BlockCulture Presents: Top 10 Albums of 2012 – 9. Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them by Blu & Exile

9.Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them – Blu & Exile

When word broke that west coast artists Blu and Exile would re-up for a quasi reunion, it excited a hip hop community clamoring for just such an event since 2005’s Below the Heavens.  Spun with a hunger, soul, and polish both on the boards and rhymes, Heavens was a modern classic for hip hop heads and a promise that Blu would have much to say before his career was done.

What we got, in reality, was an illmatic-like curse.  To Blu’s credit there was never a lack of effort. Each successive release was accompanied by cries of “its not as good as Below the Heavens”  Multiple lo-fi, independent releases fell to  what seemed like deaf ears before finally Blu landed a major label deal with Warner.  The resulting product?  The indefinitely shelved NoYork!, an album that was received underwhelmingly as more Ruff Draft than Donuts.  It appeared to many as Barnes’ most disappointing effort to date, and served as a cautionary tale of how not to capitalize on hype.  To unbiased ears, however, it was a surprisingly prescient project that introduced many to subgenre hip hop producers like Sa-Ra, SamIYam, dibia$e, and the exhaustively talented Flying Lotus.  The  calculated stray from the soul sound was not perhaps the act of treason many saw, but a valiant effort to advance the culture with a sound that gained traction, in various forms, in 2012.

Enter Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them.  The tittle itself seems to suggest a plea of understanding, a call to not reward that which has passed but to celebrate that which will inevitably become the past.

It would be a mistake and a dishonor to compare Flowers to Heavens.  The context of both is much different, and while the its going to feel familiar, the content is varied.  Flowers sounds much more Exile oriented.  From the heavy sample driven tracks that breathe naturally to the multiple instrumental numbers, if I had to guess, Id say Exile helmed the project after Blu released an unmastered version online.  Heavens was more about a dope MC and a dope producer linking up and making dope hip hop; Flowers is a more complete album, showcasing artistic growth.  Much of the album is melody based, the sounds richer, with much more harmony.  

Don’t get it twisted though; this is still the same MC who walked up to Nas and boasted he would eat him up in a battle.  No matter what happens in Barnes’ career, the fact will always be he is a gifted writer with perspective that can only be called a gift.  His wit and ability to present complex ideas into a condensed formats are still present.  He relies less on alliteration to catch listeners’ ears on Flowers and lets his concepts stand on their own merit, free for the listener to re-visit if they so choose.  This allows for a free-flowing album that does not demand attention to gain its appreciation.  Its easy listening gone lyrical.  Its morning drive, singing it at lunch music.  All told, Flowers will take its rightful place in the 2012 discography when its given the proper context.  That place? A top 10 release of 2012.

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