Who is hip-hop’s most frightening man? Who would you least want to meet in a dark alley? The first name that comes to mind is 50 Cent, but his bodybuilder physique makes him more comic book character than man, plus if you were his best friend he’d want you around all the time. Suge Knight certainly deserves mention, he did almost drop Vanilla Ice off a 10th floor balcony, but unless you’re unfortunate enough to share a jail cell with Shug he’s out of the picture. Allow me to nominate Keith Murray for the title. …
DJBooth Album Review
Let’s start at the end; the last track on Murray’s new album Rapp-Murr-Phobia (Fear of Real Hip-Hop) is called Late Night. On the track Murray talks about kidnapping a man, torturing and killing him, then cutting his body into pieces with a chain saw, all with disturbing calmness. Gun threats are a dime a dozen, Murray’s coming at you with construction equipment. Such hyper-violence is more entertainment than reality (let’s hope), but Murray’s anger issues are well documented. Rapp-Murr-Phobia is his attempt to comeback after serving significant jail time and being dropped from Def Jam for choking an employee. Who’s afraid of Keith Murray? I am, and you better believe I’m not the only one.
Ultimately, Murray’s dismissal from a major label is for the best. His new found independence has allowed him to return to the basics with rawer lyrical content and beats supplied almost entirely by Def Squad running mate Erick Sermon. He’s no longer the most beautifulest MC in the world, but he still has plenty of lyrical ammunition to fire at the legions of pop-rappers flooding the airwaves. Besides being one of my new favorite song titles ever, Da F**kery has Murray rhyming over a subtly funky beat with the same intelligent force he was displaying ten years ago. Murray delivers another much needed slap to the face of commercial hip-hop on the track What It Is, but he’s overshadowed by the relentless lyrical pacing of Method Man. It seems that time has drained some of Murray’s energy on the mic and while it’s only a subtle difference, it’s enough to keep the album just short of truly memorable.
The years haven’t blunted Murray’s trademark off-beat sense of humor and extensive vocabulary. Weeble Wobble is the lead single off Rapp-Murr-Phobia, a track with a staggering beat that allows Murray to ruminate on his drug tolerance. Those of us born in the 80’s will remember that weebles wobble but they don’t fall down. It’s an oddly appropriate slogan for a man who’s seen the hardest of times and lived to rap about it. Whatmakeani**athinkdat is Murray at his lyrical best, you’ve got to be impressed anytime an MC effectively rhymes “yogurt,” and the relatively unknown guest artist Lil Jamal has the necessarily raspy voice to carry the track.
When Murray draws from his life experiences he lays down incredibly compelling narratives. Hustle On adopts a distinctly reggae vibe while Murray recounts the survival tactics of his early days with deft lyrical skill. When Murray says the industry had a fear of real hip-hop this is the kind of unadulterated, uncompromised track he’s talking about. The entire album is a significant departure from he majority of hip-hop; there’s nary a chorus to be found, the hooks are few and far between, and Murray swears more than…well, no one swears as much as Keith Murray. The only track on the album likely to receive serious radio attention is Nobody Do It Better, a Tyrese assisted cut that pairs Murray’s hard style with a soulful vibe. This could be the track that brings Murray back into the public eye, though without major label support it’s going to be a steep climb.
On Rapp-Murr-Phobia Murray resembles an aging boxer who’s lost some of his punching power but is still capable of reminding the crowd of his former brilliance. He’s can’t fight with the heavyweights anymore, but he’s going to die swinging, and those are the fighters you really should be scared of.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 08/2/07
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Nobody Do It Better ft. Tyrese" (2007)
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