Odder than anything beaming in from Planet Weezy is Warner Bros.’ decision to take a chance on indie interloper Murs just when hip-hop sales have gotten as terrible as the rest of the music industry’s. Pitchfork noted that “mainstream hip-hop has little time for ordinary dudes,” and I’d add that neither does the underground, which prefers to lionize principled nutcases like El-P and MF Doom and Kool Keith. Even with a whole album (Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition) of dick-talk behind him, the 30-year-old rapper may be a man’s man, but he’s no pimp. Murs has always been an oddly middle-class, blue-collar straight-talker, conscientious but not too p.c. to pick up a girl who wants a “Bad Man” and violate her with a glow stick. In 2003, he advised us to “keep it gangsta in your CD changer, not your residence,” and, on the same record, did pills with Aesop Rock and let Humpty Hump trash his house (“Yo, is your Rolls blue? Cuz I got bad news”), so count “balance”-obsessed regular doods as his peers: Akrobatik, Rhymefest, etc.
There’s odd whimsy in the title of the one-time Living Legends alum’s sellout move: Why not elect Murs and throw him into the void? What do the majors have to lose anymore? It’s not hard to imagine the power ballad–styled “Everything” making MTV2 waves, though he remains a curious signing—nothing about this man screams “hit single.” So with Murs for President, he just did what he does, churning out another strong album of choppy retro samples that pretend chipmunk-soul and snap never existed. Like Portishead’s Third, it’s been so long since beats like this were prominent that it sounds beautiful now—and maybe wiser in the long run. All he asked for in return from his new label, apparently, was a decent sound-effects team for an intro skit that builds to a supposed inauguration speech (the concept ends there), and a guest spot from Snoop Dogg—just for a personal photo-op, maybe. The fast-fading will.i.am (the Pete Wentz of rap) probably showed up for free. If this regular dood never gets to make another one for a major, at least he won’t be able to complain that the money changed him. They don’t have any money.