August 8, 2008

Keith Murray - He's Keith Murray (April 29, 2003)


When rapper Keith Murray was released from prison after serving a bid for an assault charge, he found himself without a label to call home. Jive Records, his previous employer, had exercised the "greatest hits album" clause in his contract back in 1999, which still looks like a pretty fucking stupid business move, considering the fact that, at that point in his career, Keith Murray had only three albums to his name (and a collaborative disc with his cronies Erick Sermon and Redman in the Def Squad), the last of which was released in January of that year (It's A Beautiful Thing, for those of you that choose to remember weak bullshit albums), and the Hits disc (conveniently called The Most Beautifullest Hits: Keith's apparent lasting legacy to the genre is the incorrect use of an adjective) saw its release fucking seven months later. Jive couldn't wait to ditch that motherfucker: I'm surprised they didn't spit in his face while tearing up the contract.

Depressed, Keith went to drown his sorrows in a few Spicy Chicken Sandwiches from Wendy's, and, inadvertently, found himself signed to Def Jam Records, the label home of Redman and Erick Sermon (well, at least at one point it was Erick Sermon's label home: he had since moved on to bigger, if not necessarily better, things). With the marketing force of a major label, and seemingly a lot more street cred than Jive Records could ever claim (truth be told, this was around the transitional period within the Def Jam offices, when all of their artists started sucking, but the sentiment is still felt), Keith Murray could do no wrong, and was poised to take the Def Squad (and, by proxy, his own legion of weed carriers L.O.D.) to new heights.

His "return" to hip hop (although he never really left) was announced in an unheralded fashion on songs of little to no consequence. Keith popped up on Reggie Noble's Malpractice, but that album was so terrible that nobody even bothered to get far enough into the disc to hear him: strong-willed listeners (like myself, and I have the review to prove it) weren't very impressed, as it seemed the guy that brought us "Get Lifted" and "The Most Beautifullest Thing In This World" (a song I still don't really like) was lost to hip hop forever. Undeterred, he appeared alongside labelmates Ludacris and his role model, LL Cool J, on "Fatty Girl", a FUBU commercial fashioned to resemble a rap song praising the female ass. Not that there's anything wrong with ass, I praise it all the time, but hip hop has enough songs about that particular subject matter. (I never cared for the original version, but I will admit that I kind of like the Neptunes "Fatty Girl" remix. It's too bad that version wasn't promoted more heavily.)

"Fatty Girl" did okay, but nobody really gave a fuck about Keith on that song, even though his use of the word "badonkadonk" ranks amongst the funniest line readings of all time. Still not defeated, Keith recorded the track "He's Back" with Redman's pool boy Rockwilder, and it found its way onto the soundtrack for Rush Hour 2. I never heard the soundtrack, but I have heard the song, and I have to say: blah. But you have to hand it to Keith Murray: when handed a second chance, he will do his damnedest to not fuck it up (right away). He decided to call his fourth album (and first for Def Jam) He's Keith Murray, named after the title track, which, according to Interweb lore, was a reworking of Biz Markie's "Nobody Beats The Biz", but because of Def Jam's broken sample clearance arm, He's Keith Murray's fucking title track was axed from the final cut. (I've never actually heard "He's Keith Murray", but I understand that it can be found online rather easily. It's up in the air whether it's worth the trouble, though.)

Keith Murray (probably) was annoyed and frustrated at the last of success he was finding since being released from the bing: it's as if he half expected for the fan base to regroup right after he started releasing new material, but at this point, the hip hop audience had turned fickle and moved on: even one year spent in prison, out of the public eye, can kill your entire career. He's Keith Murray wasn't getting the press it was supposed to (in Keith's eyes) and only one video had been shot, so Keith decided (allegedly) to take out his frustrations by beating the shit out of one of the members of Def Jam's street team. The label took notice and immediately fired him from his second label home within five years, and He's Keith Murray hit the shelves with virtually no advance notice, selling about as well as you would expect an album that existed, at that point, merely as a tax write-off. And once again, Keith was depressed, and would go drown his sorrows in a few Spicy Chicken Sandwiches from Wendy's.

That actually sounds pretty good right now.

1. DA INTRO (SKIT) (FEAT JAMIE FOXX)
What the fuck is this shit?

2. THE CARNAGE (FEAT JOE HOOKER)
Joe Hooker's chorus is nowhere near as catchy as some of the work he's done with Black Rob. As for Keith's verses, there are brief glimpses of his past life as a better rapper, but they are fleeting. Overall, this isn't completely horrible, though.

3. OH MY GOODNESS
Who the fuck decided that Keith Murray should aim for the club audience? I refuse to believe that Keith himself decided to "branch out": the guy was in fucking prison! I don't think he was writing club bangers while in the clink!

4. YEAH YEAH U KNOW IT (FEAT ERICK SERMON & REDMAN)
Easily the worst Def Squad track I've heard to date (by date, I'm talking 2003, of course), and not simply because Just Blaze handled more of the production duty than E-Double here. All three rappers come off as amateurs (yes, even Reggie), and it's all pretty unsettling. The best thing about this track is Redman's dance toward the end, when he acts like Tina Turner's backup.

5. STAR (SKIT) (FEAT JAMIE FOXX)
After hearing this shit, I find it hard to believe that this is the same guy that won a fucking Academy Award. (He was really good in Collateral, though, I can't lie.)

6. CANDI BAR
Please refer to my earlier comment regarding the intro.

7. CHRISTINA
Keith Murray tends to sound better when he focuses on his past, rather than talking random shit or beating you over the head with a bar stool of subtlety. This song is named after his late sister, whom the first verse is about, but the track as a whole is about internal struggles, and even though the beat is unimpressive, the lyrics are, in fact, pretty good.

8. SUCKA FREE (SKIT) (FEAT JAMIE FOXX)
Funny, it sounds as if Jamie Foxx is talking about a certain rapper that has been shot nine times, but then he ended up sharing the mich with Curtis Jackson on The Massacre. What gives?

9. SUCKA FREE
This terrible song makes me miss the first two Keith Murray albums. Now where did I put them?

10. SAY WHAATT (FEAT REDMAN)
Don't get excited, you two: Reggie doesn't get the opportunity to redeem himself, as he merely performs on the mediocre hook. Keith Murray + Jazze Pha on the beat = a hot mess that couldn't be saved even with a remix featuring every single rapper in existence.

11. DA BA DUNK SONG
Didn't Keith Murray already make this song? He certainly did, and he even brought back the Trackmasters to produce it, but, conveniently, forgot to call Ludacris and Ladies Love James Todd Smith. He said he was very sorry afterward, though, and he bought them each a rose.

12. B.C. (SKIT) (FEAT JAMIE FOXX)
...

13. SWAGGER BACK
I thought the gimmick of Keith's vocals alternating between the left and right channels was reserved for the intro, but it turns out that he does it for the entirety of his verses. I don't even think the phrase "incredibly fucking awful" does this description justice.

14. ON SMASH (FEAT BUSTA RHYMES & KEL VICIOUS)
Nice Half Baked reference, Busta. I'm still waiting for Keith to honor his promise of "if I ain't coming with some sick shit, I'm not coming at all", but otherwise, this song isn't bad. I don't even mind that Keith's L.O.D. weed carrier is on the song, although he seems to have only gotten worse with time.

15. SAY GOODNITE (SKIT)
...

16. SAY GOODNITE
So Keith essentially cops to his violent temper and admits that, yes, he did actually have something to do with that guy being violently attacked and partially eaten by a bar stool (the attack that got him sent to jail in the first place). This is actually pretty decent, but that's mainly due to the surprising combination of Erick Sermon and Pete Rock behind the boards. Speaking of which, Erick Sermon? Not really present for much of He's Keith Murray. I'm not convinced that he could have salvaged the project, but hell, he could have tried.

17. CHILD OF THE STREETS (MAN CHILD)
Walks the fine line between inspirational and cheesy, but ultimately can be classified as neither, because the production (provided by E-Double and Keith) and the singing come across as weak. Murray's autobiographical lines do prove, though, that when he actually focuses on something other than overcompensating as a backpack rapper, he can spit some hot lyrics.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Oh, how the not-so-much-mighty-but-he-did-sound-good-on-the-mic-at-one-point have fallen. He's Keith Murray only seems to define the title character as a rapper trapped between his two personas: the merely bad rapper with a poor selection of beats, and the downright horrible rapper that only got his record deal off the strength of his friends. I thought Keith's debut was good, and Enigma, his sophomore album, is far less appreciated than it should be, but this disc is a fucking waste of plastic. It would serve a better, more substantial purpose for you if you were to snap it in half, glue them jagged-side-up to the back of your hands, and wander around your neighborhood like a drunken Wolverine (or a child-like Baraka). Sigh.

BUY OR BURN? You shouldn't waste your valuable time with either one. Keith may have been fired from Def Jam for (allegedly) attacking the street team, but had this actually been released properly, he would have simply been fired. For sucking. Avoid this if at all possible.

BEST TRACKS: None.

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Read all of the Def Squad (Erick Sermon, Redman, and Keith Murray) posts by clicking here.

3 comments:

  1. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessAugust 08, 2008

    I'm not at all surprised that this album is not worth listening to. After seeing you recommending purchases at an alarming rate I'm happy to see that you can still be a prick when the situation calls for it. I'm one of the unfortunate few who own a copy of It's A Beautiful Thing so I was never even tempted to check this out.

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  2. Mr. AquariusAugust 11, 2008

    Never heard much, but the def squad link is interesting. is enigma worth checking?

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  3. where we do we download this shit at? weak sauce yo

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