Featuring big, soulful beats, courtesy of EPMD's Erick Sermon, and surprisingly strong guest spots from Tyrese and Method Man, hip hop's long-standing tough guy throws himself fist-first back into the fray after a four year hiatus with Rap-Murr-Phobia (The Fear of Real Hip-Hop). Despite the title, this is not just another collection of unsubstantiated braggadocio backed by empty production. Instead, the album, while certainly not consciously, does a good job of balancing Murray's notorious sense of humor ("You soft as yogurt!") with tales of his hard life, party jams and criticism of whack MC's. Murray celebrates the kind of rap he made his name on without shunning his contemporaries, while embracing ass-shaking bass and warm, introspective rhymes simultaneously. "For those who don't know or forget, To make you happy with Mary J, who'd Puffy come to get? Me!" he spits on "Nobody Do It Better." Daddy is just one of the names he drops on the track, but these aren't the sad boasts of an MC well past his prime. No, Rap-Murr-Phobia is a pertinent and fresh album an acknowledgment of the form's past glories and a celebration of its current mainstream popularity. But most of all, it's just pretty damn enjoyable.
Marisa Brown writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com.