If ever I believed Hip-Hop was Dead in 2006, Murs’ Murray’s Revenge single-handedly changed my mind. A Metro City, Los Angeles native, Murs has a story that is arguably less fabricated than your toughest gangster rapper from any coast, let alone the West. He’s seen the bullet and the damage done, the decaying communities and pride, and Murs watched rapper after rapper capitalize retelling these glorified tales.
After a handful of independent releases on an array of labels, Murs brought his most recent album to a Rock label, Record Collection. Murray’s Revenge, a second collaborative album with Little Brother’s 9th Wonder garnered Murs his largest critical accolades to date. But in the process, the independent freedom that’s propelled Murs to his position in the game was compromised. Recently picked up by Warner Brothers for 2007, Murs speaks about his future, the dues he’s paid, and with full conviction, why he’s better than any rapper out, and why he’s focused on – not gunning for – President of Hip-Hop.
AllHipHop.com: With Murray’s Revenge, the audience appeared very specific. Was that intended, or was there a difference as compared to past albums?
Murs: Nah man. With Murray’s Revenge, [9th Wonder and I] just set out to do what we always do. We record at that time of year no matter what. I think 9th really produces the records for me; it’s really up to him. He might’ve given some consideration to it, but the only conscious decision I made was not to curse. I felt that was something we just really needed as Black men, and for Hip-Hop in general, and continue to tell funny stories with morals. I just make fun Hip-Hop, really, and keep the audience in mind, ‘cause that’s what they want from me.
AllHipHop.com: When the album came out, you made an interesting comment to us about the song “Dreamchasers”. You said that performing it for White audiences was like trying to preach Christianity for a room full of Muslims. In terms of race and gender, that doesn’t seem to be something that could’ve been said about Murs 3:16.
Murs: I can only tell the stories that I can tell. Songs like “Dreamchasers” or “Yesterday and Today”, I don’t want to say afrocentric, but it’s based on a young Black male’s experience in America. If I’ma continue to be me, and be the only rapper I know to rap about what I’m really going through, I can’t help but to be that Christian in a room full of Muslims. I can only keep doing what I’m doing, and hope that young Black people start to listen and care, or hope that my White fans still find it entertaining – which they have.
AllHipHop.com: You have a line in “Dreamchasers” that says “We all chase money, ‘cause we’re scared to chase dreams.” I can certainly see the Black issue in that, but that also largely speaks on society in 2006. What did you mean by that line?
Murs: We’re all interconnected as Americans. As long as you’re being truthful about your experience, it’s still a [common] experience within America. You definitely don’t have to be Black to relate if we’re all being honest. If you exaggerate, it kind of alienates you, and makes you sensational like a 50 Cent or a Game. For me, that line, on a personal level, a lot of my homies are like, “We can sell crack. We all know it’s wrong, but it’s okay – the ends justify the means.” That’s not always necessarily the best thing. Yeah, we’re chasing this money, but who are we trampling over? We’re not looking where we’re stepping as we’re chasing. There’s nothing negative about chasing your dream. Even if your dream is negative – to be the best gang-banger, if that’s your dream, chase it, ‘cause that’ll make you happy. I see a lot of people graduating from college – my brother just graduated yesterday – and it’s not about what makes them happy, it’s about what’s gonna pay their rent, or what will be able to make them support a family. You should get out of college and chase your dream, ‘cause you’ve been fed everybody else’s material and information for 16 years. Get out and use what they’ve taught you to do what you really want to do. The world would be a better place if there were a lot more happy people in it. There’d be more happy people if they’d chase their dream.
AllHipHop.com: You left behind what many would consider an ideal home in Def Jux Records for Record Collection. I know you were given an A&R position there too. Now that the album’s out, comparing Murs 3:16 to Murray’s Revenge, how do you evaluate it was handled both places?
Murs: I was promised a lot of things [at Record Collection]. I didn’t want to speak ill of them ‘cause I’m not into speaking ill of anybody, but I no longer work for Record Collection. I’m no longer signed to Record Collection. They mismanaged the album. They’re very young, and I don’t think there’s any evil intent in their mismanagement of the album. I was brought in and told they’d keep up with my plan, and they just disregarded a lot of things that I said; it was really difficult to work with. For me, being an independent artist my whole life, it was something very, very hard for me. They didn’t follow through and dropped the ball on a lot of things. I was definitely an experience I learned from. At times, it left me wishing I had never left Def Jux, but I definitely want to try to grow my fanbase, which I did. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.
AllHipHop.com: At the same, it’s weird to hear that. To my knowledge, this is the first one of your albums that broke into the Billboard charts. You got a big review in XXL and a feature in Ozone magazine. This seemed like a career victory…
Murs: I could be happy for what I got, and not blame anybody. I’m really into blaming myself, and taking responsibility. I’m happy for what I did get. I used the same publicist that I had for 3:16; I brought my own publicist – so it had nothing to do with Record Collection. I didn’t trust them, thank God, to handle my publicity. Aimee Morris, who handles my publicity, she’s always been great. She really hooked it up. It hurt me ‘cause I got the press once again, the critical acclaim, [but the label] wasn’t pushing it in stores the way I felt it should be pushed, or to the radio in Los Angeles the way I felt it should be pushed. So a lot of the success with the album had to do with me and technically, I may only ending up selling 5,000-10,000 more records than I did the last time, but I took a significant cut. At Def Jux, I was getting 50 percent. Now, I’m gonna 20 points on my album – after recoup. With Def Jux, it’s 50-50, but the advance is so small that it’s really good business. I left a good business situation for a bad business situation. But as far as my career, I think it’s a positive, because now I’ve been upstreamed to Warner Brothers and it’s gonna be bigger for me as a human being. But as soon as my contract is up with the Warner system, I would love to go back to making independent records. I would love to make one-off’s for the rest of my career, just like George Lucas makes movies than takes them to whatever studio wants it – that’s how I want to do it. I’m not signing any exclusive deal, but [hypothetically] “Me and Ant of Atmosphere just got together for three months and made this record, who’s interested?” Me and Blueprint, or me and Will.I.Am, or me and Sa-Ra, or whoever I know – I just want to go and make projects. I can’t have a boss. This major label industry will try your patience. I can sit down with Tom Whalley [CEO/Chairman of Warner Brothers Records] and I know how much a buyout is at Best Buy, or how much pricing and positioning is. I know how much I need to sell and what I should get back. I need an ad in this magazine, not that magazine. I know my business. When you have 23-year-olds running your career, who won’t listen to you, it’s really frustrating.
AllHipHop.com: In the Living Legends days, did you see this kind of success coming, or is this a surprise to you?
Murs: Definitely not surprising. I’m surprised that – not just Living Legends – I’m surprised that more of my peers aren’t here with me. I will not put it on that I’m more talented than anyone, I think I just sacrificed a lot and I just worked really hard. I don’t think I deserve better, but I want more. As hard as I work, I feel I should be at the top of the game. I work harder than any rapper I know – except Snoop Dogg and The Game. What those people go through is phenomenal. But as far as the independent and mid-level, mid-tier artists, I busted my ass. There’s nobody at my point that’s had the success I’ve had that’s worked as hard to get it. Nobody. None of these know about flying to Australia and getting off the plane with no money and just havin’ tapes to sell. Then buying a ticket to Japan, Germany, then Holland. I come from that. E-40 and Too Short did that locally. I did that worldwide to build what I have today.
AllHipHop.com: What will we be seeing from you in 2007?
Murs: What I’m trying to do is trying to stick with the same thing, just being positive. I’m gonna be on a bigger boat, but instead of doing what most people would do, which is tuning myself down a little bit, I’m just comin’ out on some running for President of Hip-Hop type s**t. I’m not gonna say “Oh, but I’m down with gangsters.” I’m not gonna push a medium line. I’m gonna push a fine line of positivity – peace and love. Selling crack is wrong, I don’t care who you are – Game or whoever, anybody. Killing people is wrong. No major label artist is taking a stand, ‘cause they’re scared not to sell records. Me, I don’t have that fear. If I come out and sell my same 50,000-70,000 records, I’m happy. I’m gonna come out on Bangladesh beat or a Will.I.Am beat or whoever – now that I have a little bit of a budget, and say something positive. Nobody’s tellin’ these kids anything they need to hear. Jay-Z can say “don’t wear suits” fool, you been talkin’ about killin’ people for eight years – and never apologized for it. People need to be held accountable, man. The world is changing, and somebody needs to say something – that’s me.
Musically, The Clipse and the Justin Timberlake albums are amazing. But I’m not with all the death and negativity, man. I’m creative, I’m a doper rapper than everybody I just mentioned, and I can tell a story. I’m gonna use all the dope producers and my creativity to come together and do something for the world, the Black community, the Hip-Hop community. If I fall on my ass or fall on my face, then I can say I did it in the name of peace of love, and I’m happy with that. A wholesome, good, blockbuster Hip-Hop album is what I’m trying to create. My Independence Day.I want to be President of Hip-Hop, and still make records with 9th, with Ant, with Slug, and others.