If ever I believed Hip-Hop was Dead in 2006, Murs Murrays 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. Hes 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. Murrays Revenge, a second collaborative album with Little Brothers 9th Wonder garnered Murs his largest critical accolades to date. But in the process, the independent freedom thats 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 hes paid, and with full conviction, why hes better than any rapper out, and why hes focused on not gunning for - President of Hip-Hop.
AllHipHop.com: With Murrays Revenge, the audience appeared very specific. Was that intended, or was there a difference as compared to past albums?
Murs: Nah man. With Murrays 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; its really up to him. He mightve 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 thats 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 doesnt seem to be something that couldve 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 dont want to say afrocentric, but its based on a young Black males experience in America. If Ima continue to be me, and be the only rapper I know to rap about what Im really going through, I cant help but to be that Christian in a room full of Muslims. I can only keep doing what Im 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 were 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: Were all interconnected as Americans. As long as youre being truthful about your experience, its still a [common] experience within America. You definitely dont have to be Black to relate if were 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 its wrong, but its okay the ends justify the means. Thats not always necessarily the best thing. Yeah, were chasing this money, but who are we trampling over? Were not looking where were stepping as were chasing. Theres nothing negative about chasing your dream. Even if your dream is negative to be the best gang-banger, if thats your dream, chase it, cause thatll make you happy. I see a lot of people graduating from college my brother just graduated yesterday and its not about what makes them happy, its about whats 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 youve been fed everybody elses material and information for 16 years. Get out and use what theyve 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. Thered be more happy people if theyd 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 albums out, comparing Murs 3:16 to Murrays Revenge, how do you evaluate it was handled both places?
Murs: I was promised a lot of things [at Record Collection]. I didnt want to speak ill of them cause Im not into speaking ill of anybody, but I no longer work for Record Collection. Im no longer signed to Record Collection. They mismanaged the album. Theyre very young, and I dont think theres any evil intent in their mismanagement of the album. I was brought in and told theyd 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 didnt 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, its 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. Im really into blaming myself, and taking responsibility. Im 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 didnt trust them, thank God, to handle my publicity. Aimee Morris, who handles my publicity, shes always been great. She really hooked it up. It hurt me cause I got the press once again, the critical acclaim, [but the label] wasnt 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, Im gonna 20 points on my album after recoup. With Def Jux, its 50-50, but the advance is so small that its really good business. I left a good business situation for a bad business situation. But as far as my career, I think its a positive, because now Ive been upstreamed to Warner Brothers and its 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-offs for the rest of my career, just like George Lucas makes movies than takes them to whatever studio wants it thats how I want to do it. Im not signing any exclusive deal, but [hypothetically] Me and Ant of Atmosphere just got together for three months and made this record, whos 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 cant 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 wont listen to you, its 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. Im surprised that not just Living Legends Im surprised that more of my peers arent here with me. I will not put it on that Im more talented than anyone, I think I just sacrificed a lot and I just worked really hard. I dont 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. Theres nobody at my point thats had the success Ive had thats 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 Im trying to do is trying to stick with the same thing, just being positive. Im gonna be on a bigger boat, but instead of doing what most people would do, which is tuning myself down a little bit, Im just comin out on some running for President of Hip-Hop type s**t. Im not gonna say Oh, but Im down with gangsters. Im not gonna push a medium line. Im gonna push a fine line of positivity peace and love. Selling crack is wrong, I dont care who you are Game or whoever, anybody. Killing people is wrong. No major label artist is taking a stand, cause theyre scared not to sell records. Me, I dont have that fear. If I come out and sell my same 50,000-70,000 records, Im happy. Im 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. Nobodys tellin these kids anything they need to hear. Jay-Z can say dont 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 thats me.
Musically, The Clipse and the Justin Timberlake albums are amazing. But Im not with all the death and negativity, man. Im creative, Im a doper rapper than everybody I just mentioned, and I can tell a story. Im 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 Im happy with that. A wholesome, good, blockbuster Hip-Hop album is what Im 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.