Since the very beginning of Murs' career, he has always had a different outlook on the game than his fellow peers from the west coast power-house collective, the Living Legends crew. Since 1995, Murs has been one of the hardest working rappers in the game. Officially, this is his 7th full-length album, which barely speaks of his entire career. He's a part of the collective known as 3 Melancholy Gypsy's, who've released 2 full-length albums. He's also part of the duo Felt, with Slug from Atmosphere, who are currently working on their 3rd album. And besides appearing on 7 full-length Living Legends releases, he's appeared on approximately 50 records within and outside the crew.
One of the things I've always noticed about Murs is that he's never been tied down to a certain type of sound or producer. From Eligh, to Bicasso, to El-P, to 9th Wonder, to Terrace Martin; Murs stays inspired like a true artist from the golden age. Whether he's dropping material on an independent label, Definitive Jux, Rhymesayers, or Warner Brothers; Murs has never compromised the quality of his art or craft.
Plain and simple, mainstream hip-hop needs a record like this. Murs brings back that golden age aesthetic to a time when hip-hop albums are vastly disposable in the commercial and underground scene. Murs has always spoke on tales of the common man, and has always brought a conscious, personal, and thought provoking message of real life events to the table. Being a long time fan, I feel Murs has really stepped up his game up lyrically, and is flexing his muscles to their tightest for his major label debut. Now more than ever, it's apparent Murs is trying to change the game with an eye-opening record of positivity and realness - and now he has the tools and the distribution to make that happen on a global scale.
Having heard Murs' entire catalog, the production was the thing I was most interested in. Producers include Wild Animals, 9th Wonder, Keith Harris, Scoop DeVille, LT Moe, Khalil, Josef Leimberg, Terrace Martin, & Knotch. One of the most notable additions to the production is DJ Quik. If you are unfamiliar with the west coast legend & audiophile, just know that his mixing and engineering skills have given this production a mainstream glossiness that Murs has never had before, which demands more presence from Murs than ever before.
01. Intro (produced by Wild Animals): The album kicks off with "Hail to the Chief" - a press conference style introduction. Although unnecessary, it exemplifies the magnitude of the project nicely.
02. I'm Innocent (produced by 9th Wonder): An excellent opener featuring a nice sample from Honey Cone's "Innocent 'Til Proven Guilty". Murs introduces himself to the mainstream with some very nice skill. Dope quote - "I'm anti-thug, and anti-drugs, brought peace to the party and got anti-love".
03. Lookin' Fly (produced by Keith Harris, co-produced & featuring Will.I.Am): This is probably the most commercial sounding track here, and Murs handles it nicely. Diehard fans of his older Living Legends material may find cuts like this a little out of the norm, yet he tackles a different sound and does it well. Features a sample of Al Hirt's "The Green Hornet Theme"
04. The Science (produced by Scoop DeVille & DJ Quik): Taking a cue from revolutionary artists like KRS-One & Chuck D, Murs literally drops some "Science" on us. He speaks intelligently on new and old hip-hop, slavery, genocide, freedom, and race through the facts of cocaine and crack, and how the public and government view it. An excellent message track with live flute and bass-lines.
05. Can It Be (Half A Million Dollars And 18 Months Later) (produced by Scoop DeVille): This is the lead single from the album. And it exemplifies what Murs is bringing to the game excellently. The beat is a favorite of mine, as it utilizes samples of "I Wanna Be Where You Are" by Jackson 5. Great message & great hook.
06. Everything (produced by LT Moe): Nice piano-filled production with James Blunt on the hook. Definitely a different sound for Murs. And he delivers excellent lyrics and flows with an inspirational theme.
07. Road Is My Religion (produced by Khalil): Nice production which includes a nice guitar and synth line. Murs speaks on the struggles of touring, missing his girl, money issues, and self-doubt. Not the most original concept, but dope nonetheless.
08. Sooo Comfortable (produced Josef Leimberg, featuring vocals by Kokane): This one changes up the rhythm nicely with a smooth west coast flavored banger that features soulful hooks & production.
09. Time Is Now (produced by Terrace Martin, featuring Snoop Dogg & Latoiya Williams): This is probably my favorite cut on the album. Unlike the Will.I.Am guest spot, Snoop actually drops a smooth 16 bars. The soul-clap production is straight up ear candy. Nice to see Murs getting some solid validation from one of today's most popular and recognizable rappers.
10. Think You Know Me (produced by Nottz): Excellent cut here. Murs brings a little gangsta flavor here, only to eliminate any connotation that he's actually a gansgta. He's just a common man, and speaks on it in a very interesting way. Features nice samples from "Moment Of Truth" by The Originals.
11. Me And This Jawn (produced by Nottz): Mainstream rap has some major problems respecting women nowadays. Murs is one of the few rappers in the game today that flips a love song in interesting ways. He describes everything about his one and only love in his life. Features samples from "For The Love Of You" by The Isley Brothers
12. Love And Appreciate II (produced 9th Wonder): When Murs gets together with 9th, they make some extremely personal, and soulful cuts. This is my favorite song here. Murs is once again dropping knowledge on relationships, and he may have reached his apex here. Once again, in an age where mainstream rappers fill the air waves with misogynistic lyrics, Murs is truly a breath of fresh air. Features samples of "Now It's Time To Say Goodbye" by Freda Payne.
13. A Part Of Me (produced by Terrace Martin): Here, Murs speaks about making mistakes in a relationship, his struggles with his decisions, and how much he misses his girl even though they weren't meant for each other. I honestly never thought I'd hear production like this under Murs. It brings out his emotional side as Murs let's lose heart-wrenching lyrics.
14. Break Up (The OJ Song) (produced by Knotch): Murs continues with his stretch of love songs, and this one is about the painful ventures of a break-up, and how he wished she would just call him up and apologize. He would take her back at the drop of a hate; but his pride is in the way. It features a very alluring sample of "Charlene" by Anthony Hamilton. Another favorite of mine.
15. Breakthrough (produced by 9th Wonder): The album closes with an excellent banger about his dreams to make changes in the game of hip-hop. By this point, nobody should have any doubt that Murs has what it takes to bring a quality change to the game. As the common man, he proclaims if the album fails and doesn't sell he'll be getting a job at McDonald's, Burger King, or maybe Target or Best Buy (at least he gets a discount). It's hard to imagine a more humble rapper than Murs.
If you picked up the "Special Edition", you got the bonus DVD. The DVD is only 25 minutes long, but has an excellent production value. Basically, it's one long sketch about the 2008 Hip-Hop Presidential election. It all takes place on "3:16 News", which is a format which pokes fun at Fox News. There are 3 candidates; one is an ignorant, new-school Souljah Boy-type rapper who's only been rapping for a few months. He pretty much represents everything wack about hip-hop today. Then there's a 60-something white man who is completely out of touch with the culture and just wants to exploit it's commercialism. Then of course, we have Murs as candidate #3, who embodies all that is hip-hop - the well-educated veteran who came to take the Obama approach and change the game for the better. Not only is the program funny, it has a wealth of very interesting things to say about hip-hop. So if you're debating over which version to get, I'd highly recommend the "Special Edition".