uring his formative years, a young Torhi Harpers close family stressed that luck was a delicate combination of preparation and opportunity. When most teenagers slaved at their sorry part-time jobs and prepped for the SAT’s, Torhi, or Murphy Lee and friends, the St. Lunatics, worked to fulfill their dreams as rap stars in the music industry.
A chance encounter with Jermaine Dupri at a party provided that life-altering occasion for the St. Lunatics to pass a demo tape of their material. Since, Murphy Lee, Nelly and the crew have gone on to garner Grammy Awards and platinum albums, but life has changed significantly for the St. Lunatics youngest member. After putting his young son to sleep, Murph talked frankly about these transformations and the growth hes experienced in the not-so-distant past.
AllHipHop.com: The St. Lunatics get criticized a lot due to the fact that you sell a lot of albums and have crossover appeal, does that bother you?
Murphy Lee: Its not an issue. When people say that kind of stuff it sounds like they never left home before. Those are what I call basement people like, Man, were from the basement, this is real Hip-Hop! Youve got to get out of the basement and travel and see these different cultures. New York may have their way, but if you go to Philadelphia, it could be a whole different style, or if you go down South, they have a different feel too. There mightve been a lot of types of music that I didnt like at first, but once I started traveling and seeing all of these types of people and the types of music that represent them, that let me know what Hip-Hop was really about. Its about showing the world what your culture is like everyday. People always want it to be one way, but you cant tell me N.W.A. wasnt Hip-Hop, they were letting you know what was going on in that area at that time. That criticism never gets to me. Ive got a song called Who Says St. Louis Aint Hip-Hop?
AllHipHop.com: On the last album, you made it a point to keep profanity and negative references to a minimum while still reaching out to the ladies, do you plan on using the same approach?
Murphy Lee: Im just growin right now, were going to call the album The Package. That package consists of me growing, and everything thats happened after Murphys Law. The last album got labeled as being for the ladies, but that was just in writing; my music is for everybody. In the last two-and-a-half years, Ive opened up three different businesses. Ive got my label, which is associated with Derrty Entertainment, called U.C. Me, plus a restaurant and a promotional company.
AllHipHop.com: It looks like youre handling the business side as well. When Murphys Law debuted, you had an exclusive deal to play your video in Champs Sports stores and you also own the Good For You Café in St. Louis, right?
Murphy Lee: Yeah, were looking for franchising right now. So if you got that money, we can talk business. Its a beautiful thing. We just opened another location in downtown St. Louis. Were also trying to go back and work with Champs too. Speaking of exclusives, my promotional company is called Exclusive Promotional Products. So any artists can come to us for shirts, pens, anything you need that can be written on that you cant get out of a normal store.
AllHipHop.com: Thats big business. Would you say that some of that was influenced by Nelly buying a piece of the Charlotte Bobcats, or was that the plan from the jump?
Murphy Lee: Thats an influence for us to get another basketball team! But, nah, my cat makes moves and thats a big influence on me. That was amazing.
AllHipHop.com: Murphys Law debuted at #8 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart its first week out by selling more than 134,000 copies, then was certified Platinum. You also won a Grammy Award for Shake Ya Tailfeather. Do you feel any pressure to exceed those numbers?
Murphy Lee: No. Im with all of that stuff, but thats a lot of people comparing the music instead of just letting it be. They almost have us artists competing against each other, when there are enough buyers out there to make sure that everybody can eat. Im just trying to make good music, I do it for my fans and for the people that need it. Any moment you need it, music does it for you; whether youre ironing or dropping off your kids, or whatever else.
AllHipHop.com: The latest group effort, Whos The Boss, features unreleased material from the whole crew. Can you tell the fans a little more about the project?
Murphy Lee: That wasnt us. I mean its physically us on there-were the artists, but I dont want to help them promote that. I had to go buy one my damn self, Im thinking, Hold on, what is this? We were with another company back in 96. Im not even going to mention their name. They still had that material and they decided to put it out.
AllHipHop.com: So that explains the lack of promotion?
Murphy Lee: Exactly. If we have something out, its getting promoted like beer. It would be out there, running on back-to-back commercials. That aint us, if you want to get deep into them boys, if youre a die hard St. Lunatics fan, you might want to purchase that. I wouldnt help them promote that for nothing. I dont want to even bring it up. I just hope the check comes.
AllHipHop.com: Earlier you mentioned that you wanted to take it back to the days of The Fat Boys and Kurtis Blow, when rap was fun, did you have any other influences?
Murphy Lee: Im younger, so my influences came from the 90s. I was with Spice-1, Ant Banks ,and stuff. I remember trying to be like LL Cool J from listening to my aunts tapes. Everybody else was on LL Cool J, but the first tape that I remember actually buying was The Chronic. Thats the era that I represent, and you can see it in my music. But, I still know where it came from as far as the roots in the 70s and 80s. Until just now, I didnt even think about it like that, but that was my era; 8Ball and MJG, MC Eiht, Tela, and all that stuff.
AllHipHop.com: Nelly opened the door and then the rest of the St. Lunatics came after. Are you guys planning on doing the same with King Jacob and Jung Tru?
Murphy Lee: Actually, King Jacob and Jung Tru are already Derrty [Entertainment] artists. Me, King Jacob, and Prentiss Church are looking to form a separate group called The Young Dudes. Weve done like 20-30 songs, were just waiting on the right time. The album is basically done already. Ive also got my little brothers group called The Camp, and an R&B artist named Zee coming out on U.C. Me Records.
AllHipHop.com: You and The St. Lunatics try to make it a point to keep a positive vibe, were you angered when the media started giving you negative press about the charge you caught last November?
Murphy Lee: Nah, we just paid them off man! No, but, honestly, we just try to stay away from negativity, dog. We did enough negative stuff in our past to not want to do anything negative right now. I promise you, thats why were called Derrty Entertainment. Weve got kids. Were grown. And thats why we came into this game to form a career so we dont have to do things that will get negative press. Some people like that attention, but I dont.
AllHipHop.com: You had a cut on Murphys Law entitled Gods Dont Chill, are you down with the Five Percent Nation?
Murphy Lee: I study everything. Im a realist, I dont look at religion in terms of putting myself in a certain division. I dont put a label on myself.
AllHipHop.com: When you guys debuted, you joked about writing your own names on the St. Louis Walk of Fame at the Delmar Loop. Have you gotten your own star yet?
Murphy Lee: Nah, I havent got a star. If they do it, wed really appreciate the love, because we work hard. So if someone recognizes it, thats love but Im not really asking for it. I dont have to be accepted anywhere, I can put a star right in front of this big crib I got, with my babys footprints on there. Im a star already. Im the reason why the day is going to come.