Within four years of its initial 2007 release, Blu’s Below the Heavens went from promising breakthrough to cult classic to a reminder of what could’ve been – one of those epochal MC/producer pairings that seemed destined to go unfollowed. When the always-prolific rapper Blu posted his sophomore team-up with producer Exile on his Bandcamp page during an already-busy 2011, it almost felt like a tossed-off afterthought – a potentially rock-solid effort sabotaged by half-hearted promotion and a cruddy, unmastered mixing job. But less than a year later, a reworked, remastered version of Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them has emerged for official release, and in its final form it reignites the eloquent-everyman appeal of the pair’s much-loved debut. Exile’s golden-age sensibilities lean heavily on psychedelic soul, sinewy dub reggae, and off-kilter bebop, refined beats that gleam at low volumes and rumble authoritatively when cranked. And Blu’s low-key mic presence is introspective and extroverted all at once, unspooling lines that evoke vintage Pharcyde in style and ambitious adolescent hang-out sessions or family reunions in spirit. It’s the second chance this album – and this partnership – absolutely deserve.
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