It’s not unusual for hip-hop records to proclaim themselves ‘music of the future’ these days. While some artists like Non Phixion have recently lived up to the claim, Murs’ The End of the Beginning drops the theme before it can be proven. An experienced underground emcee, Murs is the most recent addition to the entrepreneurial Definitive Jux team — an undoubtedly progressive crew, yet possibly the most over-hyped force in recent hip-hop history. While The End of the Beginning displays a refreshing versatility of subject matter, the album ultimately collapses under the weight of bland verses, weak choruses and tacky references ranging from Harry Potter to, believe it or not, Winnie-the-Pooh.
For the most part, rap’s most successful lyricists are either hard (Beanie Sigel or Raekwon, for example), smooth (Slick Rick or Snoop), or a combination of both (Biggie or ‘Pac). Murs, on the other hand, takes the familiar Def Jux “working class” route, expressing the concerns of ice-less common folk like you and me. This approach is admirable, and perhaps even necessary, considering the current state of the rap industry. Unfortunately, Murs’ monotone, arrhythmic flow doesn’t do him any favors, and after so many verses that boil down to video games, skateboarding and the hassles of the 9 to 5 lifestyle, he may be putting as many listeners to sleep as is attracting new ones.
However, Murs’ honesty can work to his advantage, and his earnest love of rap comes across in “You & I” and “Def Cover.” His host of guest producers, including El-P, RJD2 and Ant of Atmosphere, cook up some undeniably tight beats, while guest emcees like Aesop Rock and the magnificent Shock G (of Digital Underground fame) threaten to steal the show. Hardcore Def Jukies might find a taste of what they’re craving in Murs’ heartfelt confessional of grassroots hip-hop, but the rest of us may slip through the cracks between the predictable rhyme patterns and the mediocre tracks.