Blues | Hip-Hop | Jazz Rap
In many cases, I feel that if an album is extensively long, then it is inevitable that it would be scattered with the odd dud or filler here or there, and find it a near-impossible task for a long album to be completely perfect.
However, there have been a couple of albums, in recent memory, that have challenged this bold claim of mine. The first being the gorgeous project that was Teyana Taylor’s The Album, and the second, being the album I write about today; an album titled Miles.
Miles is the third album to see the collaboration between Inglewood-born rap artist Blu and the renowned figure in the left-coast hip-hop scene that is producer Exile, both of which have succeeded in releasing music both independently and alongside each other.
To be truthful, this is the first that I had heard of either artist, and only discovered the album after stumbling across a promisingly positive review for it. And I felt that given the fact that things were seemingly winding down musically towards the end of July, the idea of not going over an album like this one, for the sake of one more July slot, just felt downright criminal. And after coming to that decision, let’s just say that it is one that I certainly do not regret.
I thought I good way to begin praising this album is to first address the content in which Miles keeps within itself. This album has a total of 20 songs, and a runtime of a staggering 97 minutes in length. And despite having such a generous amount of tracks, the substance doesn’t stop there; a big chunk of the tracks on Miles easily fly past the 5 minute mark. And while this is normally a red flag, that would indicate that each of them are being unnecessarily drawn out, it is actually on the contrary. almost all of this album is nothing less than Blu’s lyrical talent, alongside the intricate, complex, and immensely soulful production courtesy of Exile.
And now that we’re on to the topic of soulfulness, it doesn’t take a musical genius to decipher the blues influence behind this album, especially in the sense of production, featured artists, and of course the song titles. I mean, with tracks with names like “Blue”, “Blue As I Can Be”, “You Ain’t Ever Been Blue”, “Roots Of Blue”, “Requiem Of Blue” and “All The Blues”, the listener is pretty much being slapped across the face by a physical manifestation of the blues. This blues influence ties in nicely to Blu’s musical influences outside of rap, which is addressed expertly in the track “Music Is My Everything”.
But of equal importance, Exile’s production absolutely embodies that retro, bluesy, and even jazzy feel in a flawless manner. It truly dragged me into a world built upon those kinds of musical influences, and was immersive enough to make me feel as if I’ve stumbled back in time. Furthermore, this generally feels like a very retro record, in stylistic terms, and is a incredible representation of that “golden years of hip-hop” feel, that I imagine that many people have been craving.
But honestly, the sheer consistency of the enjoyable tunes on this thing are truly astounding. And in a sense, I’m almost glad that I have had this album to introduce me to this dynamic duo. Although, fans of Blu & Exile have been anticipating an album like this one for about eight years, following their previous collaborative record, Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them.
But back to the current album, it definitely feels like one that has been released in a very appropriate year. I have written before about albums that have sentimentally centered themselves around the current social and political issues (specifically in terms of discrimination of minorities, and the newfound awareness of it for many people), this album takes that one step further, and almost feels like a full in-depth analysis of how unjust our world has been, and how we can fix it.
In fact, the track “Dear Lord” almost feels like a continuation and development of Martin Luther King. Jr’s historic speech, put into his own words. But while this is arguably the most glaring of the tracks with important messages, there are certainly plenty more to be found on the album.
And while the fact that an album like this one has carried so many tracks that range from enjoyable to downright outstanding, which is a truly remarkable thing to achieve on an album like this one, there are still a few tracks on Miles that prevent it from being absolutely one-hundred percent perfect in my eyes.
Looking back on the songs I kept compared to those I didn’t before writing this review, I still found that fifteen out of twenty tracks were kept. So while one one hand, you could see it as only three quarters of the album being good, you can otherwise think of it as fifteen amazing tracks, which is still definitely more to be said than many other albums.
But elaborating on the tracks I didn’t keep a bit more, I simply found that they either strayed off too far from the core stylistic theme, they felt like the kind of bland traditional hip-hop that artists release every other week, or that they were just a bit too patience testing. But honestly, there were an equal measure of tracks (if not more than that) that absolutely commanded my immersion, attention, and enjoyment.
Miles is an insanely important piece in my mind, one that will most certainly stick out as one of 2020’s defining musical moments. It is an absolute treasure-trove of soulful, bluesy rap beats. And while I would say that this album is a little slice of heaven, I think that it would be more fitting to say that it is more of an entire loaf.
Favourite Tracks: When The Gods Meet | The Feeling | You Ain’t Ever Been Blue | To The Fall, But Not Forgotten | The End
Least Favourite Track: Roots Of Blue
Dirty Science Records