Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Blu & Nottz - Titans In The Flesh Review

Everyone knows it's fun to retell history, unravel the what if's, detail the alternate timeline. In regards to post-2000's Hip-Hop, there's few stories more intriguing than Blu's failure to recapture the glory he once held with his debut Below The Heavens, often regarded as an underground classic. Intermittent release schedules, poor mixing and mastering, incomplete mixtapes, and a failure to follow-up his debut with an official album made Blu's career trajectory fall off before it even had the chance to rise. And yet, based off sheer talent he's still around, working with Madlib on 2015's Bad Neighbor and now getting around to releasing his third collaborative EP of 2016. Through all the years it seems Blu has finally found his footing on shaky ground, the inconsistencies and total lack of overarching, linear progression a staple of his underground presence. Earlier this year, Blu, working with producer Ray West, released Crenshaw Jezebel. A frustrating listen that saw potential go to waste, the EP matched a tone but failed to impress. Here, however, working this time with Nottz, Blu, and a handful of features, succeeds in making his music interesting again, albeit sporadically. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Crenshaw Jezebel struggled because it failed to self-identify. Tracks were merely just ideas thrown in disjointed splotches, failing to commit to a single creed. For Ray West, it was an opportunity to display his versatility, causing Blu to stumble as the beats altered mood drastically. Nottz however, throughout the bulk of Titans In The Flesh, focuses on a palate he's well accustomed to. Similar in fashion to Madlib's, the beats flip through Boom Bap with hints of polished sampling strewn between. For the purpose of 'Giant Steps' and 'To The East' that direction is pertinent, considering both are essentially condensed posse tracks. While this isn't exactly my cup of tea, each emcee, eight in total, do their best to make a statement, somehow making unoriginal tracks enjoyable in the process. And while it's loose, Blu, and others, stick to a cartoonish script centered around beasts dominating the earth. At times Blu uses this to promote his apocalyptic ideologies, reigning down the world's worst outcomes on 'The Truth' and 'Atlantis,' providing the answer is his own to find. It's cliche, but simultaneously reminds me of superhero comics, akin to what's presented on the cover.

Those two are also undeniably the best, as they both incorporate an adaptive Blu with a creative Nottz. The former follows concentrated concepts while the latter dares to intertwine samples into his work. 'Atlantis' is absolutely divine with how it all works together fluidly. It's remix, unfortunately, feels a bit unnecessary as a tacked-on finale. The beat, done by J57, takes Blu's dastardly end-of-the-world scenarios a bit too literally, whereas the original beat finds solace in hope for an Atlantis. Finally, there is 'The Man,' which despite featuring long-time companion Exile, might be the worst track here. The simple DJ scratching and poor verses, both in terms of lyrics and flow, by Nottz and Exile really hampers its excellence. Lastly, 'Heaven On Earth' initially seems unappealing thanks to an odd hook, but once the girls voice settles in, and Blu's clever verses take ahold, the track really aims to be better than it has any right to be. Overall, no, Titans In The Flesh isn't a stunning work, but it does succeed in achieving what it set out to do. The best Blu is one who has something to say with a producer who has ideas to match. 

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