Asheru and Blue Black: 48 Months

Dominic Umile

Asheru and Blue Black

48 Months

Label: Seven Heads Recordings
US Release Date: 2003-11-18
UK Release Date: 2003-11-17

Somewhere between 1996 and 2000, two emcees from the Unspoken Heard collective recorded a whole bunch of songs that featured production from a pool of considerable talent. Asheru and Blue Black's compilation, 48 Months, documents their startup through 2001's Soon Come� LP and includes outtakes as well as some other sought-after tracks. Perhaps the most important aspect of this project is explained in the heartfelt liner notes. In remaining consistent with what Asheru calls the "revolutionary" underground hip hop ideals that have worked so well for the Unspoken Heard collective, 48 Months is an opportunity for the duo to provide for their fans, inquiring DJ minds, and all others who've slept on this significant act.

The only problem, if any, is that if one was to have missed the boat on Asheru and Blue Black back in 2001 -- say, a record reviewer for instance -- well, he or she might not be able to distinguish between the two articulate gentlemen on said comp of oldies and newies. (Though each has his own distinctive flow, the styles are still similar and it tends to throw me off a bit. I'll manage.)

After first shaking hands as students at the University of Virginia, Asheru and Blue Black teamed with some others to form what was to become the powerful underground force that is Seven Heads Entertainment. Following their performances and recordings for the "48 months" between 1996 and 2000, Asheru and Blue Black dropped the Unspoken Heard Soon Come... album, featuring beats and production work from Djinji Brown, J-Rawls, and 88 Keys, among others. The Sound Providers also played a part on the release and were presumably paid back when Asheru guested on their current jazzy ABB release An Evening With the Sound Providers. As discussed in the 48 Months liner notes, the bulk of the tracks have been released, but previously only on vinyl. Some folks don't have record players and there was finally enough demand for Asheru and Blue Black to go back into the vaults and press these goods on this new-fangled CD technology. Enthusiasts of anything De La, Talib, Tribe, or whatever else the kids are calling "conscious" will find a warm place in their six-disc changer for this release. It's packed with under-the-radar goodness.

The Bedroom Wizard's work on the decks opens 48 Months. His beats on "Mid Atlantic" feature a meandering vibraphone and random bursts of a sax sample, while Asheru and Blue Black spit regional rhetoric over the hypnotic background chants "SC, NC, VA, DC, MD, Emcees sound this way". A mix of the track originally appeared on Bedroom Wizard's Magician's Birthday record, and it introduces a Mid-Atlantic advantage that Ash and Blue Black have over other less-capable crews. This jazz and funk interplay is commonplace throughout the comp and follows the sharp lyrical content to the tee.

DJ Spinna, whose street cred can be traced ubiquitously to a number of labels not excluding Rawkus, Blue Note, Verve and some recent work in the BBE "Beat Generation" catalog, handles "Setting Sun". The remarkable narrative content here is almost overshadowed by a complex free jazz experiment that Spinna molds with piano and a ghostly trailing vocal snippet. Again, it's almost compelling enough to pull from the vocal, but it can't, because the verses are too important.

It's explained in the opening seconds that the story is about a father passing, before he is able to pass knowledge and necessary life lessons onto his son. The "Setting Sun" is played upon in a series of last words spoken from the perspective of the dying father. He's "The Setting Sun", "getting set to pass wisdom onto his son", and the verses are conveniently interrupted by some ad-libbed monologue that explicates the tale even further. This works well to illustrate the metaphor for the "unspoken heard", the "thing that you hear that doesn't even have to be said".

If there is any further proof required of Asheru and Blue Black's keen ability to hide crisp diss verse in light-hearted melody and head-nodding jazz beats, the "Jamboree" single, originally part of an EP and then the LP, falls toward the end of the comp track list. It's accompanied by its charming outtake counterpart, which is close enough to the finished product but different enough to be played alongside the winning result. The Seven Heads duo comes through for the entirety here, even if there's occasionally a little trouble in telling them apart.





The Durutti Column's 'Vini Reilly' Is the Post-Punk's Band's Definitive Statement

Mancunian guitarist/texturalist Vini Reilly parlayed the momentum from his famous Morrissey collaboration into an essential, definitive statement for the Durutti Column.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

What Will Come? COVID-19 and the Politics of Economic Depression

The financial crash of 2008-2010 reemphasized that traumatic economic shifts drive political change, so what might we imagine — or fear — will emerge from the COVID-19 depression?


Datura4 Take Us Down the "West Coast Highway Cosmic" (premiere)

Australia's Datura4 deliver a highway anthem for a new generation with "West Coast Highway Cosmic". Take a trip without leaving the couch.


Teddy Thompson Sings About Love on 'Heartbreaker Please'

Teddy Thompson's Heartbreaker Please raises one's spirits by accepting the end as a new beginning. He's re-joining the world and out looking for love.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Little Protests Everywhere

Wherever you are, let's invite our neighbors not to look away from police violence against African Americans and others. Let's encourage them not to forget about George Floyd and so many before him.


Carey Mercer's New Band Soft Plastics Score Big with Debut '5 Dreams'

Two years after Frog Eyes dissolved, Carey Mercer is back with a new band, Soft Plastics. 5 Dreams and Mercer's surreal sense of incongruity should be welcomed with open arms and open ears.


Sondre Lerche Rewards 'Patience' with Clever and Sophisticated Indie Pop

Patience joins its predecessors, Please and Pleasure, to form a loose trilogy that stands as the finest work of Sondre Lerche's career.


Ruben Fleischer's 'Venom' Has No Bite

Ruben Fleischer's toothless antihero film, Venom is like a blockbuster from 15 years earlier: one-dimensional, loose plot, inconsistent tone, and packaged in the least-offensive, most mass appeal way possible. Sigh.


Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.


Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.


Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.


Inventions' 'Continuous Portrait' Blurs the Grandiose and the Intimate

Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium side project, Inventions are best when they are navigating the distinction between modes in real-time on Continuous Portrait.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.