The once-bountifully bearded hip-hop artist Murs certainly has a lot going on lately. The California lyricist is a newlywed, and is currently on tour alongside the DMV's Tabi Bonney. Today his Ski Beatz-produced album, Love and Rockets, Vol 1: The Transformation, drops, a strong showing for the underground legend. He built and sustained his career by being honest, vulnerable, and down to earth when most rappers were rapping about bling, and it's paid off. As a result of his global grind, Murs has cultivated an audience for his work the world over. Now Murs talks hip hop, hair, and his new album with SoulBounce.
SoulBounce: You've achieved a level of success both commercially and independently, how do you do it without seeming disingenuous?
Murs: I don't know if I know how to be disingenuous. Aw geez Louise, hold on. (To his puppy) Are you serious? My puppy is peeing, right next to the pee pad. Anyway, I don't know how, sometimes to my detriment. I don't know how to be disingenuous. I don't know how to front. I don't know how to sugarcoat things. I don't know how to say things the nice way or do things the easy way. It's just the way I was raised, my mother was a stickler about those sorts of things.
SB: So then what advice would you give young artists, whether they're musicians or writers or rappers? What would you tell people just starting out their passion or artwork?
M: It depends on the sense of passion. A lot of these rappers are trying to escape adverse economic circumstances. You can be a rapper or you can be an artist. If you're an artist, it's not for commercial reasons or anything so I can't give them advice because they are just expressing themselves. If you're a rapper, I don't want to give advice to "be yourself," you should do what sells, because if your goal is to make money there isn't a lot of immediate success in 'being yourself." For me, I was able to do both, but it took a lot of hard work.
SB: Like what? How do you maintain your energy? What's a day in the life of Murs like?
M: Oh man, I try to run every day. I don't eat meat, no dairy. I eat eggs and try to eat chicken sometimes for B12. I don't drink a lot. I don't like to be extreme. But from the jump I literally started selling tapes on the streets of Berkeley, California. I didn't have a manager; I had made a couple of thousand dollars before I had a manager or a record deal. I went around the world before I'd had a manager or a deal or been on a magazine. Some of the first magazines and TV shows I was on were in Japan and Europe. I slept on a lot of floors in foreign countries. I lived with eight people in a warehouse in East Oakland for two years. I developed a good live show in rap, because the only way I could sell you something was with my words or with my performance because they weren't going to put us on TV or the magazines back then. The live show was my sales pitch, and I had to be on and I had to be fit to get people's attention. Also I had to write music, and I couldn't be out of breath. It's about people being able to hear what I say.
SB: You have a rich voice. How do you know how to pair your voice with certain beats? Do you have a specific type?
M: I try to work with everything. With this new record I worked only with Ski Beatz and in the past I've only worked with 9th Wonder because they know what to give me, they have ears that I trust. Someone like Ski Beatz has done "Dead Presidents" and "Feelin' It" for Jay-Z or "Luchini" for Camp Lo, and all the Curren$y stuff. I know that he knows good rap. He gets it. So when we did the "Hip Hop and Love" song, he did that beat, we were all sitting up, me and Tabi Bonney were on tour after the show in NY vibin', and that's what Ski came up with. Whether he knows it consciously or not something in him knew that me and Tabi would sound good on that beat. I leave it to the producer and try to only work with people who know what they are doing.
SB: Tell me more about your album, and what you want your audience to get from it and the tour.
M: My new album is called "Love and Rockets," and it comes out October 11th. I want them to feel like they are connected to me and other human beings. We're all going through the same shit. I could be 3,000 miles away and 10 years older or younger than you, but I'm talking to you and I'm talking for you. Most of the time you listen to music because you don't want to be alone, and you know it's just something to keep you company and mostly inspiration, especially in this world's economic and political climate. [Music has] the power to make your day better, to make your life better, but most importantly has the power to make the person next to you's life better.
SB: I know that you recently cut your locks, and I also have locks, so I wanted to know, when you cut your hair, did people treat you differently? What were some of the responses?
M: (Laughter) It's definitely liberating, I don't know if people treated me differently for cutting my hair. I mean people treated me differently because of my hair. I think it turned a lot of people off. I always felt if it turned you off, we weren't meant to be cool anyway, but there's so much else to push people away from uniting, that I just didn't need to have another reason for a person to write me off. I was just making myself less connected to the people and to the world around me. That wasn't why I grew them, but that was the effect I was having.
SB: So you're from California, and I recently interviewed Kendrick Lamar, who is also from California. I know you've done work with Ab-Soul, and I want to know you're thoughts on what they are doing. You're not an old head, but you're, seasoned.
M: Yeah, they treat me like it. They ask advice, they give a lot of respect and love, and I love them and am happy for them. I've always told them the world is theirs because they have so much talent and such a unique angle in the game. I'm a big fan and supporter. Ab-Soul is my little homie, he's on the record as well. Kendrick is dope, all of them are dope, and they are the few of the West Coast rappers that have reached out to me and I'm really appreciative.
SB: What song is your favorite song off of the album, or do you love them all equally like they're your children?
M: That's the political answer, it's hard. I would say...could I do two? I'd say "316 Ways" and "Animal Style."
Murs Love and Rockets, Vol 1: The Transformation [Amazon][iTunes]