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The Last Great Rap Album?
on August 29, 2004
Murda Muzik, clearly the most underrated album put forth by Mobb Deep, commands a degree of respect and admiration that has sadly been overlooked from the very moment its release. From editorials to publication reviews to public forums such as Amazon.com, critics and fans alike have failed to agree on the album's significance in the rap community.
Murda Muzik, to the dismay of a great number of listeners, may readily be perceived as a "dead end" for Mobb Deep. That is to say, the lyrical approach and music production are exactly as expected, judging from their previous albums. The same dark, menacing, repetitive beats lace the majority of tracks. The lyrics focus on portraying a world of underground violence, societal corruption, and lower-class American hopelessness. Flashes of ill-obtained luxury and criminal forte emerge from time to time, but never optimism. It is more or less a style identical to that of Hell on Earth and The Infamous, leading many to believe that Murda Muzik discredits the Mobb's potential for artistic maturity. It is this same resistance to change, however, that others identify as its sacred andinvaluable characteristic.
Prior to the release of Murda Muzik, Mobb Deep had accumulated a fair amount of financial success and an even greater amount of street credit. With The Infamous and Hell on Earth having quickly established themselves as gangster rap classics, with Prodigy and Havoc not yet old enough to drink under U.S. law, and with an ever-expanding mainstream base for hip hop music leading into the late 1990's, the stage could not have been set more perfectly from a cash-making point of view. Their youth, reputation, talent, and association with Loud Records gave them the choice that they had never before had: to put out an album with popular beats and mainstream appeal while capitalizing on a fan base that would draw from the same pool as artists such as Green Day and Christina Aguilera - a technique that even crime-rap posterboy DMX would later employ.
But something interesting happened. Mobb Deep didn't take the bait. They didn't saturate the album with mainstream beats. Quiet Storm, the CD's biggest hit single, has as dark a beat as one would anticipate from songs like Shook Ones pt.2 and Animal Instinct. The lyrics didn't change either. They were still banging in the street, not in the club. Many find this to be a flaw, arguing that Murda Muzik is just more of the same, so to speak. But "the same," as Mobb Deep fans understand, is exactly the quality that sets the group apart from all others. DMX did it. Ja Rule did it. Snoop did it. Mobb Deep didn't. With Infamy and Amerikaz Nightmare veering in a pop direction, Murda Muzik stands out as the last rap album in recent memory that successfully preserved the raw street style of a music group with already-established success. In today's increasingly mainstream rap world, it will surely prove hard to find any artist or artist group that keeps their original style in tact after not one, but TWO, classic releases. That is why Murda Muzik may indeed be the last great rap album - not for what it does, but for what it doesn't do. Get this CD. Listen to it. Think about it. You decide.