Artwork courtesy of Coalmine Records
"I walk through ghetto alleys like the titans through the valley" Blu raps on the opening track of Titans in the Flesh, his new collaborative EP with Nottz. Not only is it a nod to the project's overarching mythological theme, it pretty much captures Blu's appeal in one elegant line: Blu has always thrived when he's writing inventive, natural rhymes that tie together daily realities and metaphysical musings. On Titans in the Flesh, he's in fine form.
Titans in the Flesh is the follow-up to Blu and Nottz's 2013 project Gods in the Spirit, a continuation of the duo's long-running chemistry. However, it takes a slightly smoother turn than its often rowdy predecessor, and the results are one of the smoothest displays of rappin-ass-rappin thrills you'll hear all year. This style of slickly produced contemporary boom-bap isn't particularly in fashion these days—certainly less so than it was when Blu captured the imaginations of the rap world with his underground classic Below the Heavens—but it's more welcome than ever as a result. Titans in the Flesh is a perfect argument that you don't need to faithfully recreate the sound of 1994 if you want hard-knocking beats and intricately written raps: It brings those qualities right into the present.
Not only does Blu rap some fantastical shit—"Native Tongue, surprised I didn't sign to Tribe," he quips—he and Nottz enlist the help of a who's who of hip-hop's tongue-twisting journeymen: guys like Skyzoo, Torae, Bishop Lamont, and Mickey Factz. Everyone brings their A-game, including Blu's OG producer Exile, who stops by for a verse, and Nottz himself, who has perhaps the funniest line on the whole project: "I teach the truth to the youth: I say hey youth, here's the truth!"
In the end, though, Blu is still the star we all have quietly rooted for him to be, painting portraits of characters ranging from the kid at the liquor store to politicians to himself sitting in his apartment watching it all on the bouncy, ruminative "Atlantis." "One glance at the gods and earth?" he concludes: "Priceless."
"The EP is themed around Greek and Roman mythology, with our own personal twist," says Blu. "Instead, Nottz and I play the Gods and Titans, along with all the lyrical beasts featured on the record. The title means 'be strong,' be more than you are, be a God or be a Titan, and run with it!"
Titans in the Flesh is out everywhere tomorrow, but you can stream it exclusively on Noisey right now. And, although streams are fun and all, they are hard to hold, so pick it up on very, very cool yellow vinyl right here.
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