Respected MC Murs built his name and reputation on bringing his unique brand of truth and creativity to hip-hop. His current release Love and Rockets Vol. 1: The Transformation, a collaboration with super-producer Ski Beatz, is just what the title suggests: a treatise on relationships, life, and evolution. Murs emphasizes that this album’s theme is about the “balance of yin and yang” and that his goal was “to make something, positive, powerful, and inspiring.” Whether it is through touring, his music, or his annual Paid Dues Festival, Murs works hard to create the music that his fans expect while not being afraid to show his evolution as a man.
I recently talked with Murs while he in Columbus, Ohio during his Hip-Hop and Love Tour. Here is part of our conversation.
URB: You’re currently on the road with your Hip-Hop and Love Tour, how is it going?
Murs: Everything is going well. I got a bunch of rookies out here with me—if it’s not their first time on the road, it’s there first time doing a 60 day, 52 city tour. Our show is three hours of music that just flows together. There is not a night where someone does not come up to us and say, “Wow, this is the greatest thing I have seen ever.”
We did a BluRoc playist for the tour, so people can just go to the website and get that. If they get that, they are going to get a mixture of jazz, folk, and hip-hop from us. To me it is the new model for doing shows.
The ideas of transformation and evolution are important themes on Love and Rockets, could you talk more about how that is reflected in your music?
I would love to reach millions, but the type of music I make right now is more like vegan food, so I can only expect vegan people to want to eat in my restaurant. A lot of people make fast food music, I don’t. Until people decide they do not want to be on a fast food diet, then my music is not for them. There is nothing I can do about that because I am not about to create something that is unnatural for me. I have been fortunate enough to make a career out of what I want to do.
I am not a pop star yet, but when I get there I want to be a real person. I’m a vegan, but I may eat chicken one day. I am really peaceful, but want to fight somebody sometimes. I am not perfect. To define something means leaving it in a box and anything outside of that box is unacceptable. My whole career I have tried to break out of boxes. I do want to sell millions of records, but I do not want to be commodified or turn myself into a one-dimensional something. To continue to tell young black kids that they can only be one way does not encourage them to mature or to try new things.
Everyone talks about “keeping it real,” but to me keeping it real means keeping it one-dimensional—and that’s not real. Real is that we are all walking contradictions, we are all changing, we are all transforming. That is the title of the record, Love and Rockets Transformation Pt. 1. Now I that I am cutting my hair I know that I don’t have to wear dreadlocks or be “that guy” just because you want me to or it makes it easier for me to be identified. I am growing learning and changing, and I think we all should be. I’m proud of my evolution, I do not want to stay thirty for ever.
You have been involved with hip-hop since the mid-1990s, where do you think the music is and is headed?
I think hip-hop is in a really good place. The way I look at is, I just got married, and the way that people always depict marriage it is model of everlasting love and that’s what most of us are socialized to expect. The reality is it is really a lot of hard work, compromise and understanding. I look at it like that with music, you may say, “I love hip-hop, it’s just not good right now.”
When you love someone you always have to be able to find something good about them, if not you did not really love them in the first place or you made a poor decision. If you claim that you love hip-hop then you should always be able to find something good in it, even if it is listening to the old stuff until something new comes along. When you’re in a relationship with anything or anyone it is going to change and transform, that is the nature of life.
It seems like the West Coast is coming on especially strong right now too.
There’s finally a diversity of sounds coming out of the West Coast. I felt like I was alone in the middle for so long. No one really “got me” for the longest. You were either Dogg Pound or Freestyle Fellowship, there was no in between. I felt like I was always in between. I hung out on the block where some of my friends were Crips some of them were not. I think artists like Dom Kennedy and Odd Future give voice to the “in between,” some of them are further left and some are further right. I felt like I was just in that void for so long, so I may be overly zealous in praising them because I am just so happy to have some company. I feel like LA is now going to go down in history for more than just gangsta rap. They will respect us for creativity, lyricism, and production because with all due respect, it is more than just Dr. Dre.
Can you talk more about the impact of genres outside of hip=hop on your music?
On a really basic level I want to encourage young black kids to play instruments. I had never bought a record by a white person until 2002 [that record was Queens of the Stone Age]. Then I started touring with Atmosphere and all these other people who listened to Radiohead, Sublime and all these other artists and just opened up my world. Listening to artists like them, I found myself in a completely different section of the record store than I would have been in before.
When I got to sit down and work with Whole Wheat Bread it was amazing because I could start saying lyrics and they would say, “That makes me feel like this chord, or that makes me feel like these drums.” Then we just created music from nothing. It is not like sampling music from a record, or going through sounds on a computer; there is an actually a person there who can feel your energy. There is nothing like that and I think that once we as we, as a community, get back to that the music will be even more dynamic.
Photos by Scott Stewart / Interviewed by fredara mareva