enslave millions of their fellow human beings. He fought for the American flag, but he also fought against it, which made him a traitor of the United States of America.


Marsalis said Hip-Hop has been a negative influence on the African-American community since the mid to late 1980s when the music genre was still in its infancy, and apparently in 2018, he still feels the same way.


I’m not familiar with Marsalis’ history with Hip-Hop music, but some of these artists come from different backgrounds and some express their experiences, thoughts, social-political views, philosophies, and ideologies through the art of music.


Over the last few years, Hip-Hop music has been dumb-down without much originality. During the 1980s and 1990s era, artists were applauded for being original, creative, and for being themselves.


Here are some artists and songs that have contributed to Hip-Hop and made a positive impact on the genre: 


  • Nas, whose name means “Helper and Protector” in Arabic wrote the song “If I Ruled the World.” The song is about imagining a world without racism and injustices. “I Can” is another song by Nas about uplifting children, and the third verse is dedicated to African history.


  • The Pharcyde’s “Runnin’,” is about dealing with bullying, peer pressure, and the stress that comes with being famous.


  • Ice Cube’s “Dead Homiez” is a dedication to his friend who passed away, and the song also brought awareness about the violence from his neighborhood in South Central, Los Angeles, CA.


  • A Tribe Called Quest’s “The Infamous Date Rape” brought awareness about men and women who found themselves in uncomfortable rape situations.

  • Xzibit’s “The Foundation” is a heartfelt letter dedicated to his son, and the song offers suggestions of how his son should navigate through life, to not be a follower, and to be his own man.


  • Digable Planets’ “Le Femme Fetal” is song turned into spoken word poetry that brought awareness about a woman’s psyche when dealing with abortion. 


The Hip-Hop artists mentioned above all had debut albums from the 1980s or 1990s. Hip-Hop Duo Blu & Exile burst on the Hip-Hop scene in 2007 with their modern-classic debut “Below the Heavens.”


Blu, the rapper, and Exile the producer were focused on carrying on tradition from the artists who came before them. Their song “Below the Heavens, Part I” captured Blu reflecting on his life, and the religious undertones throughout the song found him conflicted with Christianity because he was raised by his reverend stepfather.


All the artists mentioned above are my favorites, but there are many more who have similar philosophies and ideologies like J Dilla, DMX, Gang Starr, Outkast, 2Pac, Slick Rick, Wu-Tang Clan, De La Soul, Scarface, Brand Nubian, Common, Black Star, Public Enemy, The Fugees, KRS-One and much more.


To say Hip-Hop music and contributors are worse than Confederate statues that represent people who wanted to continue slavery in America is ignorant, because what is worse than being forced to be enslaved? For example, who wants to be stolen from their homeland, forced to leave their family, lynched, burned, castrated, etc.


I understand Marsalis’ frustration because some Hip-Hop artists choose to not have substance and creative content within their music, but unfortunately, this is much of today’s Hip-Hop music. Also, the violent and sexually explicit lyrics is the dark cloud that has followed Hip-Hop for many years, but the radio programmers, record labels, and more control what they want the audience to hear if the audience isn’t willing to research meaningful music themselves.


So what kind of song is more marketable?


A song about partying and doing drugs, or a song about empowering people to stand up for what they believe in, to not forget their history, and to not be ashamed of themselves, etc.


The music industry is a business, and people in powerful positions are interested in making money, not promoting positive messages that could spark the minds of their listeners who may have the ability to create real social change.



“If the truth is told, the youth can grow. They learn to survive until they gain control. Nobody says you have to be gangsta’s, h***. Read more, lean more, change the globe.”


- Nas, I Can, God’s Son



The overall conception of Hip-Hop gets misconstrued by people who don’t understand the music. With a tool like the internet, it’s now easier than ever to find many different types of Hip-Hop music. After researching, you might find your new favorite artist because that is what happened to me when I found out about The Pharcyde many years after their debut album.



It confused me when I heard Marsalis’ comments about Hip-Hop music being more damaging to African-American communities than the representation of Confederate statues. Marsalis’ comments confused me because Hip-Hop artists Nas and The Pharcyde gave me hope during dark periods in my life.


For instance, I was diagnosed with cancer as a teenager, and Nas’ Stillmatic gave me hope and helped me believed I could defeat cancer. The Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia helped me during my transition of becoming a hip amputee when I became an adult.


2018 marks my 15th year anniversary of being a two-time cancer survivor, and I credit Hip-Hop music for uplifting my mind, body, and soul during this difficult ordeal.


To find out more about how Hip-Hop music has given me hope during the darkest times of my life, click here: http://www.calmandstrong.net/apps/blog/show/45576945-what-kind-of-hero-are-you-




Disclaimer…


I don’t own any content from the articles and image of Wynton Marsalis and Robert E. Lee. No Copyright Intended. All content is copyright to their respective owners. All Rights go to their respective owners.


I don’t own any lyric content and Hip-Hop album covers from Nas, The Pharcyde, Blu & Exile, Ice Cube, A Tribe Called Quest, Xzibit, and Digable Planets. No Copyright Intended. All content is copyright to their respective owners. All Rights go to their respective owners.


I don’t own any content from the inFAMOUS images. All images content is copyright to their respective owners. No Copyright Intended.


All Rights go to Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), developed by Sucker Punch Productions.


“American Heroes: General Robert E. Lee – Patriot or Traitor?” A Patriot's History of the United States. Bruce Catton, This Hallowed Ground (New York: Washington Square Press, 1961), 466-82; James MacPherson, Ordeal By Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001), 519-20. http://www.patriotshistoryusa.com/teaching-materials/bonus-materials/american-heroes-general-robert-e-lee/


“At the Speed of Life.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 June 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/At_the_Speed_of_Life


Bennett, Jessica. “Wynton Marsalis: Rap Is More Damaging Than Confederate Statues.” EBONY, EBONY, 23 May 2018. www.ebony.com/entertainment-culture/wynton-marsalis-rap-damaging-than-confederate-statue


“Biography.” Wynton Marsalis, wyntonmarsalis.org/about/bio. http://wyntonmarsalis.org/about/bio


“Death Certificate (Album).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 June 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Certificate_(album)


“Digable Planets - Blowout Comb.” Discogs. https://www.discogs.com/Digable-Planets-Blowout-Comb/release/897888


“Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 June 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Give_Me_My_Flowers_While_I_Can_Still_Smell_Them


Hinz, Luke. “Why Wynton Marsalis' Anti Hip-Hop Comments Are Unfair.” HotNewHipHop, HotNewHipHop, 3 June 2018. https://www.hotnewhiphop.com/why-wynton-marsalis-comments-that-hip-hop-and-rap-are-more-damaging-than-a-statue-of-robert-e-lee-ar-news.51572.html


“Labcabincalifornia.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 June 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labcabincalifornia


Nas logo. Digital image. Brands of the World. Www.brandsoftheworld.com, n.d. Web. 5 June 2018. https://www.brandsoftheworld.com/logo/nas


PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. All-Stars Roster Cole MacGrath. Sony Interactive Entertainment. Web. 5 June. 2018. http://playstationallstars.wikia.com/wiki/Cole_MacGrath 


PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. All-Stars Roster Evil Cole MacGrath. Sony Interactive Entertainment. Web. 5 June. 2018. http://playstationallstars.wikia.com/wiki/Evil_Cole_MacGrath


“Stillmatic.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 June 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stillmatic 


“The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest.” Genius. https://genius.com/albums/A-tribe-called-quest/The-low-end-theory 


The Pharcyde Image. Digital image. Delicious Vinyl. Delicious Vinyl, n.d. Web. 5 June 2018. http://deliciousvinyl.com/artists/the-pharcyde/



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