According to hip-hop veteran Buckshot, all it takes is “two turntables and a mike and one phat emcee on the set.” Simply put: take the music back to the basics. But now that hip-hop is a business, albums are big-budget ventures with million-dollar beats and littered with guest appearances from flavor-of-the-month emcees. On Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition, Living Legends/3MG member Murs and Little Brother-producer 9th Wonder are out to return quality and purity back to hip-hop. The album is courtesy of indie label Def Jux, which is expanding on its esoteric style and releasing an album that is — much like Murs’s 2003 debut for the label, The End of the Beginning — a complete 180 from the rest of its catalog.
Previous to 3:16: The 9th Edition, Murs was an inconsistent emcee, despite laying down one of the most talked-about records of 2003. He has the tools, but he’d never quite pulled it together for an entire album. But here, Murs has raised his game to freak the meticulously crafted beats of 9th Wonder, who’s exploded onto the scene ever since landing a coveted spot on The Black Album. Peep “H-U-S-T-L-E,” Murs’s account of his everyday grind. Forget dramatic tales of selling drugs and pimping bitches, Murs collected cans and bagged groceries. He breaks it down, spittin’: “No glorious tales / but it did keep my black ass from going to jail.”
Though clocking in at a meager thirty-five minutes and ten tracks, Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition covers a wide range of topics, leaving no room for filler tracks. Murs drops everything from a hilarious story of a botched 7-11 robbery on “Trevor an’ Them” to the average-man’s version of Jigga’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” on “Freak These Tales.” The chemistry between the duo is undeniable on “The Pain,” where 9th Wonder drops a bone-chilling beat and Murs spits an introspective verse about the opposite sex. He leaves us with this gem: “But you looking at my boy who got two kids at home / And I know how it goes / Here his number telephone him / He does girls dirt / And I know you smell it on him / But every bitch needs a dog, so I guess that’s why you want him.”
While the underground has been buzzing over Madlib and MF Doom’s Madvilliany, 3:16: The 9th Edition has flown beneath the radar. But this album will go down as Murs’s Illmatic: It’s a near perfect combination of beats and rhymes. Murs’s ability to be self-deprecating and to relate to the average man and 9th Wonder’s progressive and nostalgic use of soul separate these artists from the rest of pack. Truly, 3:16: The 9th Edition is the best of both worlds.