He's Keith Murray

Artist: Keith MurrayTitle: He's Keith MurrayRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Toshi Kondo

With his official release from Def Jam Records due to a physical altercation with staff members, dubious circumstances surround Keith Murray’s fourth album, He’s Keith Murray. This isn’t new considering that he was serving a three and a half year bid when his last album was released. Just as the lyrical lexicon’s life seems to always bring the bad with the good, his latest album follows in the same vein.

Upon his release from prison, Murray was blessed with the opportunity to re-introduce himself via “Fatty Girl”, one of 2002’s biggest singles. The residual effect is evident in Murray’s blatant attempts to produce another club banger. While the Just Blaze-produced “Yeah Yeah U Know It” recreates the Def Squad magic and makes for an enjoyable listen, he misses badly on his other attempts.

“Candi Bar” is a little too sweet for those accustomed to Murray’s gritty in-your-face persona. This lazy re-working of Patricia Austin’s “Havana Candy” shows little effort and sounds awkward. While the “Da Ba Dunk Song”, which tries to capitalize on Murray’s signature line, finds the concept, hook, and beat in a heated competition to see which can bore listener the most. These attempts contrast Murray’s previous hits, which didn’t necessarily sound like they were intended to be radio-friendly.

The tracks that make this album worth listening to are those where Murray opens up about the hardships he’s experienced. On the somber “Christina” he vents “Yo, 2/27/98/ I wrote a check out to H.W. Funeral Home/ for my little sister, Christina/ 15 years old damn man this f&%king world is so cold”. With so many MCs crying and asking us to feel their pain, it’s become a little hard to discern which are being genuine. Through tracks like these it’s obvious that Murray’s pain is real and it makes the listener cognizant of how hard his life has been.

However, don’t assume for a minute that the ferocious MC getting “Hostile” in ’93 won’t still wild out. “Say Goodnite” re-ignites an old beef with some vicious verbal uppercuts thrown in the direction of a certain Queensbridge MC who graced the Hot 97 SummerJam Screen in a tutu.

Although he no longer possesses the most beautifullest vocabulary, his hyperactive delivery compensates for his toned down wordplay. He’s Keith Murray is an impressive show of maturity that will be another building block to overcome the endless obstacles he has faced thus far.