Introducing ‘Notes from Mr. Sandman‘ – a column slapping a spotlight on lyricists overlooked, under appreciated, or just plain criminally slept on. Or like a man named Nas once said, “I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.” Enter Mr. Sandman with what y’all missed while chasing the REM dragon; Photo: N/A

Lyricists like Keith Murray are a rare breed, he’s the type of rapper who pursued his craft with uncompromising vision and backbone.

His voice projects with ironclad determination, forged in the fires of the unforgiving New York rap scene. Distinct and formidable, Keith Murray rose to notoriety during the golden-era, and the way in which he carried himself made him a living legend; no need for a moniker because he was able to confidently stand on the bricks of his own name.

Keith Murray is widely recognized for his contributions to Def Squad, but his solo work is where one can truly appreciate his lyrical acumen. His solo debut The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World is an underrated gem. It was released in ’94, the same year that Illmatic, Ready to Die and Tical dropped so it wasn’t a surprise that it got overlooked. But heads knew that it was a project that contained as much heart as it did wit.

The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World has all the elements of a classic album: polished lyricism, dusty breaks, and stealthy charisma. There was an urgency in his voice, and a youthful vigor that captured New York’s vibrant rap scene. Instead of running from his roots and reinventing himself for the public, he embraced the beautiful struggle and the strength needed to survive in the rap jungle.

The title cut to the album has Murray doing lyrical calisthenics. His wordplay is magic, and his vocab shines; still one of his strongest suits: [LISTEN]

In addition to being a master juggler, Keith Murray also knows how to tell a story. His attention to detail is only matched by the musical quality of his voice. Even when he’s being conversational he’s able to ride his natural vocal tones, creating a vivid atmosphere that envelopes the senses and takes you to the heart of his narrative. He’s utilized multiple styles; run-and-gun one moment, and half-court offense the next. That adaptability is what has sustained him for over a decade.

Keith Murray’s sophomore album It’s a Beautiful Thing is another well executed self-portrait. He captured his life with ambitious strokes, exuding confidence without a lick of self-consciousness. From the streets to the limelight he’s always stayed true to his roots, a lyricist who let his experiences speak for itself.

Life on the Street” is a snapshot of his rise to stardom. He went from living life on the edge to rocking stages worldwide alongside some of the freshest lyricists in the game. His comrade Erik Sermon flipped The Crusaders‘ “Street Life” creating a funky fresh pulpit for Kieth Murray to speak his piece: [LISTEN]

Keith Murray is the John Starks of rap. A determined fan favorite who rose from obscurity to reach the highest level of competition. And much like Starks he may not be a first ballot hall-of-famer, but he is a competitor who changed the game with his tenacious style of play.

Every time Keith Murray picked up the mike he brought thunder and lightening, and just when you thought you could predict where he was going next he’d hit you with the type of sage wisdom that can only come from years of colossal failures and glorious triumphs. He’s a relentless lyricist who gave everything he had, no filter necessary.