On 3:16 Murs is alternately confessional, contradictory and confrontational. "And This Is For" finds him taking on racism within the hip-hop community: "What's the reason that my album doesn't sell like his?/ Don't front like you don't know why the hell that is." And while many modern MCs flaunt their contradictions, Murs revels in paradox more than most: On "The Pain" he confesses his shortcomings with the ladies, admitting that he's "more Coldplay than Ice-T"; while on "Freak These Tales" he comes "off tour and got some stories to tell," namely of groupies. Still, Murs seems genuine despite the apparent inconsistencies, and his rarely wavering flow and throwback style -- which favors emotional and narrative nuances over acrobatic linguistics and enunciation -- are compelling.
9th Wonder's production occupies the sweet spot between DJ Premier's chopped-up technique and Pete Rock's fuller soul loops, although on 3:16 he seems to increasingly drift toward the former. The hard drums and shivering atmospherics of "The Animal" sound cold and looming, while "H-U-S-T-L-E" and "Walk Like a Man" swagger with a delicious funk step. Most important, 9th's production perfectly matches his MC's technique, and Murs' sinner/saint pose even bears a close resemblance to DJ Premier's Gang Starr partner, Guru. Truth be told, 9th and Murs are the equivalent of hip-hop comfort food: familiar and easily digestible. But 3:16 is evidence that old formulas still work.
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