As I walked down
the Paradise corridor toward the Murs show last
night I worried that the joint might not be stuffed to the balconies. It’s not
like I expected a riotous sell out, but considering that Lil Wayne and Jay-Z
packed the biggest room in Boston
one night earlier, it would have been extra disheartening if hip-hop’s most important
major label artist couldn’t draw a serious crowd.
fears were squashed by a venue full of young white college kids. Most rappers will
tell you: if not for privileged English and psychology majors who puff herb,
there would be no feasible enlightened rap scene. There were hardly any girls
in sight, but I’m not complaining so long as we can keep attracting acts like these
to town. I’ll take what I can get – fill the place with Young Republicans for
all I care.
Due to time
constraints and my looming influenza, I only caught the middle of the show.
That is to say I regrettably arrived near the end of Big Pooh (Little Brother)
and Joe Scudda’s set, then stayed through Kidz In The Hall (KITH) and for 45
minutes of Murs. I just want to keep it honest; there are way too many critics who
lazily bounce before encores, and I’m not usually one of them.
KITH has been
gigging relentlessly, and, as a result, have developed theatrics that guarantee
fans a good time. With DJ Double-O smacking down his drum machine and MC
Naledge exhaling semi-didactic swagger, the Ivy Leaguers rocked with
commendable competence and confidence. As a kicker, they delivered a hilarious
live skit in which Double-O sang through an Auto-Tune processor a la T-Pain
just to show how easy that shit really is.
That said – and
this was my problem with the KITH album – their bangers are few and far between.
I mean this respectfully, as I believe that these guys can ultimately help
steal the torch from trite phonies such as Kanye West, but they’re at their
best when interpolating Tribe tracks and familiar Native Tongue aesthetics. And
one more thing on KITH: I’m feeling them and all, but I’m not sure they’re established
enough to douse crowds with Poland Spring.
Until last year,
Murs always hung out around his merch table. As he noted at the show: at least
on the East Coast, he’s for-a-minute been the guy opening for El-P, Mr. Lif,
and Aesop Rock. But even though his exceedingly excellent new disc, Murs for President, is on a major label,
Murs is hardly allergic to his fans; before his set he strolled through the
club and stood up front to read the crowd. The DJ cut in “Better Than The Best,”
and he jumped on stage to corroborate the hook: “The best that ever did it / Murs
is better than your favorite rapper admit it.”
From there he
ripped “H-U-S-T-L-E” – a track that every aspiring MC and so-called hustler
needs to internalize – and moved on through new album cuts, more 9th
Wonder gems including “Bad Man,” and even his Def Jux repertoire. I dare
someone to show me a more entertaining solo performer in all of hip-hop; in
addition to there not being a single dud in his canon, Murs does the running
man through his whole set and pulls that move where you grab an ankle and jump
through with the other leg. For good measure homeboy and his hype man even
covered Sublime’s “Date Rape.”
I hope this
major label stint is working for Murs; fuck knows he doesn’t need the money
considering his Paid Dues tour paper and various other hustles. Naïve as this
assumption may sound to anyone who prejudicially believes that all rappers are
materialistic nihilists: I’m sure that Murs didn’t sign with Warner for the cash,
but instead to reach and influence larger audiences. I’m certain that he could
have done last night’s numbers without an evil empire behind him, but I could
be wrong; and if one person at The Paradise would have missed out if he stayed
independent, then I suppose it’s all worthwhile. Plus he got a pretty sweet
tour bus out of it.