Friday, September 8, 2006

"Success has always been the best form of revenge."

Back in April I heard an album by Murs and 9th Wonder called Murray's Revenge. It's the most consistent rap album I've ever heard. Granted, I don't listen to a ton of rap albums, and it helps that Murray's Revenge is only 32 minutes long instead of the usual 70-minutes-plus that many rap albums contain these days. No unfunny skits, no lengthy answering-machine messages (even Common and De La Soul, two of my favorite hip-hop acts, are guilty of these crimes)—just one great song after another, and the album never wears out its welcome.

Murs is from Los Angeles and has been recording since 1993, the year he turned 15 (!), according to All Music Guide, and 9th Wonder is his producer for 2006's Murray's Revenge. I doubt Murs was legally bound to give 9th Wonder second billing on the front of the album alongside his own name, but this is their second album together as performer and producer (the first being 2004's Murs 3:16—The 9th Edition, which obviously hints at its producer's involvement), and maybe Murs wanted to show his appreciation. Whatever the case, the "co-headliner" billing makes sense, because 9th Wonder's production is terrific on this album. He specializes in '70s soul samples (William Bell, Valerie Simpson, and Ben E. King, for example, on Murray's Revenge), and I'm a huge fan of '70s soul, so I have no objections. He deserves a lot of credit for how great the album sounds.

9th Wonder is a member of North Carolina's Little Brother (Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh do the rapping while 9th Wonder produces/DJs). The production on their 2005 album The Minstrel Show is also terrific (9th Wonder samples Michael Franks's "I Really Hope It's You" on "All for You," and the results are pretty damn blissful), but Phonte and Pooh spend too much time complaining about how they don't get enough respect. Thanks, but I already heard that kind of bitching and moaning on De La Soul Is Dead back in 1991. Wasn't entertaining then, isn't entertaining now. Save it for a run-of-the-mill blog entry like I do, fellas.

Murs does some standard rapper boasting, but not about how rich he is because, well, he isn't and he doesn't feel like pretending that he is. Instead he gives us his take on his hometown in "L.A." ("A place that everybody hate but you gotta see once"); working a 9-to-5 job you can't stand to support your kids and simply soldiering on one day at a time, in "Yesterday & Today"; being in a relationship that's going nowhere and yet neither partner wants to face facts, in "Love & Appreciate" ("I put on the weight, you put on the brakes / Now we both sit around with that look on our face"); and idolizing a gang member when you're nine years old because he plays with real guns, not the plastic ones your G.I. Joe figures carry, in "Dreamchaser."

Murray's Revenge also includes "D.S.W.G. (Dark Skinned White Girls)," in which Murs empathizes with those stranded between two worlds ("All the black girls think that she want they man / But it's not your fault they attracted to you / That you blessed and got as much back as you do ... Rejected by the black, not accepted by the white world / This is dedicated to them Dark Skinned White Girls"). Finally, will you be able to resist Valerie Simpson's sampled vocal hook on "Silly Girl" ("Ha ha ha, silly!")? No, you will not. It will sublet space in your brain for months on end.

Well, that's enough of a by-the-numbers review for you. Seek out some tracks on the Hype Machine if they're out there in the blogosphere, or listen to four of the songs on Murs's MySpace page. It was a nice surprise to get to the end of Murray's Revenge and realize, "Hey, every song was good! And Murs's raps held my attention! And the samples were interesting and made me want to seek out the originals! And the whole thing flowed yet every track stood out!" Maybe I'll blast some of it for the construction crew on Monday. "L-dot-A-dot-Californ-I-A hot!"

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