For Miles and Beyond: An Interview With Blu & Exile

Psymun speaks to the beloved rap duo about jazz, hip-hop, production, and the influence of Miles Davis on their new collaborative album.
By    August 6, 2020

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The idea is for the lineage to remain unbroken. It was Cab Calloway to Dizzy and Bird to Miles, to the rest of humanity. Often overlooked was the trumpet deity’s last promethean blast, Doo-Dop, co-produced by Easy Mo Bee, who would soon go on to produce for the next holy trinity, Pac, B.I.G. and Nas (even if “Life is a Dice Game” never saw official release).  

In the future, the influence of the nastiest one from the 40th Street side of Queensbridge would blow up the brain of a kid in San Pedro, a city whose previous claim to musical fame had been Mike Watt and D. Boon of the mighty Minutemen. But in that port city, Blu would merge the introspective asphalt poetry of the East with a distinctly West Coast open-hearted warmth. Beats came courtesy of the sorceral Exile, in literal exile from the O.C., who had relocated to pre-gentrification Echo Park and formed one of the all-time great two turntables and a microphone duos with Johnson Barnes. Below the Heavens, no need to explain more.

It ricocheted to the Twin Cities where it reached the headphones of Psymun, who absorbed the loose voltage and faraway soul and transmuted it into his own style. I first heard him with Chester Watson, then still barely old enough to drive but already the monotone samurai. There was a similar mystery and warped soul like nothing else I’d heard, but tip of the tongue familiar. Kismet occurred not even a year ago when Blu and Chester and Psymun dismantled ghosts, offering a blunt-lit votive help retain our fraying sanity.

When word reached me that Blu and Exile were dropping another gem on us called Miles, it seemed only right to ask Psymun to interview them. The musician interviewing a musician format is typically one of the worst sub-genres of music journalism, but here, it allows for the explicit connections to be made — from this plagued modern moment deep into the dusty bins of the last century. It is to see an ineradicable love of the music and where it came all came from, literally and metaphysically and all points in between. A reminder that in a shattered world, there remains the possibility for occasional coherence. —JW

As soon as I heard Below the Heavens in 2007, I was hooked. Blu and Exile became my favorite duo, and my two favorite artists. I’ve followed both of their careers ever since. The routes they took artistically, and their approach to navigating through the music industry has been a massive inspiration. Not only was their music special, but their honesty was so refreshing. Their sincerity has been evident for 13 years since their debut project, and their latest Miles is just as refreshing in 2020. — Psymun

Psymun: Even before the uprising, how has the pandemic stuff been treating y’all?

Blu: Just maintaining through it. Staying safe, staying healthy, taking all of those extra precautions.

Exile: It definitely put me in a state of being ultra-thankful for friendship and being able to go out and be with people. It let me know how important people are in my life.

Psymun: Something I noticed too is that I happen to Facetime people all of the time, and that is something that I definitely took for granted beforehand. So, you guys have got the double album coming out next month. How long have y’all known about this?

Blu: How long have we worked on this album?

Psymun: Yeah, because I was going to ask if any of this was old material or old ideas because I know you guys made so many songs.

Blu: Some songs are older. What do you think Ex, how long have we been working on it?

Exile: There are some songs from 2017 and there are some songs from 2019. We had made an album before this one that we didn’t want to put out, we made a bunch of music which is now this album, and we have a whole extra album as well. We’re going to make new songs to finalize that.

Psymun: You’ve got music that you’re working on for the next Blu & Exile album?

Exile: Yeah.

Psymun: Wow, that’s amazing. I remember reading that y’all made either 50 to 100 songs for Below the Heavens – y’all didn’t dig up any old corpses by the throat or anything?

Exile: No, none of those are on there.

Blu: We couldn’t even find a lot of those songs when we were trying to recollect them all. A lot of those songs just became missing from that first batch – from the Below the Heavens sessions. We went in the same way this time; we did about 70 joints, if you count all three records.

Exile: But we released a lot of the extras from Below the Heavens on Before the Heavens, a joint we put out in the beginning.

Psymun: Was there a point in the process of making these three albums where you decided that this one should be a double album?

Blu: When we decided to start working on Miles, and we finally got the concept for it, a lot of songs started pouring out because we got more of a direction we wanted to go. We did a whole other album and we scrapped it; we pretty much finished it, but we scrapped it and started over. After we started over, by the third or fourth song we had the concept for Miles, and then we went in on about 40 songs for that record.

Exile: Blu was really pushing for a double album; he really wanted to have a double album in his collection, so I was like, “Okay, let’s do it.”

Blu: I just thought there were too many good joints on there to leave out.

Exile: To make up for lost time also.

Psymun: Just to be clear Blu, when you’re talking about the three albums, are you talking about the one that got scrapped, Miles, and the next one?

Blu: Yes.

Psymun: And the one that got scrapped, it’s very intriguing as a fan. Do you think anything’s going to happen with that?

Blu: We don’t know right know. We know the newer songs were what we were feeling, especially Miles. When we came up with the songs for Miles, we really felt like we had a great album to present, that we both came eye-to-eye with. With the next record, we still feel like we need to do more records. We don’t feel like it’s completely done yet, but we do feel like we have a nice bulk of songs to base the next album off of.

Psymun: Do you guys consider Miles to be just one album, or one album with two sides like a double album (which it is)? It feels like a double album to me, and it feels super concise. Because it’s 20 songs in total, are there 10 songs per side in your guys’ mind?

Exile: In my mind, the first 10 songs are a new-age album, like all these modern albums that come out with 9/10 songs that are bringing it back to the ‘80s releases, early hip-hop albums, and even jazz albums where there 6 or 7 songs are in an EP format. I think in the Miles album, the first 10 songs are the first return album, and then we get more and more and more in-depth as you continue on into the second disc. It becomes this almost never-ending journey. For the younger generations, that first disc is definitely a complete album.

Psymun: I hear that too when I’m listening to it. I’m assuming the second disc starts on “Troubled Water,” right?

Exile: Yes. The second disc is all deep; it gets deeper and deeper. The first album is more so a welcome back party, where we’re doing our thing, and then in the second disc, we get into business.

Psymun: You guys said that you came up with the concept after 2 or 3 songs of starting this one. I feel like listening to this album, everyone can have their own interpretations, but specifically why Miles Davis? Obviously, there are plenty of jazz legends, and plenty of people understand the influence of Miles specifically. Even on the project, you say somewhere you, “Always plan on having a son and naming him Miles.” For you two, where does the importance lie, and what is the extent of it, as far as Miles Davis goes?

Blu: I feel like we were miles beyond our second record. I have been through so much in the last 5 years, let alone it’s been 8 years since our last record, and I just felt that we were miles beyond where we left off; we wanted to catch the people up for all those miles. It was a great title to go in with because Miles meant so much to me – he’s my favorite jazz artist of all time, except I really like Eric Dolphy. It all tied in well; it just made sense all around the board.

Exile: Miles also represents the life journey to this point and keeping it going.

Blu: Continuing for miles, that’s another point.

Psymun: When the True & Livin’ EP came out, how much of the album had been done?

Exile: A lot of it had been done, but we had to wait to put it out properly, as far as getting all of our ducks in a row. In that waiting, we dropped it and added new material to the album.

Psymun: Is Miles Davis someone you grew up listening to? I know you talked about hearing your grandpa play him, but is he someone you grew up studying or did you just decide that you wanted to study his catalog and listen to all of it?

Blu: For me, my grandpa’s favorite artist is Miles Davis, so he listened to him a lot. I didn’t listen to him a lot, but as I got older and got into my hip-hop phase and into digging for records, I was 21 when my grandpa gave me all of his records. Most of his records were Miles Davis records, so I really dove into his catalog. At first, I didn’t really get jazz completely, and it took me a good 5/6 years until jazz was my shit. Miles kept moving up more-and-more; I read his entire book, and he kept moving up more-and-more in the ranks, as far as the music I would listen to and what I would choose to put on at the end or the beginning of the day. He became a huge figure in my life, especially with his lifestyle as well. Reading his books, seeing his documentaries, and just digging up as much as I can from him and about him.

Psymun: I’ve peeped references throughout your entire catalog – you reference him quite a bit, with song titles of his or Miles references in general. What about you Ex?

Exile: No, I didn’t. I had of course known about him, but jazz was just something that I learned to discover more myself through digging and stuff like that. I would hear it when my grandpa would play it, but I wasn’t sure what it was or who was who at the time. To be completely honest, jazz is something that went into my heart through hip-hop. I learned how to appreciate it by picking out what I thought were the best parts of the music and just sitting there listening to jazz players, discovering those parts. Hearing those parts and being able to appreciate all of the songs grew in time while trying to discover those special moments, which are something that I may sample. Then, it just turned into me loving jazz and listening to it, basically listening to it more than any other music in my time. I think the first Miles album that I gravitated towards was Bitches Brew because it was so hip-hop.

Blu: Have you heard his hip-hop album? His last album?

Psymun: Yeah.

Exile: I love the rawness and the obscureness and the darkness in that album in particular. I love hip-hop that carries that torch. I wouldn’t say that all of that album, or most of it, is dark at all, but still my taste for that is very strong. The beautiful aspects of jazz and the nostalgic aspect and the reflective aspect more so are there, and how it makes you feel and how it makes you journey in your thoughts and in your spirit.

Psymun: Shout out to crate digging. What an amazing thing, for so many reasons.

Exile: It lets you experience all types of different music and lets you try to understand what the artist is communicating. The amazing thing about jazz is that it communicates things that words can’t, and it can take you to the most amazing places. In hip-hop, at least with the vocalist, he tries to make-up for what he can’t express musically, through the words. I’m just trying to lay a soundtrack to allow Blu to do that. It lets me celebrate and interpolate my favorite parts of music.

Psymun: Yeah, Doo-Bop, that was his hip-hop album. It came out on Warner.

Blu: Produced by who?

Psymun: Easy Mo Bee. I’m just thinking of this right now, but it came out on Warner, and you were on Warner, Blu. Wasn’t your A&R Naim [McNair]?

Blu: Yeah.

Psymun: Yeah, I got to know him for a little while because he was my homie’s A&R too.

Blu: Who did he A&R for? Which homie?

Psymun: My boy Bobby Raps, but it was over at Republic when he moved over there 3 years ago. When the first song started, this is something I thought since Below the Heavens came out, but it must be pretty fun to be looking for samples that have the word “Blue” in them, right? It must be somewhat intentional, but you must come across them very unexpectedly at times as well.

Exile: Yeah, it’s like, “How can I not incorporate that?”

Psymun: Blu, do you find any of those samples?

Blu: Yeah, I actually found a sample for “Blue As I Can Be,” but I probably found like one sample on the album.

Exile: You found a couple samples, like “The American Dream” and “Blue As I Can Be,” but that might be it.

Psymun: How involved in the production are you, Blu?  More so the beat-making, because I know it’s a duo-album, so it’s not one producer really. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like it’s inevitably the both of you producing the album together. But as far as the beat-making process, do you have much involvement with that in this record, or even the other Blu & Ex albums, because I know you’re a producer?

Exile: He was there being an extra ear while I’m producing. For Miles, we had the song “Miles Davis,” and I had made a completely different beat than the one we ended up using, with the same drums actually. I guess we lost that version, but it’s just really fresh. I love being able to hear Blu rapping to the beats right after I make them and getting wrapped up with the energy that that creates. Or even better, for the song “American Dream,” we made that together. You brought me the sample for the joint that I rapped on too.

Blu: You put the sample – I gave you a Nina sample, and then you found an L[ast Artful, Dodgr]-slip.

Exile: Yeah, and he kind of described what he wanted to write about, he hadn’t written it yet, and of course I was writing on the spot and he was recording his, for lack of a better word, “fun,” and we just had a good time. For “American Dream,” she went over what she wanted to write about, and he didn’t even write it yet, and we made the beat together. I made the beat, but of course he has his guidance.

Blu: I’m just sitting in there vibing with it; you can’t tell a professional what to do. Let him do his job, he’s a pro at this.

Exile: Blu’s writing while I’m creating. When the beat’s done, then he’s like, “Do you want to hear it?” That unveiling of expression and heart, live and direct, there’s nothing like it. That’s what it’s about.

Psymun: I’m just a producer, I don’t rap or anything, but to your point Blu, about not telling a professional what to do, at the same time, and let me know if you agree with this Exile, I find it really helpful – what Exile described as “your guidance.” I find that super helpful when I’m making music with an artist. I want to make what the artist wants to make too, not just what I want.

Exile: That’s what this album is a representation of. It’s a representation of a discussion of what we wanted to communicate, and agreeing on it, and then going after it and seeing it come together is great; it’s exciting to be able to publish it.

Psymun: That relates to something you said in an interview so long ago that really resonated with me. Exile, you said, “Everybody wants to have a Snoop Dogg placement, but helping out artists tell their stories is what’s difficult,” and you do it with entire albums regularly, and you’re still doing it. You seem to have that same mentality because you just did the album with Choosey. That really resonated with me at a young age and has been a huge part of why I like to produce entire projects for people, primarily from Minneapolis, and work with people in the studio. I don’t really send beats anymore, but it definitely guided my path for sure, just hearing you say that. It seems like you still abide by that, huh?

Exile: It’s like what I was saying about how jazz can take you on a journey of a person’s emotions without any words. I want that same thing to happen with the music I’m involved in, but through the words. I want to create something that will allow the musical emotion to match it and bring it out. If I make a beat, sometimes I’ll be like, “I can hear you talking about this,” and I’m basically trying to match the emotion of the music through my description of what the content can be about. Then again, there are plenty of other songs where Blu catches onto that and creates his own song. For example, the song “The Feeling,” I thought it would be dope if he personified what the feeling is, and I think he did a wonderful job of doing that.

Psymun: Who is Jacinto Rhines to y’all?

Blu: That’s a whole other story, but he’s an OG though.

Exile: Tell him about how you guys met.

Blu: It’s a long story, but he’s an OG poet, and he had a nonprofit soul food spot, and I got some food off of him. It was a mad journey, and we ended up talking, and I found out he was a poet. I actually have one of his poetry books in my collection already.

Exile: You were in the car with him, and he looked over and saw a book. Blu was like, “I have this book,” and then the poet was like, “Yeah, I wrote that.”

Blu: I was like “Whoa.” It was a gift that somebody gave me, and he started reciting the poetry out of the book, just off the head. The first piece that he opened up the book to was called “The Feeling,” and me and Exile had just recorded our portion of that song already. We had done the song, and he had just opened his poetry set to “The Feeling,” like that was meant to be. The energy just connected, so I got his information, and I was like “It would be an honor if I got to deal with you,” and he was like, “Aw man, no problem.” When we met up, he blessed us with that piece, and before he left, he said, “I want to bless you with one more.” He kicked the piece from “Roots of Blue.” I was blown away; I was absolutely blown away. That piece isn’t in his poetry book, but it’s a very powerful piece.

Psymun: I’m so glad you guys put that song out as a single too; it speaks to these times very directly.

Exile: He was exactly that – he personified the word, “feeling.” He dissected it so beautifully, and I’ve teared up over it many times. There were friends next to me that were tearing up, and I can’t help but laugh about the power in those words – to be able to jar emotions like that.

Psymun: He sounds like a good influence; a good person to be around. Exile, do you still use [Akai] MPC?

Exile: Yeah.

Psymun: I remember seeing your Red Bull interview; it was from a while ago, but you talked about how maybe you’ll get into producing more on a computer, eventually. Did that ever happen?

Exile: I had messed around with some other things as well. I did incorporate some other ways of producing on this album, but there’s definitely still a lot of MPC.

Psymun: Do you use the 2000 XL?

Exile: Yeah.

Psymun: The delay throws on the drums at the end of “When The Gods Meet,” reminds me of one of my favorite songs by y’all, which is “Tags,” off of York.

Blu: That’s funny that you picked “Tags.”

Psymun: That beat is crazy.

Exile: That one was actually live MPC. The whole drumbeat was live MPC, but there were some keyboards layed on top.

Psymun: To me, it didn’t sound like your typical style. York, in general, was a more synth-heavy, electric-style album, so it fits nicely on there.

Exile: “When The Gods Meet” had the 808s sound; that’s why there are similarities.

Psymun: It wasn’t even really a question; I just don’t want the world to forget about “Tags” as a song. “Music Is My Everything” – this goes back to York even, but it makes sense to me now what you meant on “Above Crenshaw,” when you said “Bad on cassette tape/Bad on cassette tape,” because on here you talk about how you got the LL [Cool J] version and the Michael Jackson version. Those were your first two cassettes. You also talk about how, when you said “your mom slapped you with a spoon/Then you got busy in the BK bathroom,” that reminded me of the song “Pearly Gates,” where you say your stepfather thought you said “coochie” instead of “Coogi,” and it’s like, “Blaw, got socked, dropped my sister out my arms/He bought me Kirk Franklin for Christmas and said it was the bomb.” That beat was used by Mobb Deep and 50 Cent, right?

Blu: Yes, that was them. I just rapped to it on a mixtape.

Psymun: Did you make that before the Mobb Deep version?

Blu: No, definitely afterwards.

Exile: What are you talking about?

Blu: Remember, I did a verse to “Pearly Gates.”

Exile: You recorded that before, dude.

Blu: Oh yeah?

Exile: Yeah, you did. I’m pretty sure. We used to perform that all the time.

Psymun: Was that a Blu & Exile song, and then the opportunity of it becoming a Mobb Deep song came up, so you had to…?

Exile: I can’t remember how that went down. I love Blu’s version though, that was really dope.

Blu: I love the Mobb Deep version; Prodigy went off. 50 styled that shit up. I couldn’t believe they wanted a beat so grimy from Exile; he has a clean style, but they wanted one of his grimy productions.

Psymun: Blu, in general, I feel like you’ve gotten to work with, as far as other MCs go, most of your idols, right?

Blu: Yeah, definitely most of them. My top 3 are KRS[-One], Ice Cube, and Nas. I got to work with KRS, a third of my idols, which is a lot from what I’d expect when I was coming up.

Psymun: You worked with KRS way early on in your career too, right?

Exile: That was amazing; I was there throughout that whole experience. I remember when KRS would lecture us for 3 hours straight.

Psymun: How did all of that come about, just the song and the connection in general?

Blu: The homie Mainframe signed KRS-One for a single, and they just started working.

Exile: I have a bunch of lost KRS-One songs. I don’t know where the fuck they are. They were all freestyles too; that fool literally freestyles all of his songs. I have a crazy story though: When I was kid DJing in my room, practicing scratching when I was 15, I would do these weird things in my head where I would fantasize scenarios while I’m scratching. One of them was that I was at a Boogie Down Productions concert and KRS-One yells at the audience, “Kenny Parker, Kenny Parker’s sick, my DJ isn’t here, is there anyone that can DJ for me?” I’m in my room, and in my mind I’m like, “Yeah, KRS-One, I can do that. I can DJ for you.” He’s like, “Come on up here; come up on stage and let’s see what you got.” Then I get on stage, but I’m really just standing in my room, and I just start scratching in my room as if I’m on stage with KRS-One. Years later, we get to meet KRS-One and we go to one of his shows and, no joke, they’re like, “KRS-One’s DJ is gone. Can you DJ for him?” I go on stage to fucking DJ for KRS-One, and just as I’m about to live out my childhood dream, the DJ appears. But I did get to stand on stage with KRS-One, and he shouted me out in a freestyle, so that was good enough.

Psymun: Who made that beat by the way? Was it Mainframe that made the beat?

Blu: No, that was Oh No.

Psymun: For a lot of those older ones, I never knew who produced them. It’s hard to find that information sometimes.

Exile: If you’re talking about the Lifted tape, I produced most of that one. That’s the one that had KRS-One on there and the Mobb Deep joint.

Psymun: I remember it was random where I was getting all of these songs. There were so many random places I was getting them from, and when I found out it was an EP, the Lifted EP, I didn’t even know it was a project, even though I knew all of the songs.

Exile: That was just a CD that we would sell. We never thought it would be digitized, at the time.

Blu: That was back in the days; it was a super mixtape.

Psymun: You had so many stray songs, Blu, and you still do. I feel like I find out about one I didn’t know about from like 4 years ago, even if it’s just a feature. You have so many bars all across the internet.

Blu: Miles. Miles with styles.

Psymun: In “Bright As Stars,” you talk about when you met Exile, and how it was about “getting respect, and not the check.” I’ve seen old interviews with you guys, where Blu, you always say that “Exile hated Johnson & Jonson.”

Blu: That’s one of his favorite ones. That’s definitely one of his favorite albums of mine; I was just fucking with people.

Psymun: At the same time, in the same Red Bull interview (I watched it about a month ago), you didn’t say in that interview that he hates it, but you said that the bars you would spit, Exile wouldn’t be into them, but Mainframe would be like, “That’s hilarious. Let’s record that shit.” In your eyes Blu, what is it about Exile? You said, “It’s about the respect, not the check,” so if you could verbalize that any further, what would you say?

Exile: I feel like I caught Blu when there were many different directions that he could’ve gone. He could’ve easily gone the direction of Roc Nation-style beats or something.

Blu: My flow. I went from Death Row to a taste of Roc-A-Fella – I had all kinds of styles. I had a couple conscious records, and those conscious records started moving people, and by the time that I got signed for my second album, I was really trying to find a sound, and figure out what I was going to do for this first independent release. It was tough.

Psymun: Are the records you’re talking about, the couple conscious records you’re referring to, would we have heard those?

Exile: What was that song you had about hip-hop, Blu? “Feel Good Music?”

Blu: Yeah, “Feel Good Music” produced by Bombay.

Exile: That was one of those types of records. Weren’t you rapping on my remake of that? Did we use that?

Blu: No, we just did the beat; we never recorded it. “Feel Good Music” was an ill joint; it was a real joint and it talked about my journey to hip-hop. I had joints of me being in the club, and I was 20 years old rapping about it. I have all of these club songs, and I’ve got “Feel Good Music,” where people are like, “That song is dope.” It was weird how I had that song, and I had this song called “Soul Sister” that would stand out. Those songs would stand out more so than my club records.

Exile: Almost in the same vein, he recorded Dancing in the Rain, and we were already deep in Below the Heavens, and he was like, “I recorded this one with this Eminem-like style,” and I was like, “Let me hear it.” It ended up being Dancing in the Rain.

Blu: That’s our biggest record today. Our first album had a bunch of big records. I can’t wait to get this new one out.

Psymun: Would “Soul Sister” be online anywhere?

Blu: No, that song’s not online. That was personal stuff with me and my manager, and we were just selling it. The heads that got that were about 1000 people in ‘02/’03. That was before the internet was poppin’ for us. In ’07, that’s when it really cracked.

Psymun: I was a sophomore in high school when Below the Heavens first came out. Is there anything on Flowers that was from those Below the Heavens sessions?

Blu: No, Flowers was recorded in two weeks. Exile gave me a batch of the beats, I had a journal full of raps, and within 2 weeks we laid everything down. We sat on it for a couple of years – I was working on other projects, Exile was working on other projects, and we just had that sitting, so we decided to give Flowers out to the people.

Exile: Then we added to it.

Blu: We touched them up, cleaned them up, and got them ready for the masses.

Psymun: I remember when one of the songs leaked, and one of you, I think it was Blu who tweeted at Exile, “Did you leak the “Seasons” video?” The other one tweeted back, “No, did you?” I remember when the demo-style version of the album came out, and then the full product came out with the rolling papers and the cassette with the instrumentals. I still have the rolling papers; I still haven’t used them for anything. Were you saying that “You Ain’t Never Been Blue” was the other one you found the sample for?

Blu: Yeah, we were digging and I found a sample, then Exile found a different version of it that was more flippable. He put it down for me, and then we did the song on the spot. I brought the sample over, went to the liquor store, came back, and he had another loop of it up. He was like, “I’m going to chop up this version,” and we just got down on it. I got writing on it immediately. As soon as those drums and that bass line started clicking and shit, I started moving.

Psymun: I love that joint, the beat goes crazy. I’m assuming it’s the two of you singing, “You ain’t never been…” and then the beat drops. It feels like you start out with not your personal struggles, and throughout that first verse, it gets heavier into your own personal struggles. You talk about how you wish you weren’t your gender, your ethnicity, it doesn’t fit you (it’s more broad to speak to the people), and then you get more into your own specific situations, which can still be relatable, obviously. Exile’s verse seems pretty specific to his life as well. For “Roots Of Blue,” I’ve got notes here saying, “Blu, have you read the Bible?”

Blu: Where is this coming from?

Psymun: This is the note that I written down for my questions.

Blu: What makes you ask?

Psymun: Because you know so many Biblical references.

Blu: Oh yeah. I read most of it.

Psymun: I know you grew up in church and stuff. How about the Quran?

Blu: No, I’m actually waiting to finish the Bible. I have to finish it up, and then I’m going to get into the Quran.

Psymun: You just clearly know the history, as far as a lot of religious texts go. Is the Bible something you ever rejected, or religion in general, as a child or a teen?

Blu: I’d much rather watch cartoons than go to church as a child. The Bible was definitely something I didn’t pick up until later; it was kind of like jazz, where I had to become more mature. I look at the Bible now as the greatest history book, as opposed to the guideline for religion. Even though Moses’ books are the guidelines for Judaism and the teachings of Christ are the guidelines of Christianity, I definitely look at it like a huge, OG-ass history book. I got into the Bible later, even though I grew up in the church; my stepfather was a pastor, and I still wasn’t like, “Oh my god,” doing flips over going to church. The more mature I got, the more books I would read, and once I started reading the Bible, it started opening up my eyes to how great that book really is.

Psymun: Do you think, had it not been for your stepfather, you would have ever come back to it?

Blu: Yeah, my grandfather actually read the Bible a few times; he would brag to me about it. My grandfather would make me read the Bible to him throughout my whole upbringing. The Bible was prevalent in my life, so I wouldn’t say that I didn’t accept until I was older. I accepted it in my heart as a child, accepting the Lord into my life. When I was 7, I became a Christian. It wasn’t until I stopped believing in Christianity that I fully found love for the Bible.

Psymun: In “Roots Of Blue,” for the sample towards the end, my friends who’re Sudanese told me that it sounds like a sample of Sudanese women singing.

Exile: Yeah, I believe so.

Psymun: From a record?

Exile: Yeah.

Psymun: That’s dope that you found that. Blu, you cover everyone from Howlin’ Wolf to Chaka Khan to Fred Hampton to Oprah. I saw you say that that song is your family tree; I feel like you say it in the song too, that it’s specifically about black history.

Blu: They visit me every day.

Psymun: Would you consider it a homage to all those people in the song that you name?

Blu: Yes, definitely. I try to make it for all black people to have their roots. You can’t fit all the merits in the margin, but it’s an attempt to do so.

Psymun: “To The Fall, But Not Forgotten,” is so dope to me, and I know it’s going to be so dope to everyone here, that you mention Eyedea – he’s from Saint Paul, and you put him in the “Guru” bar. Thanks for doing that; I feel like he gets overlooked when it comes to amazing rappers in general, but especially amazing rappers that have transitioned.

Blu: Eyedea was definitely an amazing rapper. That fool blew me away in high school, and I was really anxious to see his progression. It’s so sad that he was taken so young.

Psymun: It’s so sad. His Scribble Jam freestyle was crazy. He was a monster.

Exile: Didn’t he win that Blaze Battle?

Psymun: I don’t know. Didn’t he beat Eminem or something? Eminem was in a bunch of those Scribble Jam battles.

Blu: Wasn’t Eyedea Scribble Jam 99 or something? I think Eminem was right before him, if my memory serves me correct.

Psymun: I think you’re right.

Blu: That would be the battle of the century, Eminem versus Eyedea. All the white rappers.

Psymun: That would be the lesson for them all. Exile versus Eminem. You would beat him in a beat battle for sure though, Exile. I don’t have much else, except I was going to say it took me a couple listens to be like, “Where is Fashawn on ‘Requiem Of Blue?’” I was expecting him on a verse, but then I was like, “Oh, that’s him on the hook.” That’s dope that he sang the hook, I like that.

Blu: Yeah, he started getting his vocal range on.

Psymun: Is there anything you guys want to say about this, about the world? Anything you don’t say in the album even, because the album speaks a lot?

Exile: We hope the music and the message of the album can inspire people to be strong and do what’s right and what’s needed as a human; or even to ease their human experience, which is challenging right now.

Psymun: For Miles, for miles and beyond.

Exile: I hope it can be relevant to inspire people.

Psymun: To let you know, it’s already done that for me, as both a fan and a listener. You’ve already succeeded.

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