When I read that Blu and Nottz were teaming up for a follow up to their 2013 Gods in the Spirits EP, I looked forward to it with great anticipation as Gods was one of the better releases that year. Ahead of the release of the first collaborative EP, Blu said, “This was one of the first projects where all the songs were written to the music. Usually … we create music around lyrics or we both make shit from scratch. In this situation I got all the beats and I wrote to them, so it was pretty tight.” It’s fair to say that now, three years later, they’ve done it again.
The EP is seven tracks long and features six new songs and a remix to the first single Atlantis. The duo have built on what they started in Gods and taken it to further heights. The two mesh well and everything fits – the beat, the samples, the lyrics, nothing is awkward or out of place.
While the production is tight, Blu’s rhymes really steal the show. Blu was one of the first rappers to really inspire me; he humanised hip-hop, making it feel normal and cool to be blasting it on the bus home from work, and less shy about scribbling poems in the dark. I love that everything he has touched portrays this vibe.
The first track, Truth, is an uplifting, chest-pounding introduction that features Shateish singing the sensational hook. Nottz sets the tone with the electric synths and beat before Blu lets loose, spitting never-ending rhymes and covering all bases from Apollo Creed (“A black man said his name was Apollo Creed, a novel seed born in land of colossal kings”) to Atlantis (“Found Atlantis in a poem”) and titans (“I walk through ghetto alleys like a Titan in the valley”).
On Giant Steps, Blu and Nottz recruit hip-hop giants Bishop Lamont, Torae, Skyzoo, and DJ Revolution. This is one of the most impressive tracks on the EP, because it plays out like other posse cuts from Blu’s catalogue. Blu leaves it all on the court, spitting a wicked dizzying flow, and truly goes ‘ham’ on the food-related rhymes, “they don’t want beef, they lunch meat, baloney, we sitting on cheese like pepperoni.” After Blu, West Coast heavyweight Bishop Lamont fires shots at rappers who claim to rep their hood but don’t do anything to improve them. Then steps up the tag-team of Torae and Skyzoo, who deliver the most immediately quotable lyrics such as “F*** Faith like Biggie.” All the while, DJ Revolution provides some old school scratching, making Giant Steps one of the best posse cuts this year.
Blu then takes a breather and is absent from To The East, giving the reins to Definite, TriState, Mickey Factz and Johaz. However, given that it is lyrically Blu’s EP, this track seems it could have benefited from a few of his bars. A good track nonetheless, but it does feel lacking in something.
The most interesting track on the album is The Man where Nottz steps up to the mic after producer Exile from Below The Heavens and Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them. Neither producer shies away, or lacks any talent when it comes to spitting rhymes. Without reading who was featured on the track, I had to rewind it after I heard Exile finish his verse by saying, “Blu and Exile get the money, Nottz get these fuckin’ dummies.” A phenomenal track, and great to see Exile thrown back into the mix.
The EP closes out with the first single Atlantis (that was featured in our Friday Rap Wrap upon its release) and its remix by J57. Nottz brings a kind of dreamy approach to mellow out the hard-hitting boom bap drums. And Blu does what he has been doing the whole album, which is spit amazingly talented rhymes with an incredible flow: “The Django with the star-spangled, my chain dangles.”
The Atlantis J57 remix takes the dreamy aspect out, turns up the drums, and adds a hook sung by Akie Bermiss. I personally prefer this version as it plays more to the traditional hip-hop style that I love; that being said, the dreamy mellowness of the original is much more Blu.
Titans In The Flesh is out now via Colemine Records. Definitely grab yourself a copy – you can grab it via iTunes here, or try and cop one of the limited supply Easter-yellow vinyl copies through Fat Beat, equipped with the instrumental and acapella passes of The Man, and the instrumental for Heaven on Earth.