Def Squad member Keith Murray was signed to Def Jam Records for exactly the length of time it would take him to record He's Keith Murray, his fourth album (his previous three were all distributed by Jive Records, prior to his jail sentence). He didn't last at the label very long, as he was accused of assaulting a member of the Def Jam marketing-slash-street team, and was dropped almost immediately, leaving his fellow group member, Def Jam artist, and friend Redman behind to clean up the mess. As a result, the label failed to promote He's Keith Murray and allowed it to die a slow and painful death in stores.
Left without a label home, Keith began to record on his own, hoping to release his fifth album in 2006 on an independent label. (As he was too large of a liability, you can understand that major labels would be reluctant to look at a rapper who was prone to attacking members of the staff.) As a teaser for the fans that remained after He's Keith Murray ended up sucking the sweat off of a elephant's taint, he linked up with his band of weed carriers, who called themselves L.O.D. (or the Legion Of Doom), and released Kickin' Ass Inc. Mixtape Vol. 1.
Apparently, I didn't give enough of a fuck to figure out who exactly was in L.O.D.: I assumed it was just 50 Grand and Kel-Vicious, as they are the only two unknown rappers to get a significant amount of airtime on Keith's solo albums. Kickin' Ass Inc. Mixtape Vol. 1 includes a bunch of other folks whose names I won't bother listing, as they don't play as large a role as 50 Grand, Kel, and Keith anyway. But you should know that they exist.
Kickin' Ass Inc. Mixtape Vol. 1 purports to be the appetizer for the eventual main course: Keith Murray's fifth album. Instead, it turns ugly fairly quickly: unlike most rappers, Keith seemed to have felt that dissing other rappers on his studio projects wasn't the best forum for his complaints, but the freedom a mixtape provides gave him the balls he needed to finally return fire back at Prodigy of Mobb Deep, who had been sending subliminal (and not-so-subliminal) threats in his direction ever since The Infamous. Unlike most rappers, though, Keith had already physically assaulted Cellblock P before he started talking shit about him on wax.
That last sentence shouldn't surprise anybody who has been following Keith's career thus far.
(Note: the tracklisting that appears below contains the titles that came up on iTunes after I loaded up the disc. After researching Kickin' Ass Inc. Mixtape Vol. 1 online (and discovering that there isn't a whole lot of information available, hence the really small picture of the cover), I found that some of the skits may feature different titles, but you know what? They're fucking skits on a fucking mixtape. So let it go already.)
Oddly, this mixtape intro doesn't even bother to set the listener up for what we're about to be subjected to. Making it thirty seconds of your life that you will never get back.
2. TAKIN' IT BACK (PRODIGY DISS)
Starts off one way, but then swerves into the “Keith Murray hates Mobb Deep” lane pretty quickly, if not randomly (title aside). Considering the fact that Havoc landed production spots on both the new EPMD album and Meth & Red's Blackout! 2, it appears that Keith was unsuccessful in getting the message to his comrades. As dis tracks go, this was completely scattershot.
3. Y'ALL KNOW MY STEEZ
Remember when Keith Murray was imaginative and fresh with his lyrics? Yeah, me neither. And this unnecessarily violent track doesn't help matters any.
5. PULL YA BOOTS UP
I understand why Keith Murray is so obsessed with destroying Prodigy (sort of), but has anybody ever thought to simply pull the man aside and tell him that Cellblock P is no longer relevant to hip hop? Not that Keith Murray is a shining star, either, but still, Prodigy has been convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of his own fucking career.
7. L.O.D. FREESTYLE
This freestyle was poorly recorded, as Keith's ad-libs are louder than the rhymes of his weed carriers. Maybe that's just my copy, or maybe that was intentional. If it was supposed to be this way, that's telling of this mixtape project as a whole.
8. WHEN DA LIGHTS GO OUT
This L.O.D. track has the same volume issues. I guess it doesn't matter much, though, as there isn't anything worth listening to on the track in the first place. Gilla House these guys are not.
9. I HOOK OFF (PRODIGY DISS)
I get that Keith is not a Mobb Deep fan, but his violent outbursts against Prodigy pale in comparison to how Jay-Z dismantled Cellblock P's career with just a photograph. The hook, in which Keith begs for a possible confrontation, is too wordy. L.O.D. also attack former Hit Squad affiliate K-Solo, which was kind of weird, but it keeps with the project's theme of attacking people for seemingly no good reason.
11. TILL SOMEBODY GETS HURT
Finally, a halfway decent song! Keith has always sounded good over subtle boom bap such as this, and sparks of what could have been pop off all over this track. Oh, if only...
12. LIVE YOUR LIFE FREESTYLE
If this is a “freestyle”, then Keith's actual prewritten rhymes over the rest of this mixtape now sound even worse in comparison.
Keith doesn't even sound like he's trying. Thank your respective spiritual entities that “Vigilante” is as short as it is.
15. IT AIN'T NOTHIN'
Keith takes a back seat to his boys, who don't sound terrible on here, but you're left wishing that the artists involved all had more to say.
16. STOP UR BULLSHIT
A Jay-Z bonus track, the Swizz Beats-produced “Stop”, is jacked to poor effect by Keith, although I may only be complaining because I've always hated the beat. Therefore, it's unfair to blame the artist for the lack of entertainment value on here, so the man gets a pass. For this one song only.
17. DAILY DEPARTED
That can't be the correct title. Unless Keith's referring to how many people pass away per day, as opposed to his "dearly departed”. Anyway, this mixtape seems to be made up of half-thoughts and sporadic violent outbursts that tend to happen whenever an artist has no filter between his brain and his mouth. Also, when said artist is surrounded only by his weed carriers and not by his other successful friends (*cough* the rest of Def Squad *cough*).
19. I NEED BEER FREESTYLE
Well, the title is goofy, but the actual lyrics aren't very memorable. Except for when he repeats some of the same lyrics again, which, oddly, makes this sound more like a true “freestyle”, if you pretend that Keith had forgotten his lines and decided to repeat them.
21. 80 BAR ASSASSIN (PRODIGY DISS)
I think everybody still following this post is aware that Keith Murray hates Prodigy, right? Enough already! Mobb Deep (or, more specifically, Cellblock P) released a track specifically calling him out (“In The Long Run”, a bonus track from Hell On Earth that was only accessible if you inserted the CD into your computer and punched in a secret code...orwhat you could do is just Google it), but apparently P's comments were such that Keith decided to basically devote an entire mixtape to him. (To be fair, Prodigy referred to Keith as a "fucking immigrant".) It would be one thing if the beef elevated the lyrics of the players involved, but it didn't, so what was the point?
22. SECRET INDICTMENT
Taken from Keith's third album, It's A Beautiful Thing. Still a pretty good song, too.
23. DA MAGNIFICENT
What the fuck is this shit?
25. L.O.D. FREESTYLE
Another imaginatively-titled freestyle from the Legion Of Doom, and once again, Murray's ad-libs are louder than the actual participants. What's up with that shit?
Well, at least he thanks us for listening. Keith promises a second volume in this series: to date, no such sequel has been released. Maybe more people would care about you if you stopped referring to your dwindling fan base as “motherfuckers”. Just a thought.
SHOULD YOU TRACK IT DOWN? No, not at all. There is absolutely nothing redeeming on Kicking Prodigy's Ass, Vol. 1, and there is most certainly nothing worth actually listening to. I think I'd rather listen to Prodigy's current output than continue following the exploits of Keith Murray and his substandard potholders. No wonder they never made a second installment. Avoid this one at all costs, unless you enjoy wasting your time on stupid shit.
Other Keith Murray albums (of varying degrees of quality) can be found by clicking here.