Album Reviews In Bad Places: “¡MURSDAY!” At The Emergency Room
I hate needles, blood makes me want to puke, and I can barely handle "Game Of Thrones"' violence, let alone, you know, real life injuries. So, naturally, the emergency room was the first place I went to check out the new ¡MAYDAY! and MURS album, "¡MURSDAY!". The whole point of Album Reviews In Bad Places is to put these albums right to the fire; if you can enjoy 'em in a place like the ER waiting room, well, you can enjoy 'em anywhere.
When I walked in, passing the stretchers and ambulances and cautiously watching for severed limbs and blood (yes, I'm aware it's irrational), I was actually a little nervous. I wasn't at the hospital for a real reason, but it's like my body knows what this place is and it instinctively makes me uncomfortable; at least if I fainted I'd be in the right place. Despite my distracted state, I managed to catch something MURS said in the into, "Brace yourself for some of the best music you've heard in the past uhhhhhh 40 years". A bold claim, and while I haven't had the time to trace back through every album release in the last 40 years, I can certainly say this is one of the best of 2014, and one of my favorites in a long, long time; even if my first listen was at a hospital.
The nerves I had in the first few minutes of both being at the hospital and worrying about how MURS would fit with Strange Music (something that I've been thinking about since February) melted away when "Tabletops" came on. From the very first scratch, ¡MURSDAY! had me hooked. Any stretcher squeaks, nurse banter, or coughing and hacking patient noise couldn't phase me; after all, I had an incredible album from a group of immensely talented artists. As much as I love hip-hop, I have been branching out, expanding my horizons to find something completely new. In the middle of a place I have been to for asthma attacks, peanut allergies, and a golf club to the head, I found what I was looking for.
Sometimes, it takes a few listens to get a grip on a piece of music, especially when it's as experimental and different as "¡MURSDAY!", but I didn't need to sit in the waiting room for hours to know this was special. The backbone of this album is ¡MAYDAY!'s phenomenal instrumentals. Not only do they blend so many different styles, but they do it so naturally. The transitions from a frenzied drum driven track like "Brand New Get Up" (which has so many different elements it's almost its own genre) to a shrouded R&B number like "You Again" are drastic, but with their natural energy the transition is seamless. ¡MAYDAY! also masters the art of making catchy, colorful music, but keeping a high degree of musicianship. Each layered instrumental is artfully assembled and with each listen, you find some new element that makes the song stand out in a different light. They will almost assuredly get you rocking, but they do it with a complex, multifaceted arrangement. From an instrumental stand-point, it doesn't get much better. Still there are a few emcees to talk about too...
If you think the production and live instrumentation has personality, wait until you hear from Wrekonize, Bernbiz and MURS; their chemistry is palpable. The art of the shared verse is a rarity nowadays; I think it's because unless each emcee is perfectly in synch, the end result sounds choppy and incomplete, but that's a conversation for a different time. It's hard to believe this is their first joint album, because the way the three emcees rotate is a thing of beauty. Each has their own distinct style, yet they all sound like moving parts in a well-oiled machine. It's like when The Power Rangers would all come together to form an ass kicking robot; these guys are the rap Power Rangers. They take a classic hip-hop technique in the shared-verse style and with the powerful, original instrumentals, make it something brand new. They are a match made in heaven, and this goes beyond the technical aspects.
Samples of them talking about everything from cupcakes to the collapse of civilization as we know it adds to the charm of this project. You can tell they all had a blast making this album and in turn it makes for a highly enjoyable listen for fans. If you close your eyes, even an emergency room will turn into the studio; that doctor over there is MURS and that guy fumbling with his bloody gauze is Wrek. This feels less like an album from a brand new group and more like listening to your best friends rock out in the garage; except they are way better than your friends' band. Their sound is so natural and it only adds to the charisma and charm of the full body of work.
I also want to take a moment to highlight MURS' input; to me, he stood out the most. That might also be because he is one of my favorite emcees of all-time, but it is also because he is so skilled. I love ¡MAYDAY!, but Wrek and Bernibiz's vocals, while great, don't necessarily scream hip-hop to me. MURS fits in here so perfectly because it allows the others to do what they do best - blend pop, rock, R&B, and rap - and still have a solid hip-hop base anchored to MURS' commanding, veteran flow. Just listen to his last few bars on "New Toys (Hey Love)," which have a Outkast-like vibe to it. I have followed MURS' career very closely and this is some of his best work; he sounds free. His fingerprints are all over it in more ways than one, from raunchy almost comical bars (see "Bitcoin Beezy") to a Hispanic influence, to the conversational samples, the gritty rock (check out "The White Mandingos") and of course the touch of west coast sway, elements from all of MURS past efforts can be found here. All his experimentalism culminates on this effort and it allows him to both keep things in the hip-hop world, but also match ¡MAYDAY!'s uniqueness. I got the same rejuvenated feeling listening to this as I did for his "3:16" album and that's no coincidence.
I am giving this album 5 spins. Obviously, some songs hit harder than others, but that is just a matter of personal preference. Even songs that didn't resonate with me are still enjoyable and can be appreciated for what they are doing. This is one of those rare albums that you can listen to from start to finish or jump by jumping the tracks, and either method is just as effective. It's cohesive and musically adventurous, but has that fun, mixtape-esque vibe. Enthralling, well assembled, original, and, most importantly, fun, ¡MURSDAY! is one of the best projects I have encountered in a long time.
"¡MURSDAY!"...the only thing that makes going to the hospital a good thing. I'd know, I really did it.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is "College Dropout", but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @Lgarrison88.]