MURS and 9th Wonder built more beautiful music together on Murray’s Revenge, their second collaboration.
Nick “MURS” Carter and Patrick “9th Wonder” Douthit are busy guys. MURS releases LOTS of material, releasing somewhere around 20 different projects since 2003. 9th Wonder keeps constantly on the move as a producer, educator, and visionary, building a record label and a stable of artists while also acting as an ambassador for hip-hop culture. However, through all their commitments, the two always find a way to make time to record together, and that speaks volumes. Fifteen years ago, the duo dropped Murray’s Revenge, their second collaborative album, an absolute triumph of a release.
North Carolina’s 9th Wonder is probably best known as the producer/DJ for Little Brother, helping them create transcendent music throughout the mid ’00s. Meanwhile, MURS, a Los Angeles resident, is one of the best pure lyricists to came from the state of California. Two years earlier, they’d knocked it out of the park with MURS 3:16: The 9th Edition. Murray’s Revenge builds on the obvious musical chemistry that they shared, as the pair bring out the best in each other in their respective fields. The project isn’t quite as ambitious as MURS 3:16, but it’s still creative and soulful.
Murray’s Revenge runs a little over 32 minutes in length, which may have qualified it as an EP back in 2006, but constitutes a full-length project in 2021. It shares similar DNA with MURS 3:16…, and bangs from front to back. To create the musical backdrops, 9th goes into his bag of ’70s soul and jazz fusion records, utilizing beats that evoke genuine emotion. Meanwhile, MURS displays the hallmarks of what earned him a dedicated fanbase, kicking clever braggadocio and spinning unique narratives.
Murray’s Revenge opens with “MURS Day,” which has all the hallmarks of a great song from both MURS and 9th Wonder. 9th put together a loop of the soaring vocals from Fifth Dimension’s “The Ranimaker.” In a nice touch, 9th makes the sample of Billy Davis, Jr. singing “First day of…” sound like “MURS day…” For his part, MURS is inspiring with his own lyrical performance, challenging all with delusions of grandeur. “But it don’t take much these days for you to master the mic,” he raps. “Most of these rappers trapped in the hype / They making whole albums, only half of it’s tight / So they never really have an impact on your life.”
“Murray’s Law” features MURS laying down a measured barrage of lyrics over a sample from the breakdown of Millie Jackson’s “Go Out and Get Some.” MURS makes good use of empty space in his rhyme flow, knowing when to pause briefly to let things breathe, and when to come back. “Rhymes running through my mind all day, I press eject, he raps. “I gotta lay ’em down on these beats, ’cause they need wreck.”
MURS ability to set scenes is nearly unparalleled, as he can describe both macro and micro with equal aplomb. “L.A.” is one of the best beloved tracks on Murray’s Revenge, a relatively quick two-verse tour of the city of Los Angeles that lies beneath the glossy, Hollywood veneer. MURS takes pride in his home city’s warts and grit, describing how both the good and the bad give it its distinct character. “Barbershop” sees MURS and Big Pooh of Little Brother recreating the carefree energy of spots where Black men flock to get a fresh trim, show off their new gear, and just hang out and be themselves.
MURS also exhibits his storytelling prowess on Murray’s Revenge, tackling familiar concepts in unique ways. MURS addresses the stresses that life presents you on “Yesterday & Today,” as he grapples with an unfulfilling job and the disintegration of a relationship. “Silly Girl” sees MURS teaming with Justus League member Joe Scudda, to share his disdain for emotionally manipulative women. Like all his best work, MURS adds strokes of humor to make the songs relatable.
Meanwhile, “Love & Appreciate” is a mature ode to learning how to not become complacent. Over the smooth tones of a sample of Ben E. King’s “Let Me Live In Your Life,” MURS navigates infidelities and boredom, learning that it’s better to work out your issues with your partner, rather than giving up what you’ve built. On “Dreamchasers,” MURS chronicles the brief life of a gang banger. He begins as a wide-eyed and enthusiastic nine-year old, still playing with Transformers, but nonetheless dreaming of the day that he can get “jumped in” to a set. He transforms into a seasoned late teen, ruling his neighborhood through fear, but still the target of rivals who’ll kill him without remorse.
The project ends at its strongest with the title track, showing both MURS and 9th at the peak of their respective powers. On the musical end, 9th conducts a master class in sample manipulation. Producers have been using Bob James’ “Nautilus” since the mid-1980s, but 9th makes it sound completely new, running a chopping clinic, completely repurposing the moody jazz-track. MURS is at his most energetic on the mic, rapping, “I stuck to the plate like it’s And1 and straight threw the mic around your neck and then bounce it off your face.” Unfortunately, due to a manufacturing issues, the song cuts off a half-second too early, stopping MURS mid-syllable.
MURS and 9th Wonder would continue to record together and release music after the next nearly decade and a half. That they’ve released numerous “final” collaborative projects over the years demonstrates the power of their musical bond; even when they want to quit, they can’t. Murray’s Revenge is an exceptional chapter in their partnership, and one worthy of celebration.