Great albums don’t just change music, they change lives.
Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition is a great album; Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition changed my life.
I know it sounds a little sensationalist, a little sappy, but it’s the honest truth. There are a few albums in my own personal canon that guided my course, leading me down a path of hip-hop nerdery, and 3:16 is right there at the top. I can say with 100% confidence that without that album I wouldn’t love hip-hop as much as I do now, and I damn sure wouldn't be writing about it for a living. The samples, the storytelling, “3:16.” I was in love. Hell, I still am.
Considering my love for all things Murs, all things 9th Wonder and all things Murs & 9th Wonder, you can imagine how excited I was when I saw these two were teaming up once again for Brighter Daze. I was expecting the collaboration to be one song, but instead I found a whole album. It’s like getting a puppy on Christmas but also the puppy has an Xbox strapped to its back. After spinning the hell out of the album for the past five days, I knew it had to be my first article of 2016. I can't properly express what this duo means to me, so all I can hope to do is turn you on to the dopeness. It’s easy to lose track of the music released over the holidays and I don't want this project to fall by the wayside. It's just too important. So here's a Cheat Code Review, everything you need to know and hear delivered quickly and cleanly. Let's go.
Yeah, this album is a big deal for me personally, but it’s also a big fucking deal for hip-hop. I know I focused on Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition above - it might be their magnum opus - but it is just the first of (now) six collaborative endeavors. The intelligence, artistry, and love for hip-hop that the pair exudes made for a hell of an adventure, one I thought ended in 2012 with The Final Adventure. So when these two pillars of the underground movement drop a sixth album out of nowhere it’s big news. They have both grown so much since 2004, Murs is now on Strange Music and 9th’s Jamla label is thriving, but have always managed to find time to collaborate and hip-hop is better for it. From the soul samples, the storytelling, the intelligence and the charisma, these two together represent all that’s right with hip-hop. If you you love hip-hop you should be excited about Brighter Daze.
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Whenever I listen to 3:16, it's a very specific feel. I’m transported back to that summer I found the album, riding around with the windows down or smoking in my room, but it's never just about nostalgia. It never loses its “pop.” Though I had never heard “The Battle” before, I felt that summer. It’s so fresh, so crisp, so hip-hop. That sample draws you in from the get-go and Murs absolutely peppers it with bar after bar. 10 years out and he sounds just as hungry, just as energetic as he did when the saga began. Such a great first track. It reminded me why my ears crushed on the duo in the first place
"Wait..Back It Up"
Murs is one of the best relationship rappers ever. Nobody approaches the daunting, complicated subject with as much authenticity, honesty and humor. I’m always partial to his break-up cuts, but “Wait..Back It Up” is kind of a sprung anthem. What I love most about this song is how easy it is. Shit just works, right? That flute-driven, airy instrumental sets the scene, and Murs muses on his new lady with a calm, cool demeanor perfect for the beat. Light, breezy, but still packs a punch. This one put a big old smile on my face and ended up being one of my go-to cuts. It wouldn't be a Murs and 9th Wonder album without some talk of love lost, love gained, or both.
"Walk Like A God" (ft. Rapsody & Propaganda)
I dread going to church the two times a year I have to go and tend to shy away from religious-oriented anything. It’s rare for songs to connect with me on a spiritual, religious level and I tend to find them sappy, but this song got me. It’s very cool how the three emcees touch on what spirituality and religion mean to them and how hip-hop is a religion, a spiritual awakening in and of itself. I especially identified with Rapsody’s verse; she spoke some real truth. Also, I love that this song is sandwiched in between two break-up cuts. Murs can go from lines like “I love the way you doing squats to tighten up your buns” to a deeply spiritual, complex effort. That’s quintessential Murs; he can rap about anything, everything and nothing and it’s all authentic, and well-done. That smooth beat was just the icing on the cake. If church was more like this record I’d probably go more often.
"No Shots" (ft. Mac Miller, Vinny Radio, Franchise & Choo Jackson)
Bars. Bars bars bars. Bars for days. From a pure rapping standpoint, this is the highlight of the project. I expected the goods from Murs and Mac, but it was the new faces that stood out to me; Choo Jackson caught the holy ghost. While I love bars, let's not forget about 9th, who really makes this song go. There aren't a lot of frills, but the track's stripped-down feel really sets off the no-nonsense, almost sinister vibe. It fits each emcee so well despite their various flows and styles. I never really expected to hear Mac Miller and Murs on the same song but the beat sounds form-fitted for both. I’m also convinced this song is engined by the beat. Not to diminish the work of any of these cats, but this is one of those beats that anyone could rap over and sound like a veteran.
On “3:16” Murs raps “I'm tryin to walk that thin line between intelligence and ignorance/Have a little fun while makin' music of significance.” I’ve always loved that line because to me it captures the essence of his music so well. That little motto is exactly what I love about his music. His ability to touch on any and all topics with passion, fearlessness and authenticity is why he’s one of my favorite emcees and is the main reason why I really enjoyed this album. Put that atop some of the best sampling you will ever hear and it's timeless.
As a longtime stan, I can be hard to please, and I was worried that perhaps they were going to the well one too many times--after all it can be hard to make magic time and time again--but this album reminded me why their previous joint ventures have remained in rotation for years. There aren't too many collaborative relationships that last as long nor are as successful as Murs & 9th Wonder and after 10 years these two still have it; it's a testament to their place in hip-hop and a testament to their ability to make great music. This is eveything I love about Murs & 9th Wonder and everything I love about hip-hop. Grab this album. I swear you won't regret it. Shit, it might even change your life.