Baptism by fire.
Strange Music’s notoriously seasoned roster of emcees stands as not only the foundation for the indie label’s success, but also as a challenge of sorts for newcomers. For proof look no further than MURS, the latest addition to Tech N9ne’s powerhouse.
Officially announced as a member of the Snake and Bat this past February on Sway In The Morning, MURS had already been hard at work behind the scenes as Tech N9ne called upon the LA-native for a guest spot on the smasher, “Hard (A Monster Made It)”.
Positioned as the first sampling of Tech N9ne Collabos – Strangeulation, “Hard” also served as MURS’ introduction to Strangeland. In this exclusive interview, we sat down with MURS inside Strangeland Studios to discuss his verse on “Hard” and what it means to be a Strange Music emcee.
Walk me through the development of this song and how you came to have a guest spot on it because it’s a pretty big deal. It’s the announcement of you being signed to the label and this is how they chose to present it.
Yeah, I was speaking with Dave Weiner and he sent me the track and said, “You know you’re going to be on Strangeulation, you might be on one or two songs.” I was like, “Cool.”
I know how the collabos work and they told me there was going to be a cypher and he said that Tech did a song that he wanted me to get on – because Tech kind of controls the collabos. I thought that it was more people sending in songs and Tech getting on them, but it’s Tech picking what song he wants. So he said, “I’m going to send you the song.” I was at the mall with my son buying new pants because he grows out of everything and Dave was like, “I just sent you the song.”
So I’m in the mall like, I gotta listen to this and I put the phone to my ear to listen to it and Tech keeps rapping and rapping and I hear the first verse like, that’s dope. I hear the second verse, the chorus and that’s dope, the beat’s dope then he starts rapping the third verse and then he says, “The newest member of Strange” and I was like, Ahhh this is too much pressure, bro. It was too much, he built it all up and shit I was like, Let me just get a third verse, let me just pop up you don’t have to do all this. I’m like, Oh fuck, now I’ve gotta come with it. You know, Tech raps in like six different patterns on the song so I was like, What do I do?
So I wrote three different verses. I went over them, ended up trashing one and doing two for Ben and Seven here at Strangeland and they liked the one that ended up on the album.
It’s interesting that you mention the pressure being there because one of the things we always ask is “was there pressure jumping on this collaboration” and most rappers will be like, “Nah it wasn’t pressure or anything!” So it’s kind of cool to hear that.
No, I feel the pressure going in with ¡MAYDAY!, it’s not like when I was with Living Legends – there really wasn’t a lot of pressure because we came up together. But everybody here is established and they’re also a family and I feel like I have to earn the right to be here. Even if they don’t feel like that – I don’t think Trav and Tech feel like that. They’re always just like, “Do you. We know what you do and you do a good job.”
But I feel like I have a lot to prove.
This was the first track that people heard from the project so what was it like to be in the studio with Sway as that moment was coming, knowing that this was the first track they were going to hear and the first time hearing you as the new artist?
I think it’s good because Sway has been a vital part of hip hop history and especially essential in West coast history.
Sway has been a fan and a supporter and literally just pops up at my shows in Phoenix where I didn’t know and somebody would point at him in the crowd and I’m like, Oh shit! and he just has his hood on, trying to peep my whole shit, my get down.
He’s definitely been instrumental in Tech’s career so I think it was the proper place to introduce it. My whole family listens to Sway In The Morning, that’s what we listen to on the way taking my son to school. We’re big fans of Heather B and DJ Wonder, so it was awesome. It felt good, and you know the freestyle part – I just did my verse from the cypher. Still it’s on edge, it’s live going out to millions of people and it’s going to be viewed thousands – maybe a million times online. I felt like I had my emcee shit on that whole time like, I’m ready. I gotta go back to that feeling like I feel like I’m starting all over again. Rapping next to Tech and hearing his cypher verse was like Alright, shit is real again. Motherfuckers over here are trying to rap and I gotta rap.
Let’s talk about what is one of my favorite lines on the whole song and it’s the Daryl line. You’ve got the T-shirt on and you’re obviously a fan of The Walking Dead.
Me and my wife, that’s our favorite show and our favorite comic book. The new storyline is in 12 parts so when they go into something like that I just wait until they finish all 12 because I can’t possibly wait for the next issue to come out if I start reading it. So if you read the comic, they’re going at it with Negan right now and I’m so ready for this motherfucker to die. Like worse than The Governor ready for this motherfucker to die, so I’m hoping that ends.
I’m a huge comic book fan and a huge S/O to my boy Shawn Kirkham who works at Skybound, he always hooks me up. I know that a lot of Strange fans are into that shit and they would catch the reference. Even Tech came in when we were shooting the video and said, “Ahh, that line! I love that you said that!” Everybody on set knows and I’m happy to be a part of this culture.
It’s one of my favorite shows, and I don’t do horrorcore or horror movies, but I watch The Walking Dead and I read the comic books. The line is “Pharaoh” – some people say it’s “feral,” I like that. It’s “Pharaoh with an arrow”, but both work, so I love when that happens, when it makes sense two ways. Bravo to the guy who came up with that because you wrote a better verse than me, almost. But it’s “Pharaoh” as in Egyptian royalty. I say “Living Legend walking dead, pharaoh with an arrow” I try to always lead with shit like that.
With all of this happening around you, what is it like to be here at Strangeland Studios right now?
It’s just crazy, man. For me coming here, that’s why I feel like the pressure is on, because I’m so broken down. You know, I feel like I’m a humble person, and it’s bold to say that, but I’m humble as fuck (laughs). I feel like that’s not humble, but I try to stay down to earth and all bullshit aside, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’m not arrogant, but I’m a very confident person because I’ve made this dream happen out of nothing.
I’ve had a festival, I’ve been on a major label, I’ve been in a room with my favorite rappers, I’ve sold out shows. I’ve done everything you can possibly do in this rap game. I’m here because I love it not because I have something to prove or because I need more money. Coming here, everybody is on the wall – except for me. Everybody has a T-shirt in [the store] – except for me. Everybody has a chain – except for me (and ¡MAYDAY!). I’m here to get mine. Normally when someone drops an album, they’re on tour with Tech. We’re dropping MURSDAY and none of us are on tour with Tech. It’s good because I feel like I have so much to earn and I feel like so much great shit has been done here that to even make the radar, I need to do something even better. I’m here and I feel I’m doing the best music of my career.
As a Tech N9ne fan, literally hearing him on Gang Related: The Soundtrack and being a fan since then, he’s only gotten better. His cypher verse is probably the best verse I’ve heard in my life, or in a long time. So I know at his age, and not to say that he’s old, but he’s older than I am and in another generation – as someone I looked up to, he is still making his best music, unlike a lot of rappers that I used to know and used to like. They aren’t making good music anymore, Tech is one of the few. So I know that I’m making the best music of my career and it can even get better and it has to get better. I feel like I owe it to Strange because Strange has done so much for hip hop. I want to help them continue to break boundaries and barriers so I gotta bring my fucking A game. I want to earn a spot on this wall, I want to earn some T shirts and I feel like everything here has to be earned. I want to earn the respect of the Strange fans.
I’ve toured for Atmosphere fans and a lot of other fans and I feel like a lot of them are racially biased. But whether Tech’s fans were Juggalos, stoners wreaking havoc or just hip hop heads, Strange Music fans don’t care what color you are, they just want you to be dope and have a dope show and those are the kind of people that I’m interested in – earning their respect. I feel like I’ve earned the respect of Atmosphere fans and I’ve earned the respect of some Snoop Dogg fans and other people that I’ve toured with and opened for and I got a couple more fans from the Sickology 101 Tour. But at the same time, I’m here to help Strange earn the respect they deserve from a lot of the mainstream heads that don’t give them a second thought. You know Strange fans talk a lot of shit online, my fans talk a lot of shit online. My fans don’t like Tech N9ne, and you don’t have to like Tech N9ne to like my music and you don’t have to like me to like Tech N9ne’s music. But give us a shot, Tech knows what he’s doing, I know what I’m doing. Just give it a listen.
My fans are thinking I’m going to change my style, I didn’t change it for Warner Bros. and I’m definitely not going to change it for Strange Music. It’s funny because people think that it’s the industry or the labels that change people’s music and I’ve never ever had a label ask me to change my music. It’s always these artists’ fault, never blame the industry, never blame the radio, these motherfuckers are doing it to themselves. The president of Warner Bros. heard my 9th Wonder record and said, “I’ll put that out right now, I love it. Do you want to put it out?” I was like, “No I’m on Warner Bros. let me go in with will.i.am, let me do some songs with Snoop Dogg!” He was like, ”Are you sure? Because you can put this out right now, I don’t care, I’ll put money behind it.” He didn’t give a fuck, he didn’t tell me to put out a radio record, “If you want to go meet Scott Storch and Three 6 Mafia, go do it.” And I was like, “That’s what I want to do. I want to meet all of these people.” It wasn’t Warner Bros. making me make that record, and I still sounded like me.
When I came here, Tech and Trav said, “Do you, do what you want to do.” I’m on tour right now opening for SOJA and Trav was like, “Great!” Trav was like, “I didn’t even know you were coming today. Oh, you’re doing a “Hard” video? Great! That’s cool.” He gives so much freedom to the people who work here because we all love what we do and we love this label. We’re all here, I’m working my ass off. I’m representing Strange on tour with a reggae band, that’s my whole thing.
Peace, love and Strange Music – that’s what it’s all about.
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- What did you think of MURS’ verse on ‘Hard’?
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