Artist: Murs & 9th WonderTitle: Murray’s RevengeRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Paine
Los Angeles’ Murs has done a lot with something he’s been in sole control of, his career. His second Def Jux album, Murs 3:16, saw him aligned him with a burgeoning 9th Wonder for a critically acclaimed confessional that won the hearts of gang-bangers and Tony Hawkers alike. Now with Warner Brothers backing up its follow-up, Murray’s Revenge (Record Collection) returns as a perkier, but equally longing look at innocence, love, and growing up as an 80’s child.
Murs has historically created a foggy blend of fact and fiction in his rhymes, making for wonderful stories. Murray’s Revenge appears to give his audience the truth that they’ve cherished on past records like “A Friend’s Blues” or “Walk Like a Man.” “Yesterday” references the storied murder trial that Murs faced, along with his new duties in the Record Collection A&R position. “Murray’s Law” supposes an argumentative conversation between Murs and a mainstream street-rapper. Though this has been chewed on before, Murs’ defined skills and unique identity bring sharpness to the topic. When Murs steps outside of his own life, he chronicles the experience of outcast women on “Love & Appreciate” and “Dark Skinned White Girls.” Whether the subject is the same, both records trace the struggles of assimilation young women face based upon inner and physical attributes. Like Talib Kweli’s Nina Simone tribute, “Four Women,” the records are filled with compassion and surprising doses of empathy.
As Murs’ subjects have evolved, so has 9th Wonder’s sound. This album is a career breakthrough for his percussion abilities. “Dreamchasers” features expertly chopped Sam Cooke vocals with a pounding percussion that would surely make J Dilla smile as Murs brandishes, “We live life like death ain’t a thing/Fear and respect, we collect like kings/I relieve stress with every breath I sing/And we all chase money ‘cause we’re scared to chase dreams.” The closing number finds 9th flipping Bob James’ “Nautilus” in an entirely different way than says, RZA on “Daytona 500.” You cannot feel the major label in the lyrics, but certainly in the sample clearing abilities.
Aside from the atmospheric “Barbershop” track feeling out of place, this album’s only flaw is its length. However, this audio half-hour is more visual and cathartic than any sitcom on television.