One listen to “Black Fire” makes clear Brian Michael Murphy’s profound poetic gifts and love for life. Integrated perfectly with Murphy’s words is music that is as much influenced by DJ Premier and 9th Wonder as it is by The Beach Boys and Bjork. Production includes work by up-and-coming beatsmiths K81 and Rare Kommodity, as well as multi-instrumentalists Seth Earnest and Dav Julca, Jonathan “Echo” Julca, and Murphy himself. “Black Fire” is truly an album for the 21st century, hip hop for those who love beats and rhymes but not the stagnated patterns and rhyme schemes that define the bulk of the genre. This album is for anyone who loves music no matter the category, as long as it’s good and you can play it again and again and again, like an old cassette you used to just keep flipping over in the deck.
The title track “Black Fire” is an account of Murphy’s mystical trip to Heaven, where everything is not bathed in light, but in total darkness. Amidst the wonders he encounters in Paradise, he has revealing conversations with the spirits of his grandfathers—one white, one black. Add to this tale recollections of growing up a biracial hip hop head in small-town Ohio (“Represent”), a scathing critique of violence in American culture (“The Nacirema”), a whirlwind tour through Murphy’s extensive travels from Mexico to Morocco (“Places I’ve Been”), and a heartbreaking love story rapped in Spanish (“La Rica Ladrona”), and you have a well-rounded album as personal and provocative as good café conversation.
“Black Fire” is extremely human music: songs of intelligence and lost innocence, pain and forgiveness, anger and serenity, and, above all else, love. It is this love—for life, music, and people—that ultimately sets Murphy apart from his contemporaries, and makes “Black Fire” an album that will continue to move us for years to come.