Murs: H.U.S.T.L.E.

A decade of artistry surfaced for many people when California’s Murs linked up with North Carolina’s 9th Wonder to release Murs 3:16 on New York’s Def Jux label. One of the inspired listeners was film student with a mission to get discovered. A year and a half later, Murs’ song, “Walk Like a Man” has been adapted to a movie and soundtrack.

While Murs has mad strides within filmmaking, he's the classically understated a hustler and fan of gangsta Rap. Read into Murs’ explanation of the barriers within his Rap community, as well as his justification in releasing so many albums. Murs is one of the most active artists around, and his H.U.S.T.L.E. is quite clear. Allegedly, the Walk Like a Man film came about because of some help from John Cena. Is that true?

Murs: John had a match, I went to it. Afterwards, we met up at this dude’s house. We was all kickin’ it. [The director] was talkin’ about doing this movie. John’s all about doing whatever you can to promote yourself and promote your craft. I couldn’t say no in front of John. I had to take the work. Originally, I just thought some random dude approached you as you were with John on the, “Listen to my demo” type tip…

Murs: Nah, I probably would’ve hit him [if he did]. Nah, it was a meeting I was gonna have with them anyway. But John just showed up. Do you know what drew the director and crew to your song for inspiration?

Murs: I just think they thought I’d be open to the idea. They just graduated from Film School, and lookin’ to get something for their resume. What does it mean to you as an artist to create something, and have another artist take that, flip it, and put in its own medium?

Murs: It was definitely an honor. It was an honor to help see their dream come to fruition. It was also a challenge, ‘cause it’s my money, my name. I��m standing on it, but having to let their artistry breathe. It was kinda hard as an artist. I learned a lot from that. It was dope. On the behind-the-scenes portion of the DVD, you were courting the actress in the film… did you get the date?

Murs: No, it didn’t. The writer/director was kind of passively pursuing her. That’s another thing. The movie taught me a lot, man. There’s people who respect your art and your work, but they feel uncomfortable kinda challenging you sometimes. I think it was one of those things where he wanted to talk to her but, “If Murs wants to talk to her, I’m not gonna stand [in the way].” I picked up on that and was like, “You should probably talk to her.” I wasn’t awe-struck with the whole film. But there were some strong, poignant moments. One of those moments showcases a discussion on Hip-Hop with you, the MC, and your producer. Was that truly a recaptured scene you had with 9th Wonder?

Murs: That was just exposition to the film. That was his creative control. In the film, you have a really well written discussion with a woman over CD’s versus tapes. The Living Legends came to fruition based on cassette tapes. Tell me about that medium’s role in your own career…

Murs: I think I just struck a nerve with [the dialogue]. I think ‘cause he was a Living Legends fan, [he knew that]. In the Bay Area, cassettes stayed a staple. They’re played out everywhere else. The independent spirit is very alive in the Bay. It’s too expensive to press up CD’s, nahmean? I think we had our first CD-R’s til’ ’98 or ’99. That was revolutionary. I think that’s good, but also negative. I know I’ve criticized certain Bay acts because they release three albums a year, and the quality just feels like it’s detiorated. I like JT Tha Bigga Figga. But I wish he’d take his time, sometimes…

Murs: It’s kinda hard. Like JT, if this is all you do, all you can do, and you have a fan-base of 20,000 people, they’re consuming that first album, they’re ready for the next one. Why stop? It’s a double-edged-sword though, because then you can’t focus on any one project, and expand your horizons. You put out a lot of work too. You just dropped Felt 2 less than two months ago. I truly liked that record a lot.

Murs: People like JT, I don’t know. What I do is just try to keep working. I got the 3MG project with Eligh and Scarub which is way different than the Atmosphere and Murs album which is way different from [Walk Like a Man Soundtrack] which I tried not to put any new solo songs of me on which is way different than my new album with 9th Wonder coming later on. I try to make a full spectrum. Let’s talk about Felt 2 for a second. This album’s tribute girl was Lisa Bonnet. What does she have that last time’s girl, Christina Ricci doesn’t?

Murs: S**t, melanin… When did you decide it was gonna be her?

Murs: Last minute. We had Meadow Soprano, Rae Dawn Chong, Christina Applegate, Pam Grier, Vivica Fox. [Lisa] just seemed to fit. “Walk Like a Man” as a song, is powerful. It deals with the death of a friend. That’s a theme you’ve used in your music before. “A Friend’s Blues” for instance, had a similar sort of vibe. Are these based off of true experiences?

Murs: “A Friend’s Blues” is dead-on. It’s no bull. It’s one of the few songs I’ve made that’s dead-on. “Last Night,” dead-on. Any song that has to do with guns or street type s**t, it’s all true, but it’s all reconfigured to protect the guilty and protect the innocent type s**t. And I speak for the perspective of one of my friends, ‘cause he’s not a rapper, but I think his story needs to be told. It’s a true story, it’s just not my story. All of it’s true. It happened in close proximity to me, or to me. I’m just not at liberty to say which is which. Everything on Varsity Blues is just dead-ass on. A large audience flocked to you after the 9th Wonder project. Do you get a sense that they’re traveling backwards and discovering those early albums you made?

Murs: I always wonder if people go back and they’re disappointed or they go back and say, “This is not the Murs that I like.” Or, they go back and say, “Wow, I’m glad I found this.” Along those lines, I adore this line of yours from “Def Cover”: “F**k with me, I’ll do a Suga Free, send you to the corner just to get my cash!” Lines like that, what inspires them?

Murs: I appreciate that people can appreciate that. Sometimes I just feel like I’m talkin’ to myself. When I get to talk to you, or other people who know Suga Free, I think it’s great. I just throw [names] out there sometimes so me and my homeboys’ll get it. But 99% of my fans don’t own a Suga Free album. They have no idea what I’m talkin’ about. I hope I found out that few is more. In the East, Kanye West linked Talib Kweli and Jay-Z together for the “Get By Remix.” What a marvelous time in Hip-Hop! Do you think that such a thing can happen out West, as you pound the pavement? I know you have E-40 on the soundtrack on your own remix…

Murs: To put it as frankly as I can, honestly, I’m like, “N***a, come on.” I can’t do anything else. If Jay-Z will go f**k with Talib, why won’t Quik f**k with me? Why won’t Game f**k with me? Why won’t Ice Cube f**k with me? On the West Coast, we don’t have that. Jay-Z said, “Who’s the best MC? Biggie, Jay-Z, or Nas.” N***as in Watts aren’t talking about that. N***as on my block aren’t talking that. Motherf**kers don’t care. Lyricism is way overlooked on the West. There is no Jay-Z or Nas of the West Coast. You’re either a gangsta rapper or a [backpacker]. Nobody gives E-40 respect as a lyricist, except for me. Or Suga Free, I think he’s a mastermind. Nobody gives Ice Cube the respect that LL Cool J gets on the East Coast. A lot of it is also attributed to the gang-bang culture we live by. In what way?

Murs: It’s real. In New York, a lot of it was just Rap. The Jay-Z and Nas thing never left the Hip-Hop arena. You best believe that if Quik gets at MC Eiht [it ’s different]. S**t was real! Ice Cube had a fight in the street. This is a motherf**kin’ millionaire, fighting with a well-reputed gang member, and getting his chain snatched. It’s not a f**king game for us. It’s real life! These things are rooted in street problems like the DJ Quik/MC Eiht thing – they were just from rival neighborhoods. It really wasn’t a Hip-Hop thing, from the beginning. Or, if it starts as a Hip-Hop thing, it’s quickly gonna go to a street thing, ‘cause everybody’s affiliated with somebody. Even me, I’ve had instances where dudes get at me and my boys find out, and I can tell them all day til’ they turn blue in the face, “It doesn’t need to go there.” If they feel like, “Oh, he disrespected the hood, he disrespected you, we can’t let that happen.” There’s so much that keeps us from succeeding. We’ve just got to make a conscious effort like, “Yeah, Murs is a weirdo, he’s a backpacker, he’s a skateboarder, whatever you wanna call me, but the mothaf**ka can rap. Let’s do a song.” People think ‘cause maybe I’m a backpacker that I don’t like Gangsta Rap. That’s all I listen to! I like women and money just like Suga Free likes women and money. We just do different things with our women and do different things with our money.