Like most people who listened to Little Brother's The Listening, Murs fell in love with the lush, buttery beats and timeless sound of producer 9th Wonder. Unlike most 9th Wonder fans, Murs is a vivid storyteller, witty lyricist, acute chronicler of sexual and racial politics, nimble rapper, and member in good standing of two of underground rap's most respected crews: West Coast supergroup Living Legends and El-P's mighty Definitive Jux label. Intent on graduating from fan to collaborator, Murs secured 9th Wonder to produce an entire album, Murs 3:16 The 9th Edition. Seldom has the gospel sounded this good.
The antithesis of El-P's assaultive, dystopian soundscapes, 9th Wonder's beats are as soothing as a glass of warm Ovaltine, but Murs' sometimes prickly persona gives their collaboration a bracing friction. On "And This Is For...," Murs mounts a well-reasoned and literate attack on white co-option of hip-hop, biting the white hands that pick up his CDs and reminding Caucasian 2Pac fans that "we ain't the same color when the police show up." Yet, on "The Pain," he laments, "I'm more Coldplay than I am Ice-T," which feels like a bone thrown to the white collegiate audience that makes up a huge percentage of his, Def Jux's, and Little Brother's fan base. A self-professed "Californicator" and "street narrator," Murs gets in touch with his inner Too $hort on "Freak These Tales," where he boasts about sexual conquests that, contrary to what he says in "The Pain," owe more to Ice-T than the pale, sickly looking young men in Coldplay.
Like Murs' excellent debut, Murs 3:16 brings to life a milieu where gang violence has permeated the fabric of everyday existence. Though "H-U-S-T-L-E" is decidedly law-abiding, crime plays a central role in the album's two most compelling narratives, the noir-hued "Walk Like A Man" and the darkly funny "Trevor An' Them," where a chance reunion between Murs and a dim-witted acquaintance takes an absurd turn. It's a testament to hip-hop's liberating ability to transcend geography that a Californian, a brilliant young producer from North Carolina, and a New York-based independent label have united for an album that says more in 35 fat-free minutes than most rappers will ever say.