EVEN THOUGH THE entire theme of Slug‘s and MURS‘s albums as hip-hop duo Felt is whether they can sleep with the girls they dedicate their records to, the wonderfulness of their latest — “Felt 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez” — makes it really hard to resent their misogyny.
With 21 tracks, production from Aesop Rock and a plethora of memorable lines from Slug (half of the well-known independent hip-hop group Atmosphere) and MURS (whose acronym name stands for “Making Underground Raw Shit”), “Felt 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez” is a fitting follow-up to Felt’s previous two albums, which were dedicated to Christina Ricci (2002) and to Lisa Bonet (2006).
And although Rosie Perez is rarely mentioned on this third volume — in fact, there are songs named after Kevin Spacey and Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman to most of you), but none for her — Slug and MURS must totally revere the “Do the Right Thing” actress, because this album is an amazing love letter.
Things start off with “Protagonists,” which serves as an accurate introduction to both Aesop Rock’s bizarrely eclectic production style (if you’ve heard his wordy, stream-of-consciousness rhymes, you can tell that touch applies to his production as well) and Slug’s and MURS’ no-holds-barred rhymes. MURS serves as the egotistical one this time around — “Your favorite group that wasn’t even a group to start,” “Everything you love about rap in one disc” and “We can still break your whole crew off with one sentence” are just some of his boasts — while Slug handles chorus duties, half-singing, half-rapping about how “I keep it civil, but right now / I wanna kick in your teeth.”
And MURS doesn’t just keep his slams to celebrities: Throughout the album, some of his best lines come from picking apart social groups or trends. On “Felt Chewed Up,” it’s hipsters (he’s watching “the hipsters hop to the next thing / Fad to fad, so depressing / Been around for years? / That don’t impress me”), while on “Bass for Your Truck,” it’s fake girls (“You date losers because they make you feel superior”). If you exist, chances are MURS has got something — probably critical — to say about you: As he claims on “Like You,” “I’m not perfect, but I can still diss you.”
On the other side of the coin, though, Slug employs his narrative style to spread optimistic lyrics (used so well on tracks like Chicago rapper Vakill‘s “Fallen“) that counter MURS’. On “Like You,” while MURS raps about how “it only takes one bullet to twist your fate,” Slug responds with, “Well, maybe I’m here just to love my life, gotta get up, get out and do something, right?” And the two work together fantastically on the album’s storytelling tracks, like “Permanent Standby,” where they trade verses about a woman’s descent into drug addiction and prostitution — “Where do you go when the blow’s not free no more?” MURS asks, then Slug elaborates: “Everybody loves her, is she sure? / I guess that all depends on who she drop them panties for.” It’s not as depressing as Immortal Technique‘s “You Never Know” or “Dance with the Devil,” but it works nevertheless.
The album’s best track, though, is “Ghost Dance Deluxe,” a ghost story Slug and MURS weave about the imaginary women — or “fantasy phantom,” as MURS puts it — they’re in love with. Supported by Aesop Rock’s eerily looping beat (complete with lots of other-worldly echoes, reverb and horns), the two describe how they’ve spent their lives chasing imaginary girls that only they can see. It’s MURS’ bluntness that works best — “Forget material girls / I need a paranormal chick from an ethereal world” and “Passing up the real deal, waiting on an apparition / One day soon, I’ll get it together / Because I can’t leave this night-light on forever” — while Slug’s unfailing hopefulness again succeeds — “It ain’t paranoia, man, I swear!” he insists.
Overall, Rosie Perez should be totally flattered — “Felt 3” is another stellar album from two of underground hip-hop’s best lyricists, and whether they’re rapping about their sexual prowess (“We the kings of fucking your queens up,” Slug says smugly) or tearing apart the competition (“While these fiends on the scene do nothing / We do damage, and make it mean something,” MURS spits on “Revisiting the Styleetron”), they’ve put together one of the best hip-hop collections this year.
» Stream “Felt 3” in its entirety here.
Written by Express contributor Roxana Hadadi
Photo courtesy Dan Monick