Upstaging a microphone fiend as charismatic as Atmosphere's Slug is no easy task. But on "The Two," the wittiest piece of metacommentary indie hip-hop has yet produced, Murs (of LA rap clique Living Legends) effortlessly steals the spotlight from his Minneapolis collaborator. That song, the highlight of the recent Murs and Slug Present Felt: A Tribute to Christina Ricci (Access Hip Hop/Rhymesayers Entertainment), is a comic narrative in which the duo rescues the world from mainstream-rap supervillains, only to end up back at their old record-store jobs, broke. "We saved the world, brought joy to the masses / But we couldn't save ourselves from the government and taxes," Murs raps, sounding less self-pitying than simply resigned to his fate as an underappreciated talent. That fate may not be inevitable, though--The End of the Beginning, his first album for the celebrated New York label Definitive Jux, seems likely to earn Murs more national attention. He can rhyme as fast as just about anyone, but even when he's rat-a-tatting like a tommy gun on the supercompressed verses of "The Dance," his flow never feels as rushed as, say, Talib Kweli's. And though "Last Night" (whose title phrase is finished by "I almost got shot on my block") underscores his disdain for hip-hop's glorification of violence, he knows how to lighten up--in the goofy "Risky Business" Murs throws a freaky party while his parents are away on vacation, and Digital Underground's Shock-G and Humpty Hump are invited. Friday, February 28, 6 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton; 773-975-0505.

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