Who hasn't heard of Varsity Blues? Well, if you're one of the few who hasn't, it's a classic movie about small-town high-school football. The movie deals with the incredible pressures of school sports and the responses of the youth subjected to it. Murs, being the incredibly creative rap artist that he is, did a spin on this theme, chronicling his life and the various pressures of being a hip-hop artist, African American, and just plain being a man - period. He goes thru the trials and tribulations he faces in every day life, and that other men and artists face as well.
For those of you unfamiliar with Murs, this the perfect album to ease into his unique flow. This is admittedly, an older album of his, and as such, his flow isn't quite as honed as the sleek, well-oiled rhymes of "3:16 The Ninth Edition," but on this album, you get the real raw roots of Murs - the man, not the rapper. One thing I respect about Murs above all other rappers is he is secure with his manhood, and isn't afraid to take a long hard look at himself and ADMIT that he isn't an NWA prodigy or thug. He isn't hardcore and he doesn't pretend to be. He's comfortable with being who he is and presenting himself that way to his fans. His flow here is occasionally a little choppy - I'm not going to lie - but the creativity of his rhymes makes up for this ten-fold. Aside from this, the production on this album is very well executed, and instead of being incredibly melodic (i.e. Foreign Exchange) or incredibly repetitive (i.e. Akrobatik,) it toes a fine line, being just melodic enough to evoke emotions and secure replay-ability, and just repetitive enough to sound old-school and stay true to Murs head-nodding flow.
Since the album is comprised of only six tracks, I'll pick one hilight to delve into for you, which on this album is easy. Track two is without a doubt the shining gem on this short Lp. From the very opening second, the song is addictive. It employs a loop from an old R&B song, the title of which I can't remember, and goes "Why, they just won't, let me be? Why, you and you and you and you and you, just won't let me be?" The dominating attitude of the album is somber, hence the word "blues," but this song breaks away from that mold and is a perfect exhibition of Murs anger, and connects completely with the listener. After all, one facet of the blues is rage, and this cut feels like a caged lion, if that makes sense to you. If it doesn't - you've never had the blues. Verse one deals with the struggles of being an underground rap artist, not recieving enough attention, and handling "haters." He rhymes "I don't believe it's a crime / For you to simply not be feeling my rhymes / But please don't hate me, or attempt to violate me." Verse two is one of the best verses I've ever heard come from Murs. He talks about driving home and pulling up to another man, who of course is trying to act tough and starts a fight. Sure enough, like anyone trying to act tough, the man is weak, and instead of trying to fight, he pulls out a gun. Check out these lines from Murs.
"You don't really want to kill me, you want to act like a real G / But living out your rap fantasies don't thrill me / But hey, whatever floats your boat / Go ahead and pull it out and I'll give you a quote / Like 'Oh, big homey, please give me a pass' / But ain't it sad you need another man to kiss your ass? / But my manhood is secure, so I'll bow and play the role / By the way your light turned green like thirty seconds ago."
WHEW. I know reading it and hearing it isn't the same, but please, understand and recognize the genius in this song. The third verse deals with racism and white people being condescending to black people. Being a white-person, sometimes I wish rappers would be careful not to generalize ALL white people, since it only perpetuates the cycle started by racist whites who stereotyped all black people, but everything he says is true and relevant to a very great deal of the world, and is delivered with sharp, lyrical talent.
Track three is an enjoyable track. It's a call to his mother, where he tells her he's in jail, calms her down, and assuages her worries. The production here is pretty good, but the punchline is the best. "We had a little cheddar that you worked so hard for / Why would I risk it all just to act hardcore? / That's why you won't believe what they threw me in the car for / Not for drunk driving, fighting or no drug s*** / Mom they locked me in a jail cell for pissing in public."
Track four has the next best production on the whole album, and is a very laid back but enjoyable ride. Track five is a touching cut on Murs' part, and deals with the heavist of the blues - the loss of a loved one. Beautifully done in every way. Truly touching. Track six is alright, probably the worst of the pack. Lyrically, it stands nearly on the same level as the rest of the songs, but the production here is mediocre, and ultimately, enjoyable to a point, but with less replay value. Track one, which I skipped over is catchy and feels like the theme song of the whole album, and sounds like the personal chronciles of Murs, all summed up.
One thing every song on this album has in common - they are all stories, and Murs without a doubt stands toe to toe with Masta Ace and Little Brother for his story-telling rhymes. Admittedly, he tells the story better than any other artist out there frequently, but unfortunately, unlike the easy-flowing, uninterrupted rhymes of Little Brother, the at times bumpy flow of Murs knocks him down a few knotches. Nevertheless, he holds his own with the best of them, and what is so incredibly wonderful about Murs, is his voice simply SOUNDS like the blues, and his stories are clearly true stories. They are down-to-earth, humble, and soft. I urge you to pick up this album. Support Murs, and treat yourself to one of hip-hop's most hidden gems. It may be hard to find, it may be short, and it may be unknown, but take it from me - it's worth it. Whether an avid Living Legends fan or a new-comer to Murs, this is a wonderful album to start out with. I recommend "3:16 The Ninth Edition" as a chaser. Admittedly, that album as a whole is better. His rhymes flow a little easier, and the production bears the fluently melodic touch of classic producer (and personal favorite) 9th Wonder, but the truth is, when these two albums are compared, they sound like two different rappers. Murs has truly evolved since his original solo-ventures, but the quality hasn't changed. I highly recommend this album to anyone interested in broadening their horizons, anyone interested in getting back to roots, or most importantly, anyone who knows what it's like to have the blues.