The End of the Beginning

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A ten-year hip-hop veteran, Murs doesn't want to be called an up-and-comer anymore, and he proves his maturity with one of the most refreshing rap records in years, an excellent debut for Definitive Jux named The End of the Beginning. Murs has an old-school flow that recalls Ice Cube, and unlike many in underground rap, he's not only got a clever delivery but a lot to say. What immediately impresses about the album is the ample variety of moods and material: "The Night Before..." is a streets-is-watching nightmare with a vicious chorus ("Last night I almost got shot on my block/Not the block where I live at/The block where I chill at"), but a few tracks later, Murs is inviting Digital Underground's Shock-G over to his pad for "Risky Business," and looking on in disbelief as Shock's alter ego, Humpty Hump, wreaks more carnage than The Cat in the Hat (sample: "Yo, is your Dad's Rolls blue?/Cuz I got bad news..."). "Transitions az a Ridah" has him remembering good times on a skateboard and ordering a moment of silence for all his favorite spots, while Aesop Rock stops by for the deliriously stoned "Happy Pillz." Whether he's ordering past-their-prime rappers off the mic ("Please Leave") or stressing over how much his favorite action figures cost ("BT$"), Murs is the most entertaining, least affected rapper since Biz Markie, and with the skills of Ice Cube it's clear that unlike the Biz, he's no novelty act. As usual, he says it best, on "The Night Before...": "Now some claim gangsta rap's to see an end of the streets, but it's use is an excuse to pretend over beats/So I'm-a lend my speech to all within my reach to tell what really goes on, from sales to the streets."

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