MUSIC BOX: Intelligent, heady hip-hop

By on January 14, 2014
Underground hip-hop heavyweight MURS takes the stage Sunday at Town Square Tavern.
Underground hip-hop heavyweight MURS takes the stage Sunday at Town Square Tavern.

Underground hip-hop heavyweight MURS takes the stage Sunday at Town Square Tavern.

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Besides DJs spinning hip-hop, there’s not a lot of rapping going down at Town Square Tavern—especially not the level of talent that will arrive with MURS and his crew. Thirty-five-year-old Nick Carter, a.k.a. MURS, is an underground L.A. rapper who takes a more thoughtful approach to hip-hop and lyricism than his gangsta counterparts. As a teenager, he hustled his music hand-to-hand on the streets for rent, leading to a stage name that is an acronym with multiple meanings, including “Making the Universe Recognize and Submit” and “Making Underground Raw Shit.”

A zoomed-out look at MURS’s recording career since 1997 is one of ambition and range, spanning nine solo albums including one on the Warner Bros. label, as a member of hip-hop groups Living Legends, Melancholy Gypsys, Felt, and Melrose; as well as a stint as lead vocalist of rock-rap super group The Invincibles. An emotional realist, he often shuns the hip-hop gun culture in favor of insightful dialogue about the streets. He also has choice words for his rapper peers.

“It’s phenomenal the amount of rappers who don’t read books,” MURS told The Smoking Section last August. “If you don’t read, you can’t write. There’s a bunch of people writing, but they are not developing their intellect. Hip-hop has been an adolescent art form for 30 years, and that’s unacceptable. I’d like for rappers to have a sense of responsibility and grow up.”

MURS’s tours are known to be as varied as his recording career. He has grown a dependable reputation not only for delivering fresh shows with the occasional scissor kick and high-energy friendly crowd interactions, but also for bringing different collaborators out on the road with him.

MURS, 9:30 p.m., Sunday, at Town Square Tavern. $18 advance; $20 day-of-show.; 733-3886.

T Bird & The Breaks

T Bird & The Breaks

Big band Austin soul
Austin, Texas, nine-piece T Bird and The Breaks were one of the highlights of my South by Southwest Festival a few years back. The bread-and-butter, horn-laced dance sounds of retro soul and funk from the late 60s and early 70s (think Stax) is only one side of this band’s split personality. Add lyrical influences such as Beck and Dylan, the positivity of golden-age hip-hop, and an edge of flare that beckons a visit to the country’s “Live Music Capitol.”

This is a throwback show for the Mangy Moose to an era in the mid 2000s when bands like Vinyl, Carlos Washington & Giant People, Soulive, and Medeski Martin and Wood made regular stops to a packed house. T Bird and The Breaks will release its third studio album, What It Is (Harmonism), this year.

T Bird & The Breaks, 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, at the Mangy Moose in Teton Village. $10 advance, $12 day-of-show at

Natural Child

Natural Child

Rowdy country-rock double-bill
Roll it up, drink it down, trip it out, snort it up, Natural Child is comfortable in a distinction as the sleaziest of Nashville’s garage rock scene, and an affection for singing about drugs. Spinning the trio’s upcoming release on Feb. 25, Dancin’ with Wolves, there’s an equal representation of rock, country and blues in the realm of The Rolling Stones, JJ Cale and Waylon Jennings, all easily fitting in an early 70s vibe that brings to mind Canned Heat. There is plenty of comedy in what they do and their music is not over-produced.

Billed with another party band that are no strangers to getting hammered and rowdy on the Tavern stage, it would be a charming quality for the drunken swagger of Futurebirds to sound as genuine and focused as its albums. Bringing a psychedelic, reverbed approach to country rock, this talented six-piece brings over-the-top energy.

Futurebirds with Natural Child, 9:30 p.m., Tuesday, at Town Square Tavern. $15., 733-3886.

About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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