If you've been a fan of Christian hip-hop for any length of time, then you've likely never heard of Dre Murray. That doesn't mean you haven't heard him, though. He's added his lyrical flow to sick albums as Lil' Dre's "The Prelude Mixtape," Cam's "The Platform," and K-Drama's "BoomBaptism." Now, Murray flexes his muscles on his full-length debut, "Manumit."
For those of you wondering about the album's title, "Manumit" is not some odd play on words. According to Merriam-Webster, to manumit means "to release from slavery." And that is exactly what this album is about. Murray's entire album communicates the idea that Jesus frees his children from spiritual, social, and emotional bondage.
The album is heavily influenced by jazz and R&B, so much of the project is on the slower side. That will make it a hard sell for those who like the bombastic, hardcore rap that seems to be the bread and butter of the current hip-hop scene, even the Christian hip-hop scene. Murray makes it work for him, though. Rather than take the easy road out and try to craft an underground sound that can get away with this kind of vibe, he works his own instrumental magic, blending the genres and adding his own voice to the mix to create a singular sound. He's good at taking his time and delivering a quality product with a quantitative message.
Title track "Manumit" leads off the album and sets the overall pace for the album and is reminiscent of old skool Dr. Dre. A light bass line, electric guitar line, and high hat mixed with Murray's leisurely lyrical flow makes this a rather easy-going number.
"Say What I Feel" follows and kicks things up a little bit but, for the most part, continues the slower trend, ala Kanye West. There is a good dose of high hat and saxophone here.
"Introduce" is Murray's personal plea to men running the streets thinking they will find purpose and success. His cry is to those "chasin' the dollar bills" and lets them know that "chasin' the dollar kills." And I need to emphasize the personal side of this track. It almost feels like he is writing a letter to a friend he doesn't want to see go down the wrong path. Instead, he wishes to introduce them to Christ.
"Get Down" is a bit more upbeat and celebratory. This is one that you can put the top down and creep down the neighborhood street, all the while filling the air with lyrical knowledge. Fedel guests.
"Farmers" features Cam and speaks of the Christian's duty to plant spiritual seeds in the lives of unbelievers. It's not the most modern picture, but it is the exact picture that Jesus painted to an agrarian society. With Cam getting the production credit (this track also appears on Cam's "The Platform" album), the beat is tight and slick. His crooning over the chorus "We pray, we read, then we hit the field and sow seeds " works well with Murray's straight-forward message about the difficulty of evangelism in the hood.
"Still Cleaning Remix" closes out the album and it just does not fit. It's a rock/rap hybrid that is cool on its own merits. But, it definitely breaks the continuity of the album itself. It's not as hard as Jay-Z and Linkin Park, the KJ-52/Todd Collins "Soul Purpose" project, or the 116 "Amped" release, but it's harder than the rest of the album itself. In my opinion, this is a difficult ending for an otherwise decent album.
"Manumit" is a quality effort from a quality emcee. Listeners should expect a lot from this artist in the future. He's got great lyrical and production sensibilities that separate him from a lot of new faces on the Christian hip-hop scene. It's not a perfect album and won't appeal to those who always want to keep it funky fresh and crunk. But, it will appeal to those looking for a little maturity in their sound.
Label: Church Boy Entertainment
Release Date: March 18 2008
2. Say What I Feel
3. Interlude Message of Fedelity
4. My Lane
5. Me Got
7. Get Down feat. Fedel
8. Let's Chill
9. Head Up
10. I Cry
11. Farmers feat. Cam
12. More Than Life
13. Still Cleaning Remix feat. Cam & Emcee One