Below The Heavens is a TSS-favored album of the highest order. It has become the yardstick by which fans and followers measure all other Blu projects. But much more is written and known about the project’s emcee than its beat maker.
Exile is one of the most artistically minded folks I’ve ever met, living in a house lined with touches of abstract art he’s constructed. He thinks and talks about the music he creates with similar rhythm to that of any painter or sculptor and clearly sees his sound in visuals. If you’ve ever had the chance to see Exile’s live MPC performance you’d be easily convinced of the physicality of his music.
With a new instrumental project, Radio — derived entirely from the media of its namesake — Exile takes the listener on an air wave journey through AM and FM, darkness and light, evil and good. Here’s a brief look into the inspirations of an artist whose music pays meticulous attention to sounds that create visuals.
Biz Markie – Goin Off
“The first thing I heard off this album was ‘Pickin’ Boogers.’ I guess I had to be about 13, hearing about ‘Big Daddy Kane eating boogers out his spaghetti.’ And I guess Big Daddy Kane actually wrote ‘Pickin’ Boogers…’ This is just like, a kid being able to be a kid — and a big fat kid with really funky beats who can be as goofy as he wants to be, with incredible swagger. Talking about picking his boogers and talking about shopping at the mall, I mean, as a kid this was just the greatest thing. He could beatbox too, and he had songs about his DJ. To me he was the first Madlib — he’s able to have a sloppy rap style and funky beats. This is the original Madlib to me. I just always related to Biz, being a big dude myself, being a big kid.”
2 Live Crew – Is What We Are
“This is the first time I really got interested in scratching. Every 2 Live Crew [album] has a mega mix — Mr. Mixx On The Mix — and that just really got me into scratching, trying to figure out how he did what he did. I think this is the first time I was really looking at a DJ as an artist.
“I beatboxed first and then I scratched off of one of those Sanyo stereo systems where is has the tape deck, and then the radio, and then the turntable up top. And I would hold the tape and the phono button down and scratch. I first started scratching on a Star Wars record — I remember I crank called this girl I liked and I was scratching some Darth Vader or some shit. [Laughs] After that, I really honed my scratch with the speaker button — like Speaker A, Speaker B.
“And the bass on this record, the bass from kids’ cars would be booming and I wouldn’t know how they got it to do that. This was one of those records where I realized that it was coming from the 808s. And then a song about ‘Hey, we want some pussy,’ I mean, as a kid that’s just the greatest thing.”
Ice Cube – Death Certificate
“One of the greatest West Coast records of all time, along with Pharcyde’s Bizarre Ride, and Freestyle Fellowship Innercity Griots. I think this might be one of the first full albums that is conscious gangster rap and it’s just amazing, post South Central riots. Man, it’s just an amazing record. It’s political, it’s West Coast, it’s got King Tee on there and Kam; who are two other West Coast legends who deserve their own piece to be spoken about. It’s Public Enemy meets the West Coast, but the beats on here Sir Jinx and there’s just a real West Coast stomp-type presence, like Funk.
“It made me feel scared as a White person. And that’s what I liked about Hip-Hop, I mean this type of Hip-Hop. Like not just scared, but it made me feel hard too. It made me real interested. It was just crazy man, it was different. Like I was in some kind of gangster shit when I was young — my first rap group was with some Bloods… we were called Creme De La Family, in junior high — and that was right around the time of the riots. And I couldn’t go to the riots, so I lived it through this record. Through Death Certificate.”
LL Cool J – B.igger A.nd D.effer
“My first Hip-Hop record I ever got, at Christmas, was LL Cool J Radio, but I picked this one mainly because I used to perform ‘I Need Love’ for my mom and my sister. I would lipsync the whole thing — I’ve done it in the mirror before. LL Cool J was just bad, like, he was Bad, he was a womanizer, he was really confident, he had dope stories, you know? He was a great story rapper! No one gives LL Cool J credit for being a story rapper, but he had some dope stories! ‘Big Ole Butt,’ ‘Bristol Hotel,’ ‘Candy?!’ ‘Candy’ is ridiculous. The drums on ‘Candy?!’ This is just, man, this record was a huge influence on me. One of my all-time favorites. LL Cool J.”
Slum Village – Fantastic Vol. 2
“If I had Freestyle Fellowship Innercity Griots, it would be with this record. And I compare those two because I think those two records — they’re like the kings of style. Slum Village and Freestyle Fellowship, they’re at the two polar opposites, but where they push their styles is just amazing. Freestyle Fellowship is rapping all fast and cats just took it the whole other direction with patterns and rhyme patterns and the beats.
“When I first heard this record I didn’t really get it at first, like, I thought it was cool, I thought it was a little lazy — it just sounded like they were freestyling or something and that’s what I thought at first. I didn’t get it. But the more I listened to it the more I realized their patterns are really complex and they’re doing something that nobody’s ever done before. To me this is like taking The Pharcyde and Tribe — what that feeling was — and completely taking it into their own thing with this record. Of course the production is incredible and groundbreaking, but I have to give it up to the emcees too on this, style-wise. And of course Dilla has been a huge influence on me, and every other Hip-Hop producer.”
Enjoy “In Love” from Exile’s new instrumental album, Radio. Full length album coming soon.
Previously Posted — 14KT’s Fave Five – Beat Maker Series
Visit Exile’s MySpace