Listen Up. Wiser & Mature, Rapper Murs Has Something To Say
California bred rapper Murs has been making a name for himself in the industry since the late 90’s. Having etched his own lane in music, Murs wasn’t gangsta enough to be with the gangsta rappers of the West Coast, but he also wasn’t seen as one of the deep rappers that would fit with the backpackers. Murs broke through the industry doors when he signed a major deal with Warner Bros. in 2008 but after the situation fell apart after just one album, the rapper found himself right back on the independent artist grind. A few collaboration projects later (with Fashawn, ¡Mayday!, & 9th Wonder, though there have been several between the two throughout Murs career) Murs has signed with Strange Music, the home of one of the most successful independent artists of all time, Tech N9ne. His latest release, Have A Nice Life, is officially his 9th solo release, one he’s calling his definitive solo album.
Have A Nice Life finds Murs partnered with his longtime friend, producer Jessie Shatkin who produced “Chandelier” for Sia in addition to working with Kelly Clarkson, P!nk, Ricky Martin & Katy Perry as an engineer and a producer. Murs, now 37 years old, admits that more than ever he has true content to offer, as the years of grinding and living haven’t only brought forth increased age, but also increased knowledge, wisdom, 5 years of marriage, and so much more in terms of experience that he’s able to impart through music.
We caught up with Murs while he was in New York City to talk about the new album, Have A Nice Life among other things. Besides bonding over our mutual love/loathe relationship with the Knicks, and sympathizing with him for his love of the Jacksonville Jaguars, we talked a lot of music. What’s clear, Murs has something to say. Listen up.
Parlé Magazine: You been in the industry a long time man, since ’97 for those that don’t know. What makes you still passionate about it? What makes you still want to do it?
Murs: I don’t want to sound like no cliché or nothing but I genuinely love Hip-Hop man. Love it, love it, love it. So I never wanted to stop. It’s funny because I always thought it would be an age thing. Like you reach a certain age and you have to stop, but now with cats like Tech, Chuck D and a lot of my favorite rappers they’re still doing it so I might be here for a while. I’m still excited about it, if I wasn’t excited about it I wouldn’t be standing here.
Parlé: The new project, Have A Nice Life, it’s your definitive solo album, that’s what your calling it. First of all, in your mind what is a definitive album?
Murs: It’s finally having a sound sonically that matches me. I’ve always been very autobiographical, very me, but I feel like with 9th Wonder and all the producers I’ve worked with, it’s not really me. I’m a West Coast kid, grew up on Warren G, G Funk but I’m also Wu Tang and Boot Camp. So my producer for this album is one of my good friends, my best friend growing up. Jessie Shatkin, we DJed together since we were 14, so he knows sonically where I’m coming from and what I’m about. So having him produce me vocally and musically and just us bouncing ideas off each other, I feel like I’m finally home, this is me. Along with the brothers from ¡May Day!, we collaborated on the ¡Murs Day! album and went on tour, we just been in each others lives for so much. I finally feel like I got a group of brothers around me that can musically translate how I feel. And also give me an opportunity to go after a larger fan base with a bigger sound.
Parlé: How difficult is it coming up with original content after all these years?
Murs: I just tell my story, I finally feel like I have something to say. My marriage counselor told us, he’s like a fifty year old brother from Coney Island. He was like, ‘I started Hip-Hop.” I was like, ‘What?’ He was like yeah, he used to have to soak his laces in water and iron them, that’s how fat laces came out. Chuck D was 27 when he started rapping, Melle Mel was older, they had something to rap about. Michael Jackson wasn’t writing songs at 16, Smokey Robinson was. So I feel like Hip-Hop has given a voice to a lot of young cats, that I won’t say they shouldn’t have, but they haven’t been through shit. I’m five years into marriage, adopted 2 kids, buried both my fathers, stepfathers, I been through shit. Multiple relationships, I done seen the world. Plus I feel like I’m a man now. Now I feel like I can really write some songs because I know who I am.
Parlé: I know you mentioned increasing the fan base, but at the same time is there any concern that the growth and the changes in style may also push some of your fan base to the side as well?
Murs: Yeah, I hope so man. You gotta build to destroy man. If I don’t lose any fans than I’m not moving. I hope I lose a little and gain a lot more. But I see people’s comments, they don’t like this or that. But what did Jay-Z say, you don’t like the new stuff, listen to the old album. That’s the best thing about it. Listen to what you do like. I used to just create music for myself, but now I want to be on the radio, I want to win a Grammy. I have a family to feed now, why not take it more seriously?
Parlé: Being able to collaborate with your childhood best friend Jessie again, what was that like?
Murs: It was great, it was like two old friends catching up. He was a white Jewish kid from West L.A. I was from midtown, so kind of the other side of the tracks. Not super bad or anything but different from where he came from. We would go to each others homes, he really changed my outlook, I had never been to a Jewish home, I spent the night. They got the dog running all through the house, his parents were cool with us smoking dope, so it was weird. And seeing how he turned out, he lived in Harlem for a few years, interned at Electric Lady, so catching up was fun. So we literally had to build in an hour to every session, ‘how’s the kids? How’s your sister, how’s your mother?’ You know really catching up on the 15 years we haven’t been involved in each others lives. Every day we would kick it and then be like, aight let’s do a song or what we talked about would turn into a song. It was organic, I liked that. I didn’t have to seek out this Pop producer.
Parlé: You’ve been through just about every stage of a Hip-Hop artists career—independent grind, building that fan base, making it on a major and then rebuilding after a major. Why the decision to sign with Strange Music now? I know you been working with them for a while, but why officially sign?
Murs: When I was deciding I was considering a small independent label that I really like. We tried, and for me to sign to a label knowing what I know about this business, I wasn’t sure. But I believe in Strange and I want to lend them another credible artist so it doesn’t all land on the Tech sound. They could be the next Def Jam or Motown, and they could have a large and broad impact on Hip-Hop. I know they want to succeed, but they have integrity so that matches my mission. Plus they’re honest and good business men. You don’t find that a lot in this business. And they get behind me and support whatever I do creatively.
Parlé: The first single was, “Okey Dog,” why’d you want to lead with that record?
Murs: That song was interesting, it’s based on a real person we know that’s locked up but we were just playing around with it. But when we played it for the A&R, they said it should be the single. I’m glad it became a single because I like to show love to my dog who is sitting up in a cell for another 8 years. He got to see the video, people are talking about him, it made him feel good. It made his family feel good too, his brothers hit me up, so it’s more about that.
Parlé: Coming up out the West Coast as an independent artist, how do you feel about the way the West has progressed?
Murs: Me and Xzibit were always kind of on the left for the West. We’re not super back pack and we’re not super gangsta. Either you were Pharcyde or you were Warren G. I’m kind of both. My brother was very active in the streets growing up, my friends were pretty active. I got bussed to a school where I was with Jewish kids like Jessie, I liked skate boarding. But every night coming home there was a helicopter flying above searching for someone and I’m fighting. Now I know I’m suffering from PTSD. I’m trying to give an adult view of that now. But now there’s a whole bunch of people in that lane. Schoolboy Q is in that lane, Kendrick is in that lane, Tyler the Creator, Dom Kennedy, Casey Veggies. It’s good to know that me and X were on the forefront of that, but I’m also thankful for the younger cats for broadening the lane so I can be me.
Parlé: When folks look at this Have A Nice Life album, what do you want them to get from it?
Murs: Just good vibes man. Music is there to soothe. To me it’s just a soundtrack to life. I want it to be something you play when you meet your girl, when you break up with your girl. I want it to be a part of your life. Ultimately I’m always trying to give another version, my version of the black male perspective in this world. I know that’s a grandiose concept, I know that I’m speaking to a lot of white people so what can I say to them that’s going to expand their view of what a black man is and what our experience is. It’s not all 50, it’s not all Gucci and it’s not all Murs, but I don’t feel like there is enough of that perspective from a grown man with a wife and kids, making grown music and great songs.
Parlé: Let’s talk about a couple tracks for the album, “PTSD” is one of those songs that sticks out just from the title and then when you hear it, and it really sticks out. It’s something not often talked about in Hip-hop, but why was it a subject you wanted to touch on. I know you said it’s something you deal with…
Murs: I feel like a lot of men, especially black men are scared to be vulnerable. And we have a condition, that on a serious note I feel needs to be treated. And people have to understand that this is why we act so strongly when you act a certain way towards us. We are living in a war zone, most of young black youth. For instance, my god daughters father passed away and she got a week off school, no psychologist, no therapy, no help. Seriously she needs someone to talk to, even me I need someone to talk to. It all started one night with someone asking, ‘dude can I be on stage taking pictures’ and I’m like I can’t have that. Afro-man was an extreme case of that, but it’s not normal. Like, yeah people got shot around my way, that’s not normal. For people like Jessie, that doesn’t happen. He’s never been in a fight in his life. And that’s more of the norm. But for me niggas getting jumped, niggas shooting, and so on and so on. For us, you’re seen as being weak if you got to a psychologist or if you go to a shrink but that stigma needs to be erased. So many of us need help man.
Parlé: Another song from that grown man perspective is “The Worst.” Having been in this industry 11 years, I’ve met many artists that were married or in serious relationships but couldn’t let that be seen because they had to uphold this image. Why’d you want to dig into that other side of it with “The Worst”?
Murs: It astonished me when I found out how many of my favorite gangsta rappers have been married for 15, 20 years. It’s like my nigga, why you ain’t never talk about that? So many of my friends are getting in relationships and getting married. I’ve been an “angel” for five years but it doesn’t mean I don’t get tempted. I feel like I’m free to talk about it because I’m not guilty. I can make this fantasy song and it’s really a fantasy, a lot of married rappers can’t do that. I didn’t have a pops in the house to show me what marriage is supposed to look like and when he was in the house he was going upside my mom’s head. There’s never been a song like this. And at the end of the day I’m hoping I don’t cheat, I’m just praying that it never happens.
MURS Talks New Album, ‘Have A Nice Life’ & New Single “No More Control”
Parlé: Any final words you want to put out there?
Murs: Have a Nice Life man. Life is too short to have any ill will, life is too short to stress.
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