Murphy Lee

Murphy's Law (Universal)

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A plea for sanity: Rappers, you must shorten your albums. Yes, a CD is capable of holding over seventy minutes of music. That doesn't mean it should. The idea isn't to put every damn thing you recorded since your last album on your new one. A filler-crammed 70-minute disc isn't a better value than a drumskin-tight 35-minute album. In vinyl's heyday, a 60-minute album such as Exile on Main St. was considered a risky, sprawling opus. Today, a 60-minute album means a rapper still has twelve minutes to squeeze in remixes by his cousin.

Legend has it that the length of a CD was determined so a disc could hold the entirety of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Beethoven, Murphy Lee ain't. He is, however, a charming, clever rapper with the energy and hooks to create catchy radio singles and keep commercial hip-hop focused on St. Louis. If you've read this far, you've heard the lynchpin of Murphy's Law, "Shake Ya Tailfeather," in which Murph holds his own against Nelly (and of course blows P. Diddy away, but you could do that). "Wat da Hook Gon Be" features some of Jermaine Dupri's best production in years and a swaggering Murphy Lee moving into the spotlight. It works, as does "Luv Me Baby," another polished club track.

There are other, less obvious jewels on the album. "Red Hot Riplets" rightly glorifies St. Louis's greatest potato chips (and features a strong verse from Nelly), and the album closing "Same Ol' Dirty" features the long-missed St. Louis chanteuse Toya. "Cool Wit It" is the rare St. Lunatics non-anthem that works, an ode to each other and their world that rides low on its groove and satisfies by not trying too hard.

But oh, the filler. The above songs take up about one third of the disc, leaving around forty minutes to fill with meandering skits and middling tracks. Nothing on the album is awful (although "Murphy Lee," with a chorus using the melody from Marvin Gaye's "Mercy, Mercy Me" to sing "Murphy, Murphy Lee" is pretty bad). But the album is exhausting when it should be exhilarating. Lee isn't the first, nor will he be the last, artist to put out an overlong album -- it's just that his potential to put out a classic record makes the mediocrity sting a little more.

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