Although Exile had already made a name for himself in the left coast hip-hop scene, both as part of the duo Emanon (with Aloe Blacc) and by producing tracks for Jurassic 5, Kardinal Offishall, and Mobb Deep, among others, it wasn't until the release of his 2007 album with rapper Blu, called Below the Heavens, that the Los Angeles-based producer began receiving attention and praise outside the West Coast community.
Born Aleksander Manfredi in the late '70s, Exile grew up listening to both the traditional Italian music his grandfather played and bands like the Sex Pistols and LL Cool J. It was, in fact, with the gift of LL Cool J's 1985 debut, Radio, that he first set his sights on hip-hop, and soon he was delving into beatmaking himself, using a cassette player until he was able to save enough money for a primitive sampler and a four-track. When he was 18, he met then 16-year-old Aloe Blacc, a fellow Angeleno, and the two started the group Emanon, which released a series of singles in the mid- to late '90s. In 2002, the duo released the EP Anon & On, followed by The Waiting Room in 2005. It was around this same time that Exile began working with Blu, whom he had known for a couple of years, more seriously, both on his own MC-studded solo album, Dirty Science (2006), and on the proper duet, Below the Heavens, both released on Sound in Color. The album, which was praised nearly universally, brought Exile's Dilla-meets-Pete Rock-meets-DJ Shadow beats into the hip-hop spotlight, and also set the stage for a proper solo release. Signed to progressive L.A. electronica label Plug Research, Exile released the full-length Radio, which was comprised solely of a year's worth of samples off L.A. radio stations, in the winter of 2009. Remixes and reworks based on the album were collected a year later on AM/FM. ~ Marisa Brown, Rovi