Album: Love & Rockets, Vol. 1: The Transformation
It’s hard to believe that Ski Beatz had never even heard of Murs until Tabi Bonney introduced them sometime last year. The chemistry they display on Love & Rockets V.1: The Transformation (produced entirely by Ski) makes it seem like they’ve been making music together their whole lives. However this is just the first time the two have collaborated, but hopefully not the last as Ski Beatz colorful production brings a whole new life to Murs and his often slept on story telling abilities.
Although his name does not appear on the front of the album, this is just as much Ski Beatz’s project as it is Murs’, and neither one outdoes the other resulting in a very well rounded body of work. The production and the vocals on tracks like “Dream On” featuring Dee-1 and “316 Ways” are equally enjoyable thanks to the chemistry Murs exhibits with Ski, which is different than yet reminiscent of some of Murray’s best work with 9th Wonder. Songs such as “67 Cutlass” and “Animal Style” bring back memories of “Walk Like A Man” and “Trevor an’ Them” (off of Murs & 9th’s 3:16) as Murs proves he still is one of the most underrated storytellers in the game, especially on “Animal Style”. “Animal Style” tells the tale of two gay young men who are in love but one feels the need to hide their relationship because he is afraid of how the public will perceive him. Ski throws in little clips of dialog spoken by the fictional characters from the lyrics that bring the song to life while Murs narrates the story with extreme detail. It’s not as in your face as that Lil B album, but it is a hundred times more articulate as “Animal Style” and its crazy unexpected ending (which I will not spoil) definitely do a commendable job of raising awareness regarding the ongoing topic of gay rights in America.
There are a number of tracks on Love & Rockets that pay homage to the early days of rap music, tracks that hip hop heads aka Murs primary audience are bound to f*ck with. The first that comes to mind is “Hip Hop And Love” ft Tabi Bonney. “Hip Hop And Love” is sort of like a reverse version of the Common classic “I Used to Love H.E.R.”. Instead of using a woman as a metaphor for hip hop, Murs and Tabi Bonney use hip hop to depict the love of a woman over a very chill down tempo beat from Sensei Ski. “Eazy-E” also serves as an ode to hip hop, in particular west coast hip-hop as Murs reveals his admiration for some of his childhood idols, in particular (yup you guessed it) Eazy-E. The so-cal flavored lyrics topped with tributes to a variety of west coast veterans on “Eazy-E” concocts a sound that embodies underground California rap music. As does the smooth left coast production provided by Ski, which can also be heard on songs like “Westside Love”. Mostly known for either that mid 90’s New York steez (Reasonable Doubt, Original Flavor) or his more recent work with Curren$y (Pilot Talk 1 & 2), Ski Beatz deserves props for adapting his production style to Murs’s leftside roots. It is now clear that weather it’s NY, NO or LA, Ski can capture the sound of anywhere on the map.
Contrary to “Eazy-E” there are a couple joints on the album that seem hot right off the bat, but don’t really have as much replay value down the road. “International” and “Epic Salutations” are cool at first, but aren’t the kind of songs you revisit time and time again. Same goes for some of the story songs I referenced earlier. Like I said, Murs paints such vivid pictures with his words on tracks like “67 Cutlass” and “Animal Style” it makes you feel like your watching a movie. But who wants to watch the same movie over and over…it’ll never be as good as the first time you saw it. However one joint that I will undoubtedly be bumping for a minute off Love & Rockets is “Life And Times”. “Life And Times” includes powerful horns that make for Ski’s hardest beat on the album and features an outstanding verse from Black Hippy’s Ab-Soul.
When I first heard about this project, I really had no idea what to expect, then again why would I? This had to be one of hip-hop’s most unexpected collaborations in recent memory. But sometimes it’s the things in life you cannot anticipate that turn out to be the most rewarding, and that is certainly the case for Murs fans with Love & Rockets. Being that this is one of Murs first real releases since his brief and disappointing stint with Warner Brothers, Murs fans can help themselves to a sigh of relief as Love & Rockets reassures them that Murs is still capable of making the genuinely crafted tunes that they call “real hip hop”. However, I bet none of them would have ever guessed that Murs’ best work since Murrays Revenge would be produced by anyone other than 9th Wonder, let alone Ski Beatz.