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The End of the Beginning ()

Wednesday, Mar 12 2003
The Living Legends crew stormed the Bay Area hip hop scene in the mid-'90s with a flurry of 4-track recordings meshing jazz, soul, and rock samples with bling-free lyricism. Ironically, the same lo-fi dynamic that endeared the band to its fans was also its greatest commercial liability. Still, the group's lyrical prowess -- in particular, Murs' combination of fluid flows and populist themes -- caught the attention of industry insiders. Last year, Murs collaborated on Felt (A Tribute to Christina Ricci) with Midwestern heartthrob Slug and signed to the esteemed Def Jux label, run by indie-music pioneer El-P.

Now, on his Def Jux debut, The End of the Beginning, Murs finally gets the polished beats he deserves, courtesy of producers Shock G of Digital Underground, Blockhead, Sunspot Jonz, and Atmosphere's Ant. On "I Know," sweeping soul music samples cradle the MC's smooth vocal delivery, while on "The Dance," El-P rubs drum breaks against synth fissions for an effect that's hypnotic and disquieting. On the latter tune, Murs experiments with his normally languid vocal style, speeding up his cadence to match the dizzying double-time assault.

But the rapper's real accomplishment is matching his rhythmic virtuosity to lyrics that interweave the mundane and the traumatic. With simple rhyme schemes and plain language, Murs explores the debilitating horror of random violence on "Last Night" while grappling with the tedium of menial labor on "God's Work." On the melancholic "I Know," Murs creates conflict by understanding both sides, rapping, "I know a man's not a man if he has to beat his woman/ I know she'll push you to the point where you feel she has it coming."

At a time when most hip hop artists engage in either self-mythologizing or verbose materialism, Murs is willing to deal with issues that actually affect his audience. This may be The End of the Beginning, but it could also mark the genesis of a legendary career.

About The Author

Sam Chennault


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