While Exile is just starting to become a household name among underground heads, his history dates back more than a decade, as part of a little known group called Emanon, with some guy named Aloe Blacc. We’ve seen Aloe’s popularity explode in the last year or so, while Exile was responsible for producing one of the most popular indie hip-hop releases of the last five years with Blu’s Below The Heavens. Blu has since gone on to grace the cover of XXL in their premiere group of “freshmen” emcees, and managed to create a religious following in the process. With Exile being just one degree of separation from greatness himself, he ventures out solo with 4TRK Mind, showing off his skill as both producer and emcee.
4TRK Mind is a tribute to the four-track recorder, an inexpensive device responsible for many hip-hop classics, now completely forgotten and outdated, thanks to modern technology. The four-track sound has a recognizable, distinctive lo-fi sound to it, which comes through in spades on Exile’s tribute LP. Exile’s collages of samples, scratches, and breaks hark back to a time when budding producers had only the crudest of materials to work with, as he pays homage to a forgotten era with this LP.
Exile is a producer first, emcee second, as clearly exemplified throughout 4TRK Mind. We got a taste of his rhyme style on Blu’s Below The Heavens, which found him humorously freestyling on “I Am”. Which, if you enjoyed that track, you’ll love this LP, as much of it is presented in the same context. From the jump, the album kicks off with the kooky “It’s Me”, which finds Exile spitting fragmented lines amidst a collage of samples that truthfully is hard to grab hold of. Exile’s rhyme style and sense of humor are an acquired taste, as audiences will likely be polarized to approach to delivery. In his awkwardness, he does come with the occasional laugh out loud moment, such as on “Klepto”, where he taunts: “Get it out / it doesn’t belong there / I’ll put my arms there / Better yet, during your show, I’ll create a bomb scare / like ‘EVERYBODY GET OUT IT’S GONNA BLOW, GET OUT OF HERE / that’s the only way your shit’s gonna blow / unless it blow like it sucks / Oh, it does though, so…..”. Heh.
Exile’s sense of humor is ultimately what will keep people listening, as he’s doesn’t quite match up to his peers (Blu, Aloe Blacc, Droop Capone) on the mic. Still, it was nice to see him get a bit introspective on both “Younger Days” and “Momma Song”. And speaking of Blu, the two of them share a great tag team verse on the album’s best track, “When Nothings Left”. Can a sequel to Below The Heavens be far behind? Either way, Exile has long proven his worth a producer, and given his track record, we can only expect greater things to come.
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