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Keith Murray should have been a great rapper. All of the pieces were in place. After being taken under the wing of EPMD lieutenant and competent producer Erick Sermon, Murray issued his first single, “The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World,” a catchy radio hit. His status as the third member of Sermon’s Def Squad supergroup and reputation as Redman’s raspy-voiced sidekick have given him more than enough exposure. Such stellar affiliation is the main reason that, after two mediocre albums, we can still manage to be disappointed by Murray’s third. It’s a Beautiful Thing is far from beautiful. Were it a blind date, one might say it had a “nice personality.” Sermon’s production thumps just as tightly as it does on Redman’s recent release, but without Red’s hyperkinetic delivery, the songs grind along. Murray’s greatest obstacle is his lyricism. The self-dubbed “Lyrical Lexicon” has made a gimmick of using polysyllabic words without knowing their meanings. The results are mostly annoying, but frequently embarrassing, like this verse from “When I Rap”: “The scene, I scope it/First, because I’m homophobic/And then I rope-a-dope it.” Murray just doesn’t make sense, verbally or conceptually. On “Secret Indictment,” he rails against police for falsely arresting him—immediately after he has

sold drugs to an informer. Trouble with the law is a reccurring theme on Beautiful, and no wonder: Murray is currently serving three to five years in prison for assault. Tupac and Snoop both got a lot of celebrity mileage out of real-life turbulence, but they could at least tell it well. I don’t think even jail time is going to do it for Keith.

;Neil Drumming