December 20, 2007

Keith Murray - It's A Beautiful Thing (January 12, 1999)


Keith Murray (real name Keith Murray) was locked up when his third album, It's A Beautiful Thing, was released to the public by the folks at Jive Records, home of Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears. Allegedly he broke a bar stool over some guy's head in the middle of an argument, a crime for which Keith maintains his innocence. Not exactly the best way to capitalize on the success of his crew Def Squad's joint effort El Nino, as well as their cover of "Rapper's Delight" that was still blowing up on mainstream radio, but at least Keith has the street cred thing down, motherfuckers!

Erick Sermon produced It's A Beautiful Thing in its entirety, and to my knowledge there was only one video released, for "Incredible", Keith Murray's collaboration with LL Cool J, whom he had first worked with on Cool James's Mr. Smith album. That video had a hokey Batman motif and was utterly ridiculous, which can sometimes translate into sales, but not for Keith; alas, his sales were as low as ever. Once he finished his prison sentence, he jumped ship to sign with Def Jam Records, home of his Def Squad rhyming partner Reggie Noble; the ending of that tale will have to wait until I get around to reviewing his Def Jam album.

Let's see how this goes.

1. INTRO
Well, this isn't a good sign. Erick Sermon on the rap album intro? Apparently, Keith Murray was locked up before this album was even finished, if my wild imagination is any indication.

2. WHEN I RAP
At least Keith sounds as good as ever, even though the beat sounds like a Redman reject from the cutting room floor.

3. INCREDIBLE (FEAT LL COOL J)
Still a pretty good song, but built over a very Erick Sermon-cliched beat, if you know what I mean, and I think that you do.

4. SOME SHIT (FEAT CANIBUS & DEJA VU)
I remember that it was controversial at the time that both LL and Canibus appeared as guests on the same album, on back to back songs, no less. That would be the only press that It's A Beautiful Thing would get, sadly. Canibus sounds meh (ever since he dropped Can-I-Bus, I haven't been really impressed), but I'm convinced that Keith Murray should replace Kurupt in that Four Horsemen supergroup with Canibus, Killah Priest, and Ras Kass.

5. BODEGA SKIT
...

6. SLAP SOMEBODY
Sounds like Erick Sermon wanted to remix Def Squad's "Full Cooperation" beat, but decided to give it to Keith instead. This hook is pretty bad.

7. SECRET INDICTMENT
A much slower-paced beat than you would expect from Keith, but in this case, very good. Keith was never one of those rappers that was hard to understand anyway, but you'll appreciate the easy-to-follow storytelling here.

8. RADIO
Would work better than one of those ambient sound radios you get from The Sharper Image to help you sleep better. Pretty fucking boring.

9. INTERSECTION
Rap album skit...

10. SHUT THE FUCK UP
If you were a fan of Keith's second album Enigma (like me), this should be the song you skip to first, even though the hook is frustratingly annoying.

11. INTERLUDE
Skit. Zzzz............

12. MEDIA
Keith's lyrics are pretty good, but in no way does this song (or this album, so far) compare to any of his early work.

13. LIFE ON THE STREET
If only more people gave a fuck about Keith Murray, this could have been released as a single to radio. That means it's enjoyable enough at first, but has the capability of getting more and more annoying with each subsequent listen.

14. RIDE WIT US (FEAT REDMAN, ERICK SERMON, & TOO $HORT)
This is the exact same song as appears on the Def Squad's El Nino album; Keith even kept the Too $hort guest spot intact. I forget the reason why Keith couldn't get Reggie and E-Double to record a new song, but I assume it had something to do with his jail sentence. My main concern regarding the track is simple: why this one? El Nino featured much better songs that Keith could have stolen to fill the Def Squad quota if he needed to.

15. JUNGLE BOOGIE
Skit..........

16. HIGH AS HELL
Uh oh, looks like Keith Murray and Erick Sermon are fans of A Tribe Called Quest's "Luck Of Lucien"! This song is good when compared to the rest of this disc, but not that great when compared to the first two albums in Keith's catalog. Comes off as a "Get Lifted" retread.

17. BAD DAY
A reflective Keith Murray is not a bad Keith Murray. Thankfully, Erick Sermon didn't completely jack the beat to Ice Cube's "It Was A Good Day", choosing instead to evoke similar feelings within the listener.

18. A MESSAGE FROM KEITH
Although I agree with what Keith is saying, this interlude comes off as self-serving.

19. MY LIFE (FEAT L.O.D.)
Weed carrier track. Pretty weak way to end things, Keith.

FINAL THOUGHTS: It's A Beautiful Thing suffers from consistently boring Erick Sermon production work, a problem that will continue with each Def Squad release from this point on. Keith's lyrics are, for the most part, still volatile, but the album suffers from a lack of focus and cohesion. Due to the whole 'prison sentence' thing, I assume that this is not the album Keith would have released if he had more time to work with it. However, this write-up is based around what the listening public got to hear, and it isn't pretty.

BUY OR BURN? I can only recommend a burn. There are some good songs buried here, but you have to wade through the bullshit to find them, and if you're going to do that, it's best to listen to it before grabbing a couple of tracks.

BEST TRACKS: "Incredible"; "Secret Indictment"; "High As Hell"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Keith Murray - The Most Beautifullest Thing In This World
Keith Murray - Enigma

5 comments:

  1. I got this album for free back in 1999 (I was manager at Tower Records and a girl from Jive gave it to me as a promo) and I ended up selling that shit to some kid at the bus station for $5 because it was asschecks.

    I used that money to beat Time Crisis 2 at the sub shop down the street from my job...Money well spent. Thanks, Murray!

    Love L.O.D.!

    One.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's easily one of the best uses for this disc that I have ever heard about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fuck that noise!
      I know it's been 8 years but I have to call bullshit on this being a bad album. It certainly isn't as good as his debut and especially not as good as Enigma, but it most definitely isn't a bad album.

      Delete
    2. I know Keith was locked up but 6 skits?! Damn.
      Anyway, I enjoy 9 of the remaining 13 songs. That has to count for something, right?

      Delete
  3. Sorry, but the positives of this album far outweigh the negatives. Sure, they fucking earned their negative status, but the album remains an easy buy for me.

    And your criticisms of songs like Radio, Life On The Street and High As Hell are completely unwarranted. Erick Sermon mostly came correct for my money.

    ReplyDelete