Murphy Lee knows how to throw a good party. Last Wednesday night at the Improv Theater in Union Station (1820 Market Street; 314-621-2727), the St. Lunatic gathered his closest friends and associates as well as lucky fans to listen to and rate the quality of tracks from his upcoming album, due June 13 on Universal.
The liquor was flowing, the mood was festive, and the man himself was in high spirits. "I'm the new Murph," he announced from his DJ post. "Entrepreneur, CEO, daddy." Lee's penchant for the hook remains the same, however so A to Z took notes on each song and presents to you a preview of what you might expect to find on Murph's new disc.
"Dat Bullshit": Although its original length rendered the song somewhat monotonous don't worry, a shorter radio-edit with a bull-whip sound replacing the expletive exists this bass-heavy song, featuring Murph's wife singing background vocals, has "summer jam" written all over it.
"Got It Like That": With production by Jazze Pha, you know it's going to be slamming. And, in fact, the sine-wave beats, with vaguely tribal flair, sounded as good, if not better, than "Dat Bullshit."
"Get Busy": Murph himself says this old-school, '80s-flavored tune is "my jam." With a slowed-down, sparse sample of the Chuck Rio-written "Tequila" and rhymes biting the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme, it'll be your jam, too.
"Ol' Head": Jazze Pha also produces this tune, which is based on Murph's adventures with an older woman. Sizzling R&B star Anthony Hamilton adds vocals as well, making this tune ripe for crossover appeal.
"Too Damn Cool": Featuring a musician named Black from the Virgin Islands, "Cool" has a Caribbean/reggae flavor, thanks to Black's accent and some nifty throaty flute sounds.
"People Say It Ain't True": Ostensibly an answer to haters who diss Murph's Derrty Ent, "True" unfortunately doesn't really click as a solid response to criticism.
"Da Future": Another tune with a reggae-tinged chorus that borrows lines from Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All" ("I believe the children are our future"). Despite the positive message, another not-so-hot song.
"Das Peace": Featuring an artist from Sierra Leone ("That's where diamonds and shit come from," says Murph), "Peace" is excellent, thanks to '80s-tinged, tick-tock-clock beats and a Marvin Gaye sample that will be sung by Sleepy Brown in its final incarnation.
"85%": A holdover from his last album, 2003's Murphy's Law, the song features a strong vocal hook from Zoloralé (a.k.a. "Z," who was last seen singing background vocals on The Longest Yard soundtrack). While not his best track, Murph guarantees that no matter what other people think, "that motherfucker will be on the album."
"Baby Girl": An old-school soul slow jam featuring Flirt.
"Wut U Thought": "East St. Louis, holding it down," Murph says of this tune, a late-night slink jam filled with laid-back funk and smoother grooves.
"Sex Shop": Lee says this track is "bananas," and A to Z agrees. A fun romp that would make a killer mashup with Hot Chocolate's sly soul-disco cut "You Sexy Thing," this tune runs circles around 50 Cent's lukewarm "Candy Shop."
"Who Say St. Louis Ain't Hip-Hop": More of a reggae feel but too monotonous to make much of an impression.
"Booty by Da Pound": "I had to do a booty song," says Murph. And unsurprisingly, "Pound" feels like a banging dancefloor-packer, what with its rallying cry, "Ain't no party like a Lunatic party."
"Streetlife": A natural sequel to Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life" thanks to the inclusion of a chorus of children, including Potzee's son and Murph's nieces and nephews "Streetlife" feels cloying and maudlin instead of moving.
"Get Dat Dust": Sadly, not an ode to cleaning, but a catchy song with a trip-hop beat featuring Young Tru and King Jacob.
"My Nite": A midnight-hued tune featuring beats from Pi Productions.
"Bounce Wit It": Murph notes his record label liked this track a lot. With a bouncy, trampoline-like beat and a super-catchy chorus ("Bounce wit it/You could buy a house wit it"), A to Z sees why and agrees 100 percent.
"Get Yo Ass Up": A fun, minimal track that could be a cousin to Nelly's "Country Grammar" in style, this groove made A to Z want to throw her hands in the air.
"La La La": More reggae flavor, on a grinding, dirty song that's perfect for a debauched night.
Speaking of the Improv, now that it's holding musical events, A to Z wholeheartedly recommends you go and check out DJ Needles' Tuesday night "Soul Sessions," featuring old-school soul and R&B. Best of all, it's free!
A to Z was hanging out at Phat Buddha studio the other night and heard a cut by native U-City rapper Kat. We were mighty impressed: Fierce femme flow and a distinctive voice make her an artist to keep an eye on. We also hear that the smooth-as-silk R&B quartet 4th Down seen last summer singing a cappella on the Loop's sidewalks are garnering some serious attention from a major label. Watch this space for details.