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There and Back Again 

Since being tempted by a major label, indie rapper Murs is thriving again in the underground

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For a moment, it seemed Murs could be the king of the underground. His stage name, after all, touted his commitment to the underground: Murs stands for “Making Underground Raw Shit.”

After a few underground LP releases in the late 1990s, Murs — real name Nick Carter — hit his stride when he dropped a string of fantastic solo and collaborative releases in the early aughts. His 2003 The End of the Beginning is a bombastic and thrilling underground hip-hop record, equally easy on the ears and heavy on the mind. His work with producer 9th Wonder, particularly on the album Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition, was inspired and yielded some unbelievably deep results.

In 2008, Murs finally caught the eye of major label Warner Bros. Records — and they must have managed to give him something he wanted bad enough to go major. His record from that year, Murs for President, is by no means unlistenable, but something is definitely missing. Uneven and slightly weak, the smarts were gone — as was the heart.

Where does a rapper like Murs, so proud of his underground beginnings, go after a relatively disappointing major label debut? Thankfully, Murs’ stint as a Warner Bros. recording artist was as brief as it was unfortunate, and he went back to his roots, working with numerous underground hip-hop labels and collectives.

Which only makes his most recent record all the more exciting. After another satisfying record with collaborator 9th Wonder, Murs went back underground and started work with the legendary producer Ski Beatz in affiliation with the indie hip-hop association DD172.

With the return to the underground came a surge in creativity, and his two solo records since then have been some of his better work. There’s still work to be done: not every punch lands right where he wants it to, and some of his more well-meaning raps are a little preachy. But he has, more or less, returned to form.

Murs’ supposedly last collaboration with 9th Wonder, appropriately titled The Final Adventure, has been the best part of his return. Rationing intelligence, edge and some fantastic metropolitan beats, the two have created a fitting swan song for their decade-long project.

So what material will the extremely prolific rapper be performing when he throws down this week in Spokane? It’s not safe to say. But then again, Murs has never really been safe. 

Murs with Prof, Fashawn and Black Cloud Music • Mon, March 18, at 8 pm • Red Room Lounge • 521 W. Sprague Ave. • $15 • 21+ • 838-7631

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