Over a decade removed from his highly successful collaboration with famed beat maker 9th Wonder Murs – 3:16: The 9th Edition – Murs, one of L.A.’s Hip Hop mainstays, is back with his latest album, Have A Nice Life. During his storied career, fans have come to expect a high level of creativity from Murs, who has released underground-leaning projects with Slug of Atmosphere under the moniker Felt, dropped experimental albums like 2011’s Love & Rockets, Volume 1: The Transformation (which gave us our first look at a post-dreadlocks version of the emcee) and even gotten political on 2013’s “What You Waitin’ On?” With his catalogue offering such a wide variety of music, what are Murs’ fans to expect from Have A Nice Life? Maturity.
The opening verse of the album’s title track says it all: “God is great, and I am grateful; I could never be so hateful / I got some cute kids and a women who is faithful, food up on my table, my bank account is stable.” At 37-years-old, Murs has seen it all. He’s been on more than five labels throughout his career, founded the Paid Dues music festival and become a dad. And now, on his Strange Music solo debut, Murs seems content with telling it how it is, pulling back the curtain and keeping it real, even if that means leaving some of his past experimentation behind.
Have A Nice Life is broken down into sections. Only this time those divisions seem to reflect points throughout Murs’ career though they are not chronological. After the prolific, wisdom-filled title track, Murs tells the story of love and friendships lost on “Surprises” featuring Ryan “Myagi” Evans. It’s almost as if Murs feels the need to caution today’s young Hip Hop heads with tales of women and rap beefs fitting of the song’s chorus: “I’ve seen good men turn bad, and bad men do good / Rich men with nothing and poor man with gold / Nothing surprises me no more.”
This track, much like others such as “Pussy and Pizza” and “No More Control,” show a more refined version of Murs, one who has been through the trials and tribulations of the rap game and wants to pass along his lessons learned to those on the rise. The message is somewhere between uplifting and admonishing, with Murs doing his best to move Hip Hop away from the sex, drugs and violence often portrayed without becoming preachy.
While some may wonder when the old Murs will strike, others may be confused by tracks like “Mi Corazon,” which sees the emcee struggle to pander to today’s electronic-infused Hip Hop trend. The lack of samples and reliance on electronics over the usual snare and hi-hat is also apparent on “PTSD;” the dark, hard-hitting beat seems to be a perfect fit for featured guest E-40, but is seemingly out of place for the storyteller in Murs.
As the album winds its way through back alleys that lead to positive messages, longtime fans will discover that the former “3:16” has shifted the verve he once showed, for better or worse. Songs like “Okey Dog” feature some of the sharp-tinged tone a cocky young Murs once displayed, but while most of his past songs discussed his tales of debauchery, this track details the life of Okey Dog, a character who is wrapped up in Los Angeles gang life, albeit sharing many similarities with Murs himself.
“The hardest nigga I know, he from Okey Dog crib. He pulled out a chopper, told me, ‘Focus in on this.’ / This can make a man brave, this can make a man a slave, and once you pull it out ain’t too many standing in your way,” raps Murs on the final verse, sounding rough and tumble while simultaneously delivering a valuable message as he does throughout the album. Once again the electronic-infused beat is in stark contrast to the Murs of old, and even with a tone that is slightly more aggressive than the rest of Have A Nice Life, “Okey Dog” is a different beast for the majority of Murs fans.
With many rappers celebrating the 20th anniversary of their storied albums the past few years, Hip Hop fans have been able to see the effects of age on their favorite emcees – and their lyrics. Much like skillful emcees such as Nas, who once talked of project life but now raps about his daughters, Murs has shown his age as well, his skillful storytelling shifting from recounting drunken nights to important tales aimed at those on the come-up. And while some may be upset that Murs isn’t the unruly rapper he once was, he’s managed to craft a project that remains true while growing up enough to talk about life in a radiant, maturity tinged glow.