Last week I had the pleasure of linking up with West Coast underground legend Murs. Recently signing with Strange Music, Murs has now teamed forces with Kansas City’s independent heavyweight Tech N9ne. Being first featured on Tech’s Strangulation album, Murs then followed up with the release of MursDay, his first full album in collaboration with fellow Strange Music comrades Mayday!, meshing production and live instrumentation creating a high abundance of personality. Currently on the MursDay Tour, he is set to release his second album under the label later this spring/early summer with the working title Love and Rockets Volume 2.
For Murs, music has been a fixation of his from a young age. Before becoming a rapper, he initially wanted to pursue a career as an A&R, which has now led to his involvement in curating music festivals: “I would read The Source and scour it for who is unsigned hype and who is getting 4 mics - I was obsessed,” says Murs, “Now with Paid Dues it gave me the opportunity to be like, ‘Oh, I heard about these dope dudes, and I can give them a platform at which they can showcase their talent and build from there.'” Read more in our recent conversation below about what inspired Murs to evolve his involvement in the music industry, the definition of hip-hop, and how he’s truly paid dues to the music culture.
“That’s the problem of the world - people think you’re so different and it’s so stupid. We all want to be happy, we all like to have a good time. Whether you’re black, white, straight, gay, Republican or Democrat. I got people that think Hip-Hop is all about rap. There’s DJs, breakers, writers. Companies like The Hundreds - to me that’s Hip-Hop - a new version and format. Bloggers are like graffiti writers, you’re trying to get your shit up.”
MATT HASSOUN: So for those who may not know who Murs is, let our readers know a little bit about yourself.
MURS: Man, I’m a California kid. I’m a dad - my wife and I adopted two kids. I was born at Cedars Sinai hospital, March 16, and since then just trying to figure it all out. One day the “Murs” name just kinda came to me. I really wish I could say from where. There’s a theory and I’ve made up stories [laughs] but really it just kinda came to me like a very clear message from the ether of the universe.
What got you into rapping? When was your first time actually making music?
I first started freestyling when I was living in Lynwood with my step-brother - his friends were always rapping, they would punch me and beat me up and be like, “If you don’t rap we’re gonna beat you up!” So my brother would make me rap with his friends [laughs], then from there, trying to like change the lyrics to LL Cool J songs and make them my own [laughs]. That’s around when Eazy-E came out and he was from Compton, and Lynwood is right next to Compton. And so to hear somebody from Compton on the radio, it was like “Mannn, are you serious?” He was talking ’bout shit we knew about. Crackheads and 8 balls, we knew all that ’cause that’s where we were living. He was one of the OGs I looked up to, but he was on a record, so it was super inspiring. Even though they were talking about the wrong shit, just to see someone from [your] area getting paid and on TV… Even subliminally, it just let’s you know that you can do it.
You’ve been making music for quite some time now, I remember listening to you in high school. [When] was the first time Murs dropped a project or tape?
Pshhh, man, I was literally doing mix tapes and DJing with my home boy Belief since high school! I tried to sell some to Triple Five Soul - I think her name was Carmela, but she was the one that told me like, “Yo, you should put some rapping on here,” and I was like, “Coo, this is a slick way for me and all my friends to make people listen because I used to get all the new Method Man records and all that. I was interning when I was 14 for all these labels, working the guest list at Unity and all these places. Before Loud even started, I was doing street team stuff for Jive - and then Loud started and I was doing stuff for them. I just wanted to be around Hip-Hop. So I used to get all the records early so if you wanted to hear that new Method Man, I was like, coo, I’d put all my homies rappin’ at the front. That was my first time rappin’ on mix tapes. That was back in 92′, 93′ and then from there I put out my first album and went on my first tour in Europe around ’96. I had just turned 18 and Mystik Journeymen gave me a chance to go to Europe and go on tour, so I had to make a tape which I later named Commercial. I had to use songs from my homeboy himself because I didn’t have enough solo songs to make a whole album [laughs]. I made 100 of them and I took them to Europe and when I landed, I had 28 dollars in my pocket and we were there for 3 weeks. I had to sell all of my tapes in order to eat. We were sleeping on floors, abandoned buildings type shit. We did Japan like that, we did Austrailia like that. We just thugged our way on to different shows [laughs].
For past couple years, you’ve been curating events and festivals, did Paid Dues spark that?
Funny enough, the guy I’m working on my new album with, Belief - Jesse - we did a show at a church basement in Slauson called “The Main Event.” That was the first thing I ever threw in high school. As I moved to the Bay, I started doing things with Living Legends and Mystik Journeymen had a thing called “Broke Ass Summer Jam” and that was an inspiration. And then Slug from Atmosphere took me on Warped Tour as his hype man and that was it. I met Chang Weisberg from Guerilla Union and I told him I got this idea, “You can take it, just make sure you book me and the homies.” And he was like, “Nah, I’m going to show you how to do it yourself.” So he and I built Paid Dues from the ground up. We definitely modeled it after Rock The Bells and I tried to add my influence from Broke Ass Summer Jam and Warped Tour too and went from there.
Before I became a rapper, I wanted to be an A&R. I was always the kid at school that had the Kriss Kross tape first and had Das EFX first. I knew everything. I would read The Source and scour it for who is unsigned hype and who is getting 4 mics - I was obsessed. Now with Paid Dues it gave me the opportunity to be like, “Oh, I heard about these dope dudes - Kendrick Lamar, Black Hippy, Dom Kennedy, Casey Veggies - and I can give them a platform at which they can showcase their talent and build from there.” Not that it was essential in anybody’s success, but it helps create a scene.
Unity was an inspiration for me because when I was 14-15 this dude Bigga B, rest in peace - and the homie Orlando used to throw these Unities and I saw Wu-Tang at 1210 Hope Street Downtown LA. I was 15 years old, G, it was amazing, man. And then they did an in-store. People were smoking weed, we were smoking beedies, we were dancing, there was girls - then we watched Wu-Tang! We didn’t just stand in front of a stage and wait and wait and wait. And that’s what I did with Paid Dues, you can go buy a beer, you can go buy a T-shirt, you can go walk around. I put people on different stages and break it up so you have to walk around, you have to bump into somebody, you building friendships. It was something I did for the scene and not just for me.
Bringing the first Hip-Hop installment - is that what you were intending to deliver to SSMF?
Yeah, they gave me a chance and called me out of nowhere. The homegirl Clair that works there and Nick, they’re big supporters of Hip-Hop and they were just like, “Without Paid Dues and without Rock The Bells there’s nothing. These kids need something, we need something and we’d love for you to come in and do something.” They pretty much said I can do what I want and they had great suggestions as well. I got Riff-Raff, DJ Quik, Bun-B, Killer Mike, POS, Noa James, Curtiss King just mixing it all up. And that’s what I love to do. That’s the problem of the world - people think you’re so different and it’s so stupid. We all want to be happy, we all like to have a good time. Whether you’re black, white, straight, gay, Republican or Democrat. I got people that think Hip-Hop is all about rap. There’s DJs, breakers, writers. Companies like The Hundreds - to me that’s Hip-Hop - a new version and format. Bloggers are like graffiti writers, you’re trying to get your shit up. It’s like being all city. You have a blog your getting people to pay attention to your content in a creative manner. It’s about getting recognition and refining your skills.
You’re currently signed to Strange, Tech N9ne’s label. How did that come about?
I’ve been a fan of Tech for a while and I called Strange to try and get Tech on Paid Dues and they said you should come out and visit. I was like, “Nah, it’s coo. You can just show up to the show, I don’t need to come out [laughs] and he’s like, “No, you need to come out and see what we got going on.” So I went and saw the offices and I’m like, “HOLY SHIT!” [Laughs] And they used the opportunity to present me with an opportunity. One of the first artists to ever be like “Yo, okay you did this for me, let me do this for you.” He took me on tour with him and paid me well. I was like, “Fuck man, that’s solid.”
Through me bringing him on Paid Dues, he was able to do Rock The Bells. I put him on a higher level because once you see Tech, you know it’s going to be amazing and you want to be a part of it. So I helped him a little and he helped me a little and that rarely happens in rap. When someone gives back and it’s not all egotistical. No matter who’s opening for Tech at the end of his shows, he performs “I’m a Playa” and he brings EVERYBODY back out on stage. He’s shares these moments with people. I’ve always dug that vibe and they’ve always paid me what they said they would pay me, they always showed up and went above and beyond, so when it was time for me to have a new home to record, there’s no better place.
What can we forward to with Strange Music and Murs?
I got a solo album coming out this spring/early summer. I don’t know what I want to call it. Working title is called Love and Rockets 2, but I think that’ll change. I’m working with my friend Jesse from Hamilton High, West LA. He’s did a lot of stuff on End of the Beginning for me and a lot of my underground stuff growing up. Now he’s doing a lot more pop music and now he’s coming back to his roots - well our roots, because his mother knows my mother, so it’s all family. I’ve never really found my sound, but with him I’ve definitely got a sound - it’s something new and it’s innovative. I’m not going to blast him out, but he’s been working with a lot of big names. And he’s ready to do something organic and he knows my story. This will be the first album that actually sounds like me.
Is there going to be any touring coming up ? Any events to look forward to?
Yeah, I’m headed out on the MursDay tour now. I just put out a album called MursDay with Mayday, the group from Miami, and we’re going out to tour that from October 28th to December 14th, so we’ll be out for 40-50 days promoting that. And then, top of the year, the album will be out - going to tour in Europe and tour in the States with Tech N9ne in April and May. It’s gonna be a huge tour if it works out. I can’t spill any beans, but it’ll be a massive tour. I got a show coming up at the Hob in Anaheim the 26th then The Roxy on the 27th. [I’m] always doing something after Christmas just for the hometown crowd. And of course, Camp Flog Gnaw will be dope - Grouch, Eligh, Murs. It’ll be the first time ever we do a set together - just us 3 together, we’ve never done that. We’ve been working on new songs so it’ll be something special. Maybe Rick Ross will let me touch his stomach for good luck! [laughs]