Murs is an undisputed hero of underground rap. But is he qualified for president?
My favorite L.A. rapper Murs recently released a new album, Murs For President. I was excited about this, as his last three solo efforts (Murray's Revenge, 3:16, End of the Beginning) have been stellar. His collaborations with Slug (Atmosphere) and his 3 Melancholy Gypsies album (with Scarub and Eligh) are thoroughly enjoyable, as well (I will sheepishly admit I have heard next to nothing of his original group, Living Legends).
Unfortunately, the new album is thoroughly underwhelming. As I listen to it again, I try and pinpoint what went wrong. My first impression is that it was rushed; rushed for the real world election so Murs could use his clever title, or so he could get a little soapboxing in, I'm not sure.
And soapbox he does, especially on "The Science" (whose title seems a little late in the game for hip-hop activism). Don't get me wrong on this, I don't ever mind hearing people speak the truth, and I understand that if you have the power of celebrity, you are within your right (and possibly obligated) to use it towards curing social ills. I guess my problem is that I'm no stranger to conscious hip-hop, and I've seen it done better by Dead Prez, The Coup, Nas, Immortal Technique, KRS-One, Public Enemy, and even NWA.
Murs' strengths have always been ballad raps, as I like to put it. He tells cohesive stories with multiple characters and often poignant social and political critiques from his first person view. So when he rhymes about the history of the CIA introducing crack to American ghettoes, I feel like I've heard it expressed better musically. I want people to know about these travesties, but I think Murs should stick to rapping about what he knows best.
Murs is one of the most insightful modern philospher/musicians when it comes to the music industry, touring, money, girlfriends and love, city life, and violence. But he does it best on a small personal scale.
An instant warning flash when I heard about his new album was his collaborations with will.i.am, FFA (Frequent Fergie Abettor) and Snoop Dogg-- I'm going out on limb here, I know, but I've never really liked Snoop. His voice annoys me, his raps are bland... he's listenable at best, but I digress-- Murs has always seemed like a proponent of indie raps, so my first instinct is to cry "sellout".
Instinct is powerful apparently. "Lookin' Fly feat. will.i.am" is the weakest song of the record, and maybe Murs' weakest song ever. Fuuuuuck. It has top 40 disease all over it. Recycled simplistic beats with hi hats in all the right places and dull ass chorus (By the way, I've listened
to this song at least 5 times now, and can't find a verse that will.i.am performs. Maybe just having a feat. credit ruins a song).
"Time is Now feat. Snoop Dogg" fares much better. It's a pretty strong beat, but damned if Snoop's verse isn't as dull as ever. Are you really still rhyming "next episode"? I know it's probably a huge selling point to feat. Snoop, but I'm so done with this.
That being said, there are a few gems on Murs For President. "Everything" has one of those uplifting major chord beats that makes you want to go save the world, and features classic personal anecdotes and real world postulating.
"Road Is My Religion" is another straight-talk first person ideology rap that conjures up Atmosphere's anthem "Cats Van Bags".
This is not a bad album, but could've used some more time and some better guests. Those chosen for talent, not for selling power. But that's not the way to campaign for president, as we are all learning on a moment-to-moment basis. And the way things are going, Murs is definitely not the worse candidate out there.
I'm definitely looking forward to the next album, and will never stop listening to End of the Beginning! Or loving L-dot-A-dot!