Off the Record

Last weekend I purchased the new cd from Los Angeles rapper Murs.

The West Coast’s eccentric version of Old Dirty Bastard, Murs is known for his crazy antics as well as his work with groups like Atmosphere and Living Legends.

Murs manages to blend the strictly West Coast style of Souls of Mischief with a little more East Coast feel. This is a unique blend which, on his newest cd, demands to be heard from start to finish.

Most of my music collection consists of records from Boston and New York rappers, and Murs is one of few West Coast artists who has really managed to capture my attention.

I saw him perform for the first time at a show with Aesop Rock and Mr. Lif earlier this year at Higher Ground.

Murs is not an artist who is good on record but a real disappointment to see in concert. He is great to listen to and absolutely fantastic to see live.

Any rapper who comes on stage, takes off his leather jacket to reveal a pair of colorful matching pajamas and then proceeds to rock a show wearing furry slippers and using his iPod as his DJ demands some commendation for originality.

Murs is one of the most interesting personalities in hip hop: He is a touring machine, he has a very unique style on the mic, and he overflows with contagious energy when on stage.

His newest album, Murs 3:16 the 9th Edition, is definitely worth picking up.

The album teams Murs up with highly acclaimed underground producer 9th Wonder.

9th Wonder is known for inventing remix albums like DJ Danger Mouse’s Grey Album. He put out his own version of Nas’ latest cd and titled it God’s Stepson. 9th wonder also produced a track for Jay-Z’s newest cd and then went on to put out his own remixed version of the entire Black Album called Black is Back.

A collaboration between Murs and 9th Wonder is practically guaranteed to be good music. Murs 3:16 is a step in a new direction for Murs.

His subject matter is not as off-the-wall as is usual, and needless to say, with 9th wonder working with him, the production is much more consistent. Murs’ album is in many ways similar to Nas’ classic Illmatic.

It is short by today’s standards, with only ten tracks. It has no potential club hits, no anthems, no rowdy fight songs, and no tracks that need to be skipped.

The album demands that you sit back and relax and let Murs and 9th Wonder lead you on a mental journey.

Murs carries the listener on a tour of his life as he effortlessly crafts stories over 9th wonder’s flawless production. Murs has skills in the traditional sense of tight rhymes, clever wordplay, and good rhythm, but in the tradition of Slick Rick, Notorious, and Nas, he can also paint a different picture in the listeners’ mind with each song.

Songs like “Trevor an’ Them” and “Freak These Tales” recount the hilarious happenings of Murs’ everyday life.

On “H-U-S-T-L-E” Murs deftly rides the slow and funky rhythm of 9th wonder’s irresistible beat. With his delivery and cadence flowing perfectly over the head-nod-inducing beat, Murs recounts tales of atypical hustles such as collecting cans and carrying groceries, which allowed him to buy studio time and although are not “glorious tales, did keep [his] black ass from going to jail.”

On “Walk Like a Man,” Murs reveals his feelings after his best friend was murdered in front of him. Murs draws the listener into his story over an eerie, church-choir laced beat that changes along with the mood set by the lyrics.

The standout track on the album is “And This is For…” a song in which Murs reveals some of his thoughts on music culture and today’s society. Among other insightful ideas, he points out the hypocrisy of African American stars wearing diamond jewelry that was produced by laborers working in slave-like conditions in African mines. The main focus of the song is the questionable role of white people in hip hop culture.

Murs expresses his love for hip hop and also his concerns for its health stating “this music is my life, not a cultural fling.” He talks about the difference between what hip hop means for a new generation of white kids and what it means to black people.

Murs says that white kids might really love rap and be down with hip hop but that other options are always open for them, and that black kids never have the clear-cut option of being absorbed into mainstream “American Dream” society.

Murs also expresses his anger at the success that white rappers have had with today’s mostly white hip hop audience. He is frustrated by his perception that white rappers who can actually rock the mic like he does have better sales because Caucasian listeners can better relate to the faces and experiences of white artists.

On “This is For,” Murs reveals some of his strongest thoughts and feelings and also his insecurities. He says that he is scared to make such a potentially-controversial song but that he simply cannot bear to witness the white-takeover that has happened to Jazz, Blues and Rock happen to his hip hop.

The CD is available at Pure Pop in downtown Burlington, and at $10.99 is an album that will add a lot to your music library without taking a lot from your wallet.

Murs 3:16 is a cd that manages to deal with heavy issues like death and frustration but also has a lighter side, with jokes about Murs wanting to give Jesus’ a high-five after seeing a particularly attractive female.

Buy his CD and see for yourself. Also check him out on tour with Def Jux in either Boston or Montreal in late April and early May. Murs’ record is exactly the sort of cd that will get you through the last few weeks of Vermont spring snowstorms.