STOP SLEEPING! Okay, here’s the thing: I harp on and on about a lot of music you should be listening to, but if you take my advice on one, then it should be Murs. One of my favorite emcees since 2001 (roughly), he epitomizes versatility in his style and his content. His socially conscious tracks hit just as hard as his street tales; his skateboarding songs are just as repayable as his lyrical exercises. When he dropped The End of the Beginning in 2003, I remember being utterly unprepared for how much I’d find in common with him. On “BT$” I found a kindred spirit, expressing how easy it is to give in to desire when money is concerned. One of my favorite verses was:

December 23. 2002
Around midnight, where were you?
Me, I was out for them Episode 2 Star Wars action figures
(Wait, back up my nigga, you can’t mean toys?)
Hell yeah fool, me and a hundred white boys
We was waitin in line
Some buy to collect, some to sell online
(Man, hold up, you can’t rhyme line with line)
Man, that’s not the point
I spent two hundred plus before I even left the joint
If my mama only knew
I was out droppin notes when I owe her a few
My ass’d be through, You wouldn’t be hearing this song today
Can you say, buyers remorse
Now I’m prayin that my CD’s sellin out in the stores
Cause I hate being poor
I may have dropped a couple hundred but I’m one with the Force

It clicked with me on so many levels: his desire for Star Wars toys; standing in line for them; the 4th-wall breaking aside; and the final, vindicating rationalization. A few of his earlier singles were scattered across some mix CDs, but with this album I knew that I had found another artist whose every album I’d have to cop without hesitation. His unglamorous self-degradation worked flawlessly with his more boastful rhymes, and his everyman demeanor really resonated. But what I most understood was his message that being oneself might fly in the face of expectations, and that happiness came from accepting that. As a Cuban male in Miami, I was expected to act a certain way and dress a certain way; my peers expected me to at least be consistent – something impossible in a time of self-discovery. Murs personified my struggle – he talked about not being “hood” enough, and then not being “conscious” or “underground” enough. He was a black emcee who dressed more like someone you’d find at Warped Tour than at a Hip Hop concert, and for him it was perfectly normal.

To this day I grapple with identity issues, but they’re only momentary when they flare up, and that’s thanks in LARGE part to Murs. I know exactly, unabashedly who I am, even if who I am doesn’t quite fully fit someone’s definition or expectation. I don’t think I’m doing it justice. This isn’t some teenage need to be heard, some primal desire to be understood by others, or some rebellious platitude about being “ME”. This is an embracing of my cultural identity, the identity that I’ve chosen, the identity given by blood, and the identity I forged from the intangible nebula of my imagination and desires. For me, that’s what Murs is all about.

He’s got a song about the perils of judging someone for their sexuality, cautionary street tales, reflections on the nature of dangers of adhering to gender norms/expectations, apparent party anthems, reflections on race, heartbreak, love,  and even some strange tales … the list goes on and on. For this post I’ll focus on one of my favorite ones. It tells the story of Hip Hop in one of the most sublime and head-nodding ways possible.