Of hip-hop’s most beautifullest vocabulist, there is no mystery. With his second album ENIGMA, Keith Murray continues to deliver pure rhyme ingenuity. Armed with an extensive and eccentric vocabulary, sandpapery vocal chords and an edgy attitude, Murray exploded on the hip- hop scene with his Gold-certified debut disc The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World. Catapulted by the LP’s dual smashes–the lead single title cut and its follow-up “Get Lifted”–Keith rapidly established himself as one of hip-hop’s most distinctive voices under the sure-handed tutelage and guidance of fellow Def Squad lyrical sharpshooter, Redman, and producer extraordinaire, Erick Sermon. On his sophomore effort, Keith assuredly brings his battle-ready word-warrior ways to new echelons of creativity, wielding both his trademark complex and straightforward rhymes that exhibit an added sense of originality, humor and maturity.
“Enigma,” Keith explains of the album’s title, “it’s like you understand what I’m saying and you get the message, but it’s not so easily figured out and you don’t really know what’s gonna come out of my mouth next. My whole album is just based on puns and metaphors and everyday life situations where I’m just keeping you on the edge of your seat, listening and on point.” Enigma suffers from no lack of attention-grabbers. While the uncut funk of his debut displayed Keith as a talented disciple of EPMD-style ruckus, Enigma-tic selections like “Yeah” (featuring the E Double, Redman, Jamal and Busta Rhymes), and the first single, “The Rhyme,” are characterized by head-nodding rhythms and ringing melodies that expertly complement the intensity of Mr. Murray’s aggressive delivery.
On “The Rhyme” in particular, Erick Sermon’s smooth Frankie Beverly-inspired (“Before I Let Go”) track provides infectious and uncluttered support for Keith’s exploration into nuances of lyrical bliss. “The Rhyme” captivates ears with the same instantly recognizable ease of “The Most Beautifullest Thing In This World.”
The most beautifullest vocabulist
Be punching phoney MC’s dead in they esophagus
My analysis is rougher than calluses
You better practice if you wanna challenge this
“E just got looser with the beats,” Keith confirms, “because E and I were feeling each other out on the first album. With the second album, he made beats that I could express myself on clearer. Last year you were eagerly listening, bobbing your head. Now you can just swing.”
As a year of acclaimed, high-profile guest appearances on hits such as LL Cool J’s “I Shot Ya,” Mary J. Blige’s “Be Happy,” Boyz II Men’s “Vibin'” and Total’s “Can’t You See” remix has proven, Keith’s sophisticated, yet no-nonsense vocal ferocity continues to garner admirers, the significance of which is not lost on Keith himself.
“Being on remixes gave me confidence,” he says. “The fact that I could get on a record with anybody no matter who they are, and the world will love me for what I have to say, made me headstrong.” Keith’s distinctive voice was even used in a national campaign for Coca-Cola.
Appropriately enough, Enigma’s new and improved dosage of Murray madness merits an updated identity befitting his fresh creative stance. While in 1994, Keith announced his arrival as the “Nocturnal Fly Colonel,” in 1996 he fortifies his standing in the artform he loves as “The Lyrical Lexicon.”
“‘The Lyrical Lexicon’ is basically just my whole situation: I live and die for lyrics. I just perfected lyrics–perfected it to its highest peak right now, until I touch the mic again. If it ain’t lyrics it ain’t shit.”