Murs For President - Last Night At The Paradise


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.

Refreshingly, my 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.    

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