Bles Infinite had one request before our interview about his new solo CD. His partner in crime had to be by his side.
Bles Infinite and Eph'Sharpe (aka Luke Hale and Collin Troy) have been making tracks as The 2bers for close to a decade. They form a hip-hop duo that's been together longer than most Albuquerque rap projects. They're also best friends.
"Devastating" is how Hale describes what he imagines his life would be like if he hadn't met Troy nine years ago. He's not being overdramatic. As the three of us sit in Troy's comfortable (if weed-infested) backyard, the two recount how The 2bers formed. It started when Hale was "on the ropes," as Troy puts it. Hale stayed at Troy's house while the former waited for his youngest daughter to be born. At the time, Hale was 18. "We were at this party and Luke approached me," Troy recalls. "He told me, ‘My girlfriend’s pregnant and I need a place to live.’ I was like, ‘All right—let's fuckin' do it.’ ”
Within a week of cohabiting, Hale and Troy started recording songs together. They've been inseparable ever since. "It's like we're brothers," Hale asserts. "We've been through a lot."
Hale says he doesn't really consider his album Nine Years Later to be a solo record—at least, not in the traditional sense. He made the beats for most of the songs, raps on every track except for an instrumental and exercises more artistic freedom than ever before. But Troy was always nearby. Whether it was help with production, tweaking things after the album took shape or spitting a few verses, Troy's influence is all over the album. "It is a solo record, but we were both part of the process," Troy explains. "It's a 2bers album that represents his perspective."
Hale's lyrical take has always been brutally honest. He's self-effacing, irreverent and unafraid to let his personal life leak out. In "Ode to Doom," Hale speaks about losing his mother then acknowledges he's hardly the only person dealing with tragedy. "It's the most authentic stuff and I think that translates best to other people, because they can relate to it," Hale speculates. "It's hard for me to do karaoke or do other people's lyrics. I just have to come from the heart."
The beats consist largely of thickly sliced samples cut from records or made with The 2bers' own instruments. Jazzy bass, reggae heartbeats, haunting electronic tones, fingerpicked banjo and softly played piano slide behind Hale's gruff voice.
The wah pedal-soaked instrumental "Funk du Soleil" was composed by Hale the night his sonic soul mate's first child was born. That was in March, and as soon as he created it, Hale says he knew he had an album-worthy track. That sort of impulsive decision might not have flown on a normal 2bers release. The MC would have had to run it by Troy. "I'm a pretty spontaneous person," Hale contends. "I enjoy saying things like, This beat is fat, let’s do it and not think about it too much."
When asked whether he also plans to release a solo disk, Troy shrugs. "Probably, but it all happens how it happens," he says. "The 2bers are always the primary focus."
"I'm more selfish," Hale says with a grin. This comes from the guy who refers to himself as the Beyoncé of The 2bers. "But I don't have an ass at all," Hale admits. "I have to work on that."