“Ah, what’s up man?!” Murs greets me with a smile as we shake hands on the back of his tour bus. It’s late into the evening and he’s just finished a half hour set at Atlanta’s 2011 A3C Festival, the largest Hip-Hop event in the southeast. The year since I’ve seen Murs has brought some changes. Gone is the trademark wild hair. A new partnership with Dame Dash is flourishing, as seen by Murs’ new Ski Beatz-produced album Love & Rockets. The project, which dropped last Tuesday (October 11), caps an active year for the native L.A. native, who released the collaboration LP The Melrose in February with Terrace Martin.
Murs has predicated his 15 year career on the belief that truth is far more interesting than fiction. Instead of songs filled with materialistic fantasies, Murs’ style shines light on the joys and fears and desires of everyday folk. Find out why Murs is confident Love & Rockets is the inspirational music you’ve been looking for.
Beats,Boxing & Mayhem: You’ve worked with a lot of great producers before. With Love & Rockets, what was the creative process with Ski as opposed to say working with a 9th Wonder?
Murs: Man, 9th and Ski are totally different people. 9th and I work really quick. Ski isn’t as slow as some people, but he’s slower. He wants to make sure you’re happy with the beat. 9th will give you a beat and be like “that’s yours.” Ski is like “Ehh you like that? You sure? Nah nah that’s not hot.” That’s Ski, but we get there eventually.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: “Let’s Go” has more of a rock feel to it. “Remember 2 Forget” is more soulful. What type of sound would you say is dominant on Love & Rockets?
Murs: Umm, it’s hard for me to say. But for people who’ve heard it they say is pretty laid back.
Beats,Boxing& Mayhem: Would you say laid back like the Melrose project or different?
Murs: [Laughs] I’d say maybe like Melrose laid back but not as funny.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: You’ve always used bands before but we’re seeing a lot more Hip-Hop artists go that route. Its doubtful sampling will ever die, but do you think we’ll get to a point where sampling directly or looping from records becomes obsolete?
Murs: I don’t think it’ll go way; not as long as 9th Wonder is around. There’s some kids who just love it. There’s a certain feeling to it. If it does die down, they’ll definitely be a resurgence to it 20 years down the line.
Beats,Boxing & Mayhem: In the Love & Rockets behind the scenes web episodes, Dame Dash says it’s important to have a product out there and build a body of work over record sales. Does he give you guys a lot of feedback on the creative process?
Murs: He leaves us alone, man. That’s how the album artwork came about. When the artist came to me and I asked what I wanted, I said do what you want. The same way Dame gave us freedom, I wasn’t going to get involved in his drawing. You draw, I write. I let it fly just like the video.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Considering his previous reputation from what was seen on TV during his Roc-a-fella days, did that surprise you about Dame?
Murs: Yeah, definitely a pleasant surprise. It gave me something to live up to in not judging people before I met them. You never know what energy that person was giving off at the time. You meet him and it was like that, but you never know what energy the person that’s telling you this was giving off at the time. You never know anything until you know it for yourself.
Beats,Boxing & Mayhem: Was there anything big behind you cutting your hair? That was one of your trademarks.
Murs: It was betraying me in some ways. I was blessed to have the opportunity to open for Ms. [Lauryn] Hill a couple times and people from the crowd were like “I didn’t think I was going to like you because your hair was all crazy. But I listened to what you were saying and it was really good.” It was like my physical appearance was getting in the way of my ultimate goal which is my art to be heard by as many people as possible. I’m not going to change my music to do so, but my hair is getting in the way? It’s hurting my neck when I sleep and takes an hour and a half to wash. I can let that go. It was time. My life had transformed.
I might grow them back. I’ve had locs on and off my whole life. That’s what people don’t know. This may just be another cycle. As for now, it gives my wife time to shine with her afro and her beauty.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: You still get recognized?
Murs: Nah, now I’m much more low-key. That’s a blessing. I like when I get recognized when people tell me I made their day. I don’t get to make people’s day as much, but it also stops people from spotting me a mile away. My nerves had got shot. People would be yelling out of windows and pulling up on the side of me. Yo, you’re gonna give me a heart attack, B. For now, it’s great.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: I heard the track where you’re tackling homosexuality. In Hip-Hop that’s one of the last frontiers as far as forbidden or unacceptable topics. What made you want to address it?
Murs: It’s for a lot of close friends and family that I feel may be or know are living an alternative lifestyle and don’t feel comfortable [telling me]. It’s not like I can go up to them and say “I know you’re gay, it’s ok.” I’ve been told by my friends that are gay that’s not the way you go about it. So how can I help them without being direct or making a song that’s corny and saying “gay is ok” or mixing my politics? I can just tell a story that promotes acceptance because there is so much going on with young people that feel life sucks so bad that they have to kill themselves. No human being should ever have to feel that.
It is just as bad as racism. What if black kids just started killing themselves because they were black? I don’t feel like its ok and I had to present it in a way where you wouldn’t hear it and argue with it. I want you to hear it and want to discuss it with someone else.
Homosexuality needs to be discussed in Hip-Hop. I’m not the most pro-gay person. When I see two men kiss it makes me uncomfortable. I have a hard time dealing with it. That doesn’t mean its ok for me not to let them get married because it is or isn’t unnatural. Whatever you feel, that’s their business.
There’s a lot of things that make me uncomfortable. I’d rather see two men kissing than a commercial for Dove’s body soap with girls with nice curves because that makes it difficult for me to stay married [laughs]. Not difficult but I’m trying not to even think about that shit and they use sex to sell everything. That’s one thing I think that should be banned. I don’t want to lust. I’m trying to keep my job as I call it. I don’t know what they’re selling half the time.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Speaking of your wife, do you involve her in your creative process?
Murs: I do now but not in writing. I make something and I’ll play it for her. She helped me decide what songs to go with. She also validates me a lot. One song in particular she was like “how does it feel to have written something so great?” I’ve never had a woman like that in my life. That helped validate me and my decision to marry her. I know I’m with the right woman. I used to think that was super corny when dudes involved their girl in everything. She helped me decide how many tracks to put on the album and what order they should go in. I still disagree with that but I went with her opinion [laughs].
Music is such a big part of my life that if you don’t involve your significant other in it you’re never gonna fully connect. She has to know she has some influence on my art. It wouldn’t be complete if she wasn’t a real part of that.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: You put out a lot of product, but unlike a lot of people you do more albums than mixtapes. Do you feel there is a significant difference between the two?
Murs: Me and 9th tried with Sweet Lord to put out a mixtape and fans just weren’t really responsive to it. I’m blessed to have fans that want to buy. It’s crazy that I can’t get 60,000 people to download a record, but I can get 60,000 to buy it. I want to reach this young generation and get a million downloads or 300,000 downloads. But at least my fan base loves and supports me. That’s a good problem.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Now for those younger heads or people reading this who’ve never heard a Murs track before, what can they expect on Love & Rockets?
Murs: Wow. I don’t subscribe to these terms but they can expect positive and conscious material. People always say “You rap? Who do you sound like?” I say Common and Talib Kweli but honestly I don’t feel my music is anything like theirs. I think it’s positive, inspirational and relatable music. You can expect something that will make you feel good and highly of yourself. I think a lot of rap makes you want things that you think are going to make you happy. Hopefully my record makes you happy because it’s good music and makes you feel good about where you’re at in life right now. Music is nostalgia. I want it to easily fit into your life and be a part of your memories. That’s the highest honor.