If you still have any doubts as to why MURS and Strange Music are a match made in music heaven, this interview ought to clear those up for you.
During our podcast with MURS we got into what is one of the most anticipated projects of the summer: ¡MAYDAY! x MURS: ¡MURSDAY! Fans and hip hop heads alike are on the edge of their seats to hear the collision of one of indie’s most storied emcees and the world’s most dangerous group. From listening to “Tabletops”, the first single released, we can already tell that this album is going to be something special.
We talked to MURS to get his perspective on the how the project was created and where it’s going. If you’re wondering things like “Why isn’t Tech N9ne on the album?”, “Who’s the bawse in ¡MAYDAY!?” or “How did MURS end up at Strange Music?” then read on.
I was going on and on about ¡MURSDAY! at the top, it’s a huge project that we’re all really excited about. And what I love so much about this is that it’s unlike anything that’s been done before on Strange Music as far as collaborative releases. Yes, you have the Tech N9ne Collabos albums, but that’s nothing like this. Can you take me through the process of how this came to be because I think a lot of people may not know that this has been sort of in the works for a while?
So I was approached by these guys – I don’t know how I met them. Wrek, that’s another thing because I was a big star rapper and I’m sure he shook my hand and asked me for my autograph way before and I didn’t remember (laughs). No, but seriously, I have a bad memory and I just remember that I’ve heard their name in the mix of underground hip hop before they were signed to Strange. With Paid Dues it’s kind of my job to keep abreast of what’s going on.
If you really want to go way back, that probably no one cares about, but I’m a weird spiritual person, my manager Dana Mason lives in the same building as their manager, Kether (I can’t pronounce his last name). Dana worked with Travis, Dave Weiner and Tech on Absolute Power, she goes way back with them, they’re good friends. She maintained her friendship with Dave Weiner who I believe is VP at Strange, and she’s my A&R and friend. Kether came upstairs to Dana and said, “Yo, you should check out this new group I’m managing called ¡MAYDAY!.” Dana heard the music and was like, “Oh, my friend Dave would love it!” So she gave it to Dave, Dave fell in love with it and then approached Trav and Tech about them.
Dana wasn’t my manager at the time, she was just a friend of mine and we worked together on Paid Dues. She had been trying to get Tech on Paid Dues and Rock the Bells for years but they just kind of ignored her. But being the owner of Paid Dues, there was no going back on it when I said I wanted it. So they called Dana up and she was like, “What the fuck? I’ve been trying to tell these people for years about Tech N9ne.” I was like, “I’ve been a fan of Tech for a while and I would love to have him on Paid Dues.” Initially I didn’t think that we could afford him when we first started out. So when we started growing, I was like, “Cool, we can start bringing in all the types of stuff I listen to.”
I think Dana called Dave or Trav right then and Travis flew me out to Strange Music and I was like, What the fuck? Just sign the paper and come when the show is. I don’t need to come to Kansas City to meet you. The last time I had seen headquarters, which was nice, was The Psychumentary and I was like, Okay, that’s nice. They have a building where they do their business, I have a building where I do my business. Wow, big whoop. Not to be confused with “whoop whoop” but “big whoop” – not a big deal.
I then fly with Dave Weiner all the way there, and I’m a music industry nerd, I wanted to be a music business executive before I wanted to be a rapper. And Dave was telling me crazy stories because Dave, among many other things, is the guy who signed Master P to Priority – amazing. So he’s filling my head with these stories for three hours, we land, and Cory Nielsen picks us up. Lots of impressive things happen in the car with Cory, but I won’t go into those.
Oh, may I say that Cory Nielsen says hello –
Hi, Cory Nielsen, love of my life. I’m just going to say this, feel like I can say this. We were in the car and Cory gets a call and says, “Hold on one second.” Then he says, “Sorry, that was the police.” So I say, “What do you mean that was the police?! Are we in trouble?” He’s like, “No, they were going to pull over a car but the plates registered with Strange Music so they called me first before they pulled the car over.” What the fuck?! So we can go back to the term “Absolute Power,” like when people say that they run their city, I was like oh wow, this is crazy.
Then we get to the facilities and I’m like, This is even crazier. This is a huge building with snakes and bats engraved into the marble floors, these people are serious. And unlike many of my friends who I’ve done business with via Paid Dues, he gave me a tour and then he made me a proposition for Tech N9ne to do business with me.
At this point, I had booked hundreds of rappers on Paid Dues and very rarely do they turn around and try to do something to benefit my career, it’s always what I can do for them. And Travis and Tech were the first people to say, “Yeah man, we’d like you to go on tour with us and we’d like to pay you some money.” Well what the fuck, what do you know? That’s awesome. I went on Sickology after that and I was able to purchase my first piece of income property because of that and I was always and forever thankful for that.
And Travis is just one of those people like in the middle of me doing Paid Dues, Tech wasn’t even on it that year I don’t believe, he called me and said, “Man, I know you got a lot of shit going on and I just wanted to call you and send you some love and if you need somebody to talk to, I’m here. That’s it, I didn’t want shit. Alright, Later.” Just calling to check on me because he knows how stressful it is to pull something together like that. Didn’t want anything, Tech is blowing up at the time and he’s just calling to check on me.
You know, stuff like that matters to me, and I got off on a tangent. Anyway, somewhere in there ¡MAYDAY! comes into the family and they reach out to me, one of the first Strange artists to reach out to me, to say that they wanted me on their album. At that point any time Tech or Trav call me and ask me for anything, I just say yes and we worry about the details, money, whatever later and I did the song. I live in Tucson, they came to Tucson and I shot the video for them. The guy who ended up doing some of the artwork on the cover shot the video for “Hardcore Bitches” so it’s all coming together, it’s meant to be.
They came to Tucson, I went to the show, I got there late because I don’t know how to navigate the city yet, I’m still new and I wasn’t able to perform “Hardcore Bitches” with them. I didn’t even get to see them perform, actually so I’ve still never seen ¡MAYDAY! perform but I hear it’s are amazing. And we just chilled on the bus and talked a little bit and they say, “We should do an album called ¡MURSDAY! because the fans really like ‘Hardcore Bitches’” And all you have to say to me is “collaboration” and I’m all over it.
I love working with other people because that’s how I become better. I like ¡MAYDAY!, because I was on Take Me To Your Leader I bought it and listened to it, then Believers came around and I really like that. I think they have so much potential to be way bigger than they are and for me to get the opportunity to work with them and be a part of it, I just jumped at it. When they said ¡MURSDAY! I don’t think they knew I had a song called “Murs Day” but it made sense. Then we mentioned it online and a couple fans were really stoked about it and when I tweeted them back and I called Dave and told him to make it happen.
Unbeknownst to them, I had been working a couple of years before, me and Dave sat down to talk about me getting signed with Strange and things just didn’t work out. I ended up working with Dame Dash for a while. So when Dave called me to re-approach the ¡MURSDAY! thing, I said, “You know what it might be time for me to just go all in with Strange Music. Every time I’m in an interview I’m always giving them love and I’m just a big admirer so it might be time for me to settle down and get married to Strange,” and we thought what a perfect way to do that with ¡MURSDAY!: sit down with these guys and introduce myself to the Strange fans. [They] seem to be really popular with and loved by a lot the Technicians. To introduce them to me and what I do for those who weren’t at the Sickology show, it’s kind of like weed, the perfect gateway drug. ¡MURSDAY! is before I do Love and Rockets. It kind of gives the Strange fans an opportunity to get to know me. Not long, but we have an hour.
Now you were talking about how the ¡MURSDAY! thing came about and how they shot that name out at you. I was really curious about this because ¡MURSDAY! seems like such the obvious option, but I wanted to ask you was there ever a debate or a battle over the name? Did that ever change along the way and did people want to change the name of the album or the group per se?
No. Really, Bernz came up with the name. I think it was Bernz and you don’t argue with Bernz, Bernz is the boss of the whole group. We did argue a lot making this record, but it usually just ends up whatever Bernie wants it to be and Bernz said that’s the name so that’s the name, and it works.
You’ve done a lot of collaborative projects in the past, you just mentioned that, how did this one differ from all of those?
Umm, I feel like unless there’s a big surprise in the next year, this is the last one I’m going to do because it’s very, very, very taxing on me. I talked to the ¡MAYDAY! guys about it. You know they make music together all the time so for me to fly out to Miami and live there for a few weeks and make an album with them, any idea I came up with it was like, I won’t say objection, but it’s harder – I’m the odd man out.
And that’s how it is with felt because you know Slug is my big homie, he’s done so much for me and Rhymesayers has done so much for me that I try not to argue with them, but for the sake of the music it’s good to have a little give and take. 9th Wonder makes most of the decisions when I work with him because I’m there to learn, and I know I can always take what I learn and apply it to my solo records and not have any arguments.
So there weren’t any debates about the name, but there were lots of debates about how we would approach it. I think we ended up at a middle ground. It’s also not so much about debate, but they don’t know me. They know my music, but they don’t know my creative process and I don’t know theirs. It’s coming to trust each other’s creative process, and that’s only proven once we start making songs and you guys like them. Like, “Oh yeah, we did it your way and that really worked.” Once things start clicking it’s like Oh shit.
With ¡MAYDAY!, a lot of those songs were already written, the hooks and everything, they took care of so much. I just kind of said since we’re all here, why go sit in a corner and write a 16 and you write a 16? You guys do that on ¡MAYDAY! albums all day. I got 16s all day, let’s do something in the spirit. Me and Gio are huge Beastie Boys fans, so let’s do something in that spirit where we all know each other’s lines. It ended up being a fucking lot of work. Like if you listen to “Tabletops” we’re backing each other up and we all had to stay in the booth at the same time and learn everybody’s verse. And then try and say, “No, don’t say ‘and’ say ‘but’ and then there just ‘oooo.’”
So we could have been finished with the album way quicker, but it took a lot of time for us to learn and then sync up in unison. And there was a lot of drinking and smoking going on too so also not being sharp [laughs]. They rap so fast too! Some of the parts are like (mimics fast rap) so if I fuck up, everybody has to go back and do it again, it’s like football practice. Like if you don’t fuckin’ do your job everybody has to do push-ups.
That sounds insane because I know it’s hard enough sometimes to try and dub your own vocals let alone the other guys’ with lines that you don’t even know and you have to learn on the spot.
Yeah and a lot of it, like there’s a song on the album where they wrote the first two bars and the last four bars and everybody says the same thing. They were 16s but we wrote a lot for each other. Like I said on “Hard”, I don’t rap fast, but for their fans, there had to be some double-time shit. Like on “Tabletops”, that was fucking hard. They made me redo my second verse. I don’t even know if my fans care about me rapping double-time, I just don’t do it and I haven’t done it in years. I was in a group with Eligh and my homeboy Scarub and they rap great double-time but I just back up off that shit. Tech, Wrek, Bernz, everybody does it so good I don’t think there needs to be another motherfucker rapping fast. But, they made me do it and I was really angry about it and that’s why the second verse starts saying “Fuck all y’all!”
Focusing on the ¡MURSDAY! album, one of the most unique qualities about this album, that you mentioned, is that Tech N9ne is not on it. Was this a decision that was made from the beginning and was there any opposition to it?
Yeah, there was a lot of, “Tech sells records, fuck!” “Do we want to do that?” “Well if it fits, if it makes sense” “Let’s not just go for it because we have to. Well… do we have to?” “Nah, we don’t have to. But then how are the fans going to feel?” We think about you guys when we’re making records, like how are the fans going to feel? And how is Tech going to feel? Is he going to take offense to that? I don’t hear where he would go and some of these beats were sent to Tech originally that he wasn’t feeling. And paramount above anything, I know that our boss is fucking busy trying to make Strangeulation the best album he possibly could. What do we look like if we’re like, “Yo, you got a spare 16? I know you’re over there recording 20 other songs, bro, but we need you on this.”
I feel like it’s our job as soldiers in Tech’s army to say, “We got this, we’ll handle it, don’t worry and he can be on a remix.” We’ve all worked with him, you know I just did “Hard” with him. And that was such a big look for me, that’s him reaching out and giving me a hand up with that. I didn’t really feel comfortable, I won’t say burdening him because he’s such a kind person, but I felt like that was part of it. But hell yeah, we want Tech on our album. He’s in everybody’s top 10 favorite rappers, why wouldn’t I want to work with one of my top 10 rappers?
But it just didn’t happen, it definitely wasn’t a conscious effort like, “Nah, we’re not going to have Tech on this.” We thought about it, things happened and it just didn’t work out this time. But I’m a strong believer in God, or whatever you want to call the creator of life force and energy that it just wasn’t supposed to happen this time. Maybe it’s better for Strange or maybe we’ll sell less records because of it. Maybe we’ll get less views on YouTube, because everybody knows that if you have Tech in your videos, you’re going to get more views on the Strange Music channel, but fuck it, I just want to make good music.
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