As the Unspoken Heard – otherwise known as Asheru and Blue Black – have gained iconic indie hip-hop stature, the reputation of their early work has become a hot subject among record collectors and rap nerds. With catchy rhymes and creative samples to boot, their official LP debut, Some Come, was met with a favorable reception and hip-hop writers crowned them keepers of the Old School flame. Well, at least a few did.
Now riding off the success of the debut and the rising stock of their 7Heads label (J-Live, El Da Sensei), these two University of Virginia college buddies have re-released their work from 1995 to ’99 – the years of grinding on the hip-hop chitlin’ circuit that eventually birthed Soon Come.
“The Music” and “Jamboree” were on 12-inch releases in the late ’90s, and “Better” and “Smiley (The Woh Woh Song)” were released around the same time. However, with not enough material or funds to release a full-length during these years, 7Heads successfully crated a buzz by making the duo requisite openers when club dates were scheduled in the Washington, D.C., area. Their status was even big enough for years that Last Emperor, J-Live, and Talib Kweli were opening up for the Unspoken Heard when they traveled to the nation’s capital.
A dedication to their love over a steel drum/go-go beat, “The Music” was a favorite for years among their core audience (“Hip-hop will never leave its rightful rulers/ That’s why I still make jams for b-boys and old schoolers/ While y’all fools be at the jewelers, I’m dropping gems…). Also, the 88 Keys-produced “Jamboree,” which appeared on their LP, is as happy as it gets. With soft guitar licks, a bouncy piano rhythm and an excellent horn sample, the feel-good song has characterized Asheru and Blue Black’s shows and sound for years.
While none of the tracks on 48 Months are fresh, they are still a tribute to talent these working men possess. Both Asheru and Blue Black have been schoolteachers since graduation day, making beats and writing rhymes in their free time.
Now cult-like figures in European hip-hop circles, they have managed to tour consistently on the other side of the Atlantic, while maintaining their following in the Mid-Atlantic (note the song by the same name). However, a collection of their early work is eye-opener for those who don’t already know, and a refresher course for those who have followed them since the since the start.
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