When MURS joined Strange Music in early 2014, everybody knew it was a great addition to the label, but did anybody expect his first full-length project under the imprint to be a collaborative effort with another Strange Music act?
Fast forward to today: ¡MAYDAY! x MURS’s ¡MURSDAY! is making hip hop heads happy all across the globe with its eclectic blend of grooves and a throwback, Beastie Boys-like approach to songwriting that has people inhaling the music like a breath of fresh air.
We talked to MURS live on the air to get his take on the songwriting, performing and crafting of the album. Along the way he revealed plans for his next album Love and Rockets 2 and much more.
The live aspect of this album is very remarkable, seeing as it was actually debuted in a live setting at SXSW. What was the reaction that you were seeing? I know that I was in the crowd and these songs were some that already had you singing along by the time the second or third chorus came around. The set never got old either.
I think that that’s the key to it. We definitely did that with this in mind. With it being catchy and fun, we wanted to do a celebration. Strange Music is such a fantastic label and most of the shows are very celebratory. For whatever reason people pigeonhole Strange Music as demonic or whatever but if you come to a Tech N9ne show or a Stevie Stone show or a Krizz Kaliko show or CES Cru show, everybody’s having fun man. Technicians are some of the most fun-loving people ever. What I like about Tech is that they have a drink. Everybody’s got Caribou Lou or KC Tea and it’s not some brand that you have to go out and buy, like it’s just some shit that you could just make on your own. These are people who just want to have fun. It’s not all about showing off for each other.
We wanted to kind of contribute to that in our own way. I’m not much for Areola or titties, not that I don’t like those things, but that’s not our thing. We wanted to do the hip hop version. Kind of like The Beastie Boys and add our brand of fun to the already brand of Strange fun and kind of brighten it up a little bit so people can stop fucking pre-judging or putting Strange in a box. It’s just fun, real hip hop.
This album is like the perfect summer album. Was that an approach discussed beforehand?
We definitely discussed that we wanted it to be a celebration. We wanted it to be bright. We wanted the artwork to be bright. We wanted everything to be big and beautiful and fun and just different. This is one of the first Strange covers that doesn’t have a a lot of black and red on it. All that was thought out. We wanted the videos to be fun. Just everything brighter. We wanted everything to be brighter to round out the Strange vibe and definitely recording in Miami made it so we were in a summer state of mind because it’s perpetually summer down there. I’ve always wanted a summer album, but I’ve never had one.
What do you think about this album lends itself so well to live performances?
We were having fun when we were doing it. Thankfully I think ¡MAYDAY! was very excited to work with me so some of that energy I’m sure went into the music. With the percussion I think that that’s keeps the music moving moreso than other things.
What can you tell us about Plex’s contributions to the album? How much did he produce?
I don’t know. I would say a lot. A lot of music was done before I go there so his input during the sessions weren’t really there but he came by and put his energy in. He was just a nice person to meet. He’s an extremely intelligent dude and seems to be a good father. I always use opportunities when I meet people who I think are good and young fathers and are in their kids lives everyday, or not – people that are fathers or are concerned with their kids I’ll use that as an opportunity to learn because I didn’t have a dad so there’s no one I can ask for advice really. If I do it’s my grandfather or my uncle who are all from another generation so I when I meet people from my generation I usually talk their ear off about their kids and try to get techniques and advice. So we’d talk a lot about music but I’ll talk about being married and having children because those are two areas that I think people like Plex that I respect have invaluable information. The beats he gave us are invaluable but they were already done so there wasn’t really much to talk about.
Speaking of the production, what do you think about ¡MAYDAY!’s production?
That’s one of the reasons I wanted to work with them. I think their music is really poppy and they have a mainstream appeal but with authenticity that it’s not sell out. They’re not making “Whoomp! There It Is” but I think that they make the kind of hip hop mainstream music that like Outkast makes. Something that everybody can love but everybody has to respect. That’s how I feel about ¡MAYDAY!.
Like you said, the first time you see them perform, by the second hook you’re singing their chorus and it’s not like “Whoomp, there it is!” or anything super-trashy. It’s just really well made and really well thought out. I love their production. It’s different than anyone I’ve worked with.
You got to see them write a lot of these hooks I’m sure. What can you say about their writing process?
I actually only got to see them write one or two hooks. They’re not afraid to call Kendall Morgan or call the homegirl Angelie Starr. They’ll call whoever like the one guy named Brooklyn who sang on “Beast Out The Box”. They get a feeling and they’ll call whoever and if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work. It’s like letting people come and play. Like having the homies come over “What’s up? Let’s get a drink. Let’s smoke. Cool. You hear this? What do you hear? I hear something like this. ‘I hear something like this.'” Then someone will get in the booth and try it. Angelie did a whole hook and we just kept one little part of what she did, like “Yeah! Yeah!” and then they built on that. Then I added something and they didn’t like it and then I added something else and they didn’t like it. This is for the song “Brand New Get Up”. Finally I came home for Valentine’s Day and my wedding anniversary and went back and when I came back from Arizona they were like “We got it! We finally cracked it!” So they’ll know when it’s right.
They’ll listen to the music. They don’t put out a song before its time. “Fools Gold” is a song on the album that was supposed to be on the first ¡MAYDAY! album. It was supposed to be on Take Me To Your Leader and it didn’t make it because it wasn’t ready. It didn’t make Believers because it wasn’t ready. It didn’t make anything until it was ready and finally, with a little bit of our new Beastie Boys approach, we cracked it, so it finally made the album. It’s a great hook. It’s a great beat. Plex loves it. He’s been trying to get the guys to put it out but Bernz and Wrek are like “It’s not right. It’s not right.” The hook is dope, the beat is dope, boom.
Then we had “Brand New Get Up”, the beat was dope but the hook was shit. Then we weren’t going to put it on the album even though we all loved the beat and wanted to perform it. I think it’ s one of our best performance songs and one of the best songs on the album. It wasn’t going to make it until we got the hook right. We had a bunch of hooks, but they’re like chefs. Until it’s perfect they’re not going to serve it out. Some people I think talk down to the mainstream and ¡MAYDAY! doesn’t do that. Like you could go on dope ebeat and say anything. You know” “Versace, Fersace, Versace, Versace?” and it’ll still be a hit record, but they want it to have something more. “Here” is a great hook. “Brand New Get Up”, what we’re saying is empowering to people and it’s catchy. I think that’s what they’re going for: to make music that people feel but also they’ll sing it in their head. It’s like nutritional bubblegum.
Was that a big part of joining this label for you, knowing that the artists put so much care into their records?
They care about their fans. Hell yeah. The same reason I started Paid Dues with Guerilla Union initially. I saw how they treated their fans and treated the artists in the beginning and was like “Wow, I can be a part of this.” The same thing with Strange. It costs more to go to a Tech N9ne show than some other rappers that are indie but it’s because Tech employs so many people and the people employed are treated right. Most of them have health care and health benefits. Everybody in there’s like a family and I know that when I put out music and it’s generating income I’m helping support everyone from the merch cage to my friend Jose that works there. That also extends to the fans because they take care of their employees they also take care of the business. The fans are the ones that make this business possible and Strange gives them so much. I’m a big wrestling fan so I love that there’s a lot of merch. I love that there’s a story. I love that they’ve put so much intention in everything. I’m an ICP fan too and I love what they put into their merch and so much thought.
I know I heard in the last podcast that this will probably be your last collaborative effort of this sort. Can you picture yourself doing an album like this with any of the other acts on Strange?
I want Stevie Stone to be like my Nate Dogg bro. I’ve been trying to get him to do a hook on my record for a long time. I love him. I love the whole crew man so I’m looking forward to working with him and finding a way for us to both succeed because I think that I need to have some platinum records and I think that he does. I could see something with him doing the hooks or something on a Warren G type of thing. I don’t know. It probably wouldn’t be a whole project.
The only person I could see myself doing a whole project with is Tech if he asked me to. I couldn’t say no to him but everybody else I could probably say no to and I would at this point. But who knows? I try not to put too many limits on music but I compromise a lot now that I have a wife and two kids. To get a good comp record done there has to be some compromise and I don’t feel like compromising in my art anymore. Before I was a single guy with a bunch of money just doing whatever I want whenever I wanted so compromising in my music was okay. Now a lot of what I do has to do with whatever my wife and kids say which makes me happy but I need some freedom in my music now.
When you think about your next project are you thinking about all these new label mates you have to get on a track with you?
I’m thinking about features but I may do a solo record with no features man.
That’d be tight. What makes you want to go that direction?
Like I said I’ve worked with so many people and my job is working with so many people when I do Paid Dues and I’ve done so many features – I’ve got features coming out of my ass man. If I have to feature with somebody it has to really make sense man. I feel like I would want to do a MURS Collabos record if I did a Strange record with label features. Have Seven do all the beats and then just live in Strangeland for three weeks and have everybody come through. I know that’s Tech’s spot but that’s kind of what I would want to do if I did. Once you start asking people, like if I couldn’t ask Kutt and not ask Krizz and couldn’t ask CES and not ask ¡MAYDAY!…then it would be an all Strange thing and I might as well just make it that. But also for Love and Rockets 2, my next record, I’ve been writing it and planning it and plotting it for the past four years.
So this record is just waiting to be made basically.
Yeah it’s just waiting to get spit out. I’ve written it. I have songs in my head and hooks and concepts for videos. It’s been a long time coming. This is before Strange.
The next album I would probably just try and hole up in Strange and try to fuck with Seven all day for a few weeks and see what I come up with. Because you know, when you’re at Strangeland there’s you stopping by, Taylor’s there, Ryan’s there. Everybody’s there and there’s a different vibe and I would love to incorporate that vibe into an album. It’s whoever’s at the focal point.
When Tech does it he’s channeling everybody’s energy through his mouth or his art. I want to put that through my prism and see how it comes out. I’d love to see how that Kansas City and Strange energy emanates through me, but I don’t want to half do it. I’m such an all-or-nothing person. I might not have a beat from Seven on here just because if I get a beat from Seven I’m going to want 50 more of those motherfuckers. I just want to hole up in Strange, maybe for my next record after this next one and really come with a MURS/Strange sounding record.
What’s the response been like from your fans, the ones that have been with you for a long time?
I think they’ve been relatively good. I feel like there’s definitely some fans that turn their back on me because I’m on Strange or they only want to hear me with 9th Wonder or they only want to hear me with Slug or they only want to hear me with Living Legends. Fuck those people. The funny thing is is that I don’t ever worry about that because I think that my true fans don’t want me to worry about that. I think those are the ones that are like “Do White Mandigos. Do a comic book. I’ll support whatever you do,” and those are the dudes that I look for. The ones that are sitting back waiting for me to do what they want me to do weren’t my fans in the first place.
I’m definitely getting love from the people that matter and then I’m getting a lot of love from Strange fans. They’re such a more vocal group of people. My fans are like silent. They’ll let you know when you’re fucking up but Strange fans are so much more aggressively loving and definitely aggressive when they don’t like something. They’re very straightforward, down-to-earth people and that’s kind of how I am and I love that shit. Back to my fans, some of them embrace the change, some of them haven’t but I’m hoping they’ll come around. I did “Tabletops” and I didn’t want to do that song. “Hard” and the “Strangeulation” cypher, those aren’t who I’ve become as an artist. That’s like me going back to an era. Some of my fans really like that like “This is the old MURS that I’ve been waiting for!” I’m like “Ehh,” but then Bernie and everybody are like “You’re killing it! You’re killing it!” and I’m like “I don’t like to rap double-time. I don’t like fucking rapping about being better than other rappers.” That’s not what I’m into but people love “Hard” and getting back into that aggressive battle mode and fun. Some of my fans like that but some of them want me to continue rapping about girls and politics and shit like that.
Bill Cosby once said “I don’t know what the secret to success is but I know that the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” I just do what comes from my heart. When I heard that “Hard” beat that’s what came out. When I heard the “Strangeulation” cypher that’s what came out of my heart. When I heard “Tabletops”, that’s what Bernie forced out of my heart. (Laughs) I had to re-do “Tabletops” like two or three times because they didn’t like my verse. They said it wasn’t tight enough. It’s so hard for me to write double-time so I was just like “Uh,” but I decided Bernie was the leader and I followed his lead. He didn’t like the verse so I kept trying. At the end of the day me rewriting the verse to please someone else, I’m not going to write anything I don’t think is tight and if they don’t think it’s tight then I’m going to write something else that I think is tight and hope they think it’s tight. If we both think it’s tight then it’s dope! They made me a better artist so I appreciate that. I’m not mad. I appreciate if the fans or whoever are straightforward with me if it’s relevant. Bernie’s not saying “You suck MURS! I’m saying “I don’t want to rap double-time.” He’s like “You’re dope at it but you gotta give it another shot. I think you’ve got a better one in you. Not that I don’t think you’re capable and you suck.” I hate criticism without any structure or positivity.
Without any constructiveness.
Thank you. Yes. Bernie was very constructive and I love that as a producer. You could break me down and as long as you’re making me better it’s good. Evidence is like that as well. We did a song together and he was trying to coach me because I didn’t know it until afterwards but Evidence is one of those whose rhythm…he’s the complete opposite of Tech. Tech is like in the pocket and super fast, but Evidence is extremely slow rapping but he’s so in the pocket. You think it’s easy to be on beat when you say “Yeah…” “I just smoked a whole eighth in a spliff / some people say that’s a problem, I say it’s a gift.” Like, just a simple line like that but where he’s at in the beat is so precise. When I was doing a verse for him he was like “Nah, do this this and this.” He’s such a scientist. So anyway, I love constructive criticism whether it be from the fans or whatever.
The line “Fuck all y’all, it’s my turn,” in “Tabletops”, was that a rewritten line?
Yeah that was just me saying “Fuck them” because I didn’t want to keep rapping and shit. I was like “I don’t want to do double-time.” Most of my fans don’t like me to do double-time. That’s not what I do and I hate braggadocio rap. I’m tired of rapping about how big my dick is and how much better I am than everybody else because I’m really good at it. I’ve mastered that. I mastered that when I was 18, 19-years-old, but what I haven’t done is – I want to do 2Pac songs or Bob Marley songs. Like shit that people feel for generations. Tech N9ne songs. You know what I mean? I want to do shit like that. I want to do anthem music and Billy Joel shit. “This Is My Life” type shit. So to step back into that is kind of stepping backwards to me but it also feels so good. To me it’s like when I first started skating again. I was like “Ah shit I haven’t done this in a long time”! It’s good, but it’s not good for my bones or when I fall. But it feels good to do in the moment.
What are some of your favorite songs from the record?
“Here” obviously. “Serge’s Song”. I know a lot of my fans were turned off because of “Hard”, the cypher and then the first single “Tabletops” and then they were like “Fuck, MURS is just doing this braggadocio rap.” So I wanted to get “Serge’s Song” out there and I wanted to get “Here” out there so my fans know there’s more in-depth to this album than you think. Don’t compeltely tune out. “Fools Gold” is one of my favorites. “Brand New Get Up” is probably my favorite at the moment. But damn I love “Serge’s Song”. My heart speaks Spanish so I’m really excited about that song. Hopefully latin girls will attack me and kiss me up because of that song.
If you could pick a setting to play this album at, what do you think is the perfect scenario for ¡MURSDAY! to be played?
On a picnic table at the beach or like when you’re standing. Like I’m looking at the ocean but there’s a girl in a bikini looking at me but I’m standing between her legs in that makeout type of thing. That type of thing. Hard bitch makeout at the beach type shit, that’s what I would say. With people around though so you guys are kind of dry humping each other but not really. You’re trying not to get a boner because you guys are still at the party at the beach. All of this with spiked punch. You have a big orange cooler of liquor and sugar mixture and you’re at the beach. Definitely red solo cups, or blue for that matter. Blue and red solo cups. A girl wearing a turquoise bikini. Teal maybe. Ocean. Coral maybe. Coral blue. That’s it. Standing between her legs and looking at the ocean. That’ll probably be the way to listen to the ¡MURSDAY! album. I don’t know if that was descriptive enough. Specific enough.
What would you tell fans to expect from this album when they put it in?
Fuck man. Just fun. Just fun. Like MC Hammer Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em. That album. Like he had “Pray” on that album. “Can’t Touch This” is like “Brand New Get Up”. “Pray” is like “Here” and “Here Comes The Hammer” is kind of like “Tabletops”. That’s how I feel. I really, really love that album Please Hammer Don’t Hurt Em. That’s how I feel this album is. It’s just fun. Everything on that album you can groove to, whether it’s “Serge’s Song’ or “Here”. It’s a groovy record man. Really funky fresh.
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