With Have A Nice Life just around the corner, we talked to MURS to get his insight as to what to expect on his Strange Music debut.
In part two of our extensive interview with MURS, he breaks down the collaborations he has in store with Have A Nice Life, why he put them on there, and what they bring to the table. He also gives a very candid insight into his life at Strange Music, and what it’s been like so far on the independent powerhouse.
What’s your experience been like so far with Strange?
You know, it’s been up and down to be honest. I don’t bullshit people. I think every relationship is up and down. Me being married for 5 years, today, which is crazy – we have to stay together. There’s been some ups and downs, but the fact that there’s authentic communication makes it work. Tell me what it is, tell me I fucked up, I’ll tell you I fucked up and let’s move on. There doesn’t need to be any tantrums, there doesn’t need to be any screaming or yelling. We’re adults.
There’s a foundation of love and respect, and as long as there’s a foundation of love and respect shit might go up and down, but if we hit rock bottom there’s love and respect. I think that’s what’s here at Strange. So, yeah, we’ve had ups and downs like any label, but why I came here is not because they do things perfect, or they do everything “right,” I came here because there’s love, respect and integrity here that’s not at a lot of labels. I won’t say a lot of labels, it’s just not able to be accessed, because there’s some bigwig behind the curtains that could fire everybody at any moment so everyone’s scared. The bigwig here, I know him, I have his number. I call Travis, he listens to my records, and he responds.
As I understand it, that’s not a common relationship to have in this business.
No, not with a lot of big labels. It’s funny though, every label I’ve been with – when I was on Warner Bros. I went to the president’s house and played my records and he was like “Oh yeah, I love what you do with 9th Wonder. You want just put out a whole 9th Wonder record?” I’ve always been fortunate enough to deal with people with integrity, and when he left Warner, I left Warner. It wasn’t that I got dropped, but the president, Tom Whalley, he’s a music legend –he signed Primus, he signed 2Pac, he signed Beastie Boys and MC Hammer – he’s a genius and he liked my music and I liked him. I respected him. When he left, I left.
Same thing with Travis. That’s someone I love and respect. So, I’ve always been fortunate enough to deal with that. Same thing with Dame Dash, that’s someone I love and respect. When we worked together he signed me. He was in the studio with me recording records. He liked what I did and he respected me. He might not have liked all my music. I don’t think Travis is the hugest fan of all my music. He loves Tech N9ne. If you love Tech N9ne it’s almost impossible for you to be in love with my music. You can respect it, and like a couple songs, and I hope you can love it. I’m trying to bridge that gap, but it’s a little different. It might not be up Trav’s alley, but he’s like “I get what you’re doing and I respect it. Let’s take it as far as it can go.” That’s all I ask. When you mess up it’s “Okay.” Yeah, we moved release dates three times but he acknowledged that in the meeting. There’s a lot of people that are like “You do what I say, when I say it. Do it and be happy that it gets done.” But he’s like “Nah, it’s frustrating. I understand you’re frustrated MURS, but here’s what we’re going to do to make this work.”
I guess a consolation is that you’ll have the date of release insert in Special Effects.
Inside a Tech N9ne album. I grew up thinking that was brilliant marketing on Master P’s side when he used to do it. Dave Weiner, who works here, used to work with Master P, so those ideas trickle and take an influence from great businessmen such as Mr. Percy Miller. I think that’s great. I’m not complaining though. I believe in God: not one God, but I believe there’s a greater force at work and things are exactly how they’re supposed to be, even when they’re not working like you think. The best way to make God laugh is to tell him or her your plans. I don’t think Travis has it out for me. I think that’s just the way it’s supposed to be. I’m supposed to come out after Tech. I’m supposed to have my face on the inside of Tech N9ne’s new amazing record. Fuck yeah! Who wouldn’t want that? If I would’ve come out beforehand I wouldn’t have had that chance. A date is just a date. I make music that’s timeless and I think people on Strange are all trying to make music that’s timeless.
I like that approach. You said that, for this record, you record 40 songs and narrowed it down to 14?
Yeah. Probably 45.
Wow. Do these come quickly?
Yeah. I grew up – funny, I guess everything has its basis in violence for me. I had an older stepbrother that would rap, that’s how I started rapping. They would be rapping mid-to-late-80s. I was just a baby. They’d say “You kick some raps. If you don’t rap we’re going to punch you.” I’m like “Alright! Rapping.” From there I had another big brother, Sunspot Jonz from Living Legends, Mystic Journeyman, and we’d be recording a four track in his room and it’d be like, “Everybody has 15 minutes before we go to soundcheck, write this verse.” I was like “What?”
So that’s your foundation.
When you’re living in a warehouse with eight other musicians and there’s one studio…
You have to get your time in.
And when you get in there, make sure it’s right. I’m prolific. And also that time, I decided that I was going to stop selling weed and stop working at this record store. I’m 18-years-old and my mom cut me off. To pay my rent, I got to rap, so I made a tape. Okay, so I have 100 fans at this point – I sold 100 tapes. I got to come up with something new because I got to pay rent. So, I was always writing and I always felt growing up like, “Why does it take this motherfucker so long?” Being a kid, you spend all your money on this album like, “Cool, I love this dude. When is he going to drop something new?” What the fuck is he doing? Why does it take three years to make an album?” I don’t get it. I don’t wanna inundate my fans with stuff, but I want to keep them.
I don’t put out everything. I used to have to put out everything, but now I’m like, I can make 45 songs and I’m like, “Okay, these have the best theme. These may not all be the best songs I’ve recorded,” because there’s definitely some jams with Dave Weiner and Richie Abbott and people who’ve heard all this stuff that have been like, “Fuck, this needs to go to the record.” I said, “I don’t want that song.” They still signed the paperwork, paid the producer, everything, hoping the song would make the record, and I just said “No, it doesn’t fit the overall theme.”
Do you think we’ll ever hear some of these songs later on?
Yeah, definitely. Working on the next record as we speak.
You know you’ve always been this – can I use the predicate, “quasi”?
You’ve always been this quasi-underground cat. How do you think your fans are going to receive you on these big, big beats?
Man, I think they’re used to receiving anything.
I think your diehard fans are used to you being on all kinds of different shit.
Yeah, man, it’s crazy. I met a young lady who’s a fan, and back when I was single and a lot more whorish, I used to keep young girls around that I would date. You know, dating a 19-year-old, 18-year-old girl, but that’s how I found out about Drake. Certain people I put on Paid Dues, because young girls to me are the barometer for everything.
It’s very true.
So before Take Care, I was on Drake’s MySpace page, because of a young girl that I knew – I was dating. I don’t have that luxury anymore, but my wife was cool enough. I was like, “Yo, there’s a young fan, I met her, you know, via Instagram or Twitter. I want to hook up with her and just play these songs for her.” Not, you know, “hook up” with her…but, and I’m playing these songs for her and I’m like, “What do you think about this song?” She’s like, “Yeah, yeah,” and I know she’s a diehard because she’s at every show. There’s a song called “Mi Corazon” on the album, that’s in Spanish and she’s a Spanish-speaking girl and I was like, “Yo, is this patronizing? Is this disrespectful?” She’s like, “No, this is dope. Your Spanish is good, it’s on point.” She’s like my barometer, and then I’m talking to her and she’s like, “Yeah I got White Mandingos, I’ve got this.” I was like, you have everything I’ve done, but at the same time she loves Drake and J. Cole, so I was like, well this is great.
So she has both ears, so to speak.
So, I’m quasi-underground because yeah, there’s young, cute girls that listen to my shit that love Drake that also love and respect me and everything, not just the stuff I do that sounds poppy. Here’s a punk-rock hybrid album I did that no one bought because it was too different and challenging to listen to. I think my diehard fans will respect it. I say that to say I go out to my fans. I play shit for my brother, who’s known me my whole life. Jesse, my producer, has known me for awhile, so if I overstep my bounds, these motherfuckers let me know.
It’s good to have people like that in your circle.
Yeah, I go from fans to friends. I wish I could get dude’s opinion, but if a girl likes it, dudes like it. I take that from Tupac. As a man, that’s, that’s who I’m rapping for. My wife is a good barometer, but I feel like we’ve been through so much together, like, and I really don’t trust my wife’s taste in most things, honestly.
Yeah, we’re a balance to each other. She’s got me to like Ed Sheeran, Katy Perry, you know, and then she’s, like, into The Roots…so when she likes shit that she’d probably prefer me to rap with 9th Wonder my whole life. But she can tell when I’m being authentic. She can tell, and that’s when I know, so I play it for her. I play it for everybody. I don’t play it for you, though.
No, we don’t usually hear anything until everyone hears it.
Vic heard some stuff and you heard some stuff.
It helps us do our job when we know what we’re doing it for.
I think it’s just…Travis is not a big fan of people hearing shit unmixed because he’s a purist, he’s an audiophile. But he’s also spent millions of dollars to make sure all our shit sounds great. That’s another thing I like about Strange.
Yeah, there’s a standard. Like, “I don’t want the fucking Snake and Bat on it unless it’s a certain standard.” So you know when something is Strange Music, it’s like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. If it has a Snake and Bat on it, you can trust that it’s going to be authentic from the artist, and that it’s going to be quality.
If you don’t like the way it sounds, the quality of how it sounds, it’s undisputed. Like, Ben who mixes our shit…
Yeah, he’s good.
And then the equipment… I’ll say three words that you guys probably don’t know, but look it up if you want to if you’re a real Strange Music fan: Solid State Logic – SSL.
These boards have been around for years. There’s only hundreds of them in the world, and I’ve been mixing on those since I did Murs For President. The one Strange has is newer than most major label artists have, and they’re million dollars studios.
A lot of your favorite records, whether you know it or not, are probably mixed on those.
Yeah, I mixed Murs For President on that. They mixed Chronic 2001 on that, they mixed Marshall Mathers on… I never thought I’d be able to mix on that type of board. DJ Quik mixed it, so he’s teaching me as he spent 3 weeks mixing it.
Dude, Quik is mixing everything. He’s always mixes people’s shit.
He’s a genius, bro.
I don’t use that word loosely.
He is! He mixed All Eyez On Me, which I never knew, but he never gets credit for it.
Because he doesn’t care. He just wants music he loves, he wants it to sound right. And I feel like, so I know what good shit is supposed to do and Jesse, who produced my record, before that, he was engineering shit for Katy Perry. He interned at Electric’s label.
It’s good when a producer has that background.
And then he sends it to Ben, who’s also on his shit. So, like, I know my shit is gonna be premium. If you care that much about audio and hearing shit – this shit is going to sound phenomenal.
Your shit’s gonna be at a quality that it doesn’t always achieve, you know, a lot of the times.
I never thought that after leaving a major label, I would get that attention to detail.
That’s awesome. Can you tell us about some of the features you have on this record and why you chose them.
I just choose people I feel fit, so right now, unless anything changes…on the album, I have a song called, “Post Traumatic Stress”, “PTSD”, and it’s featuring E-40, produced by Curtiss King, one of the few outside producers, majority of the album is produced by Jesse Shatkin.
Curtiss King… he produced the $hut Your Trap mixtape, didn’t he?
He did $hut Your Trap. He also did “The Strangest”. He did one other song, “PTSD”, and when I heard it, I heard E-40 on it, I was like, “Yo, I just want 40 on this.” He’s my favorite rapper of all time.
MNDR, she’s on “No More Control”. She was a friend of Jesse and now I’m proud to call her a friend of mine. There’s King Fantastic, who’s on a song called “Two Step”. He’s a friend of mine that recently just got out of jail. He did two years, been in and out of jail most of the time I’ve known him, but he’s a very authentic individual. Similar to me and Tech, which I appreciate in people like Schoolboy Q – if I can lock him in there. If you don’t want to be in there, Q, sorry – but people who come from authentic street background. Reese’s and Tech’s and Q’s are way more authentic than mine. I’ve been around the shit, they’re doing so you kinda used to be active in this shit, that choose not to glorify it once they get a chance to get out the hood. Homie Self Jupiter is kinda the same way, just being very artistic, but having an authentic street background.
Now he just got out, and I wanted to give him some money. I wrote him when he was locked up and he got out, and I wanted to… I think he’d be a great Strange Music artist if you look up King Fantastic. So I took him to breakfast because I couldn’t afford to give him the money. I said I could get him when he got out, and I put him on a couple shows. I was like, “Also, man, like, you know, I would love to do a song with you.” But we were just talking about the music industry and just how we’re adults, but we still like to have a good time, but we can’t get with some of this inauthentic, corny poppy-ass rap, man.
Then I went to the studio and that’s how I was feeling, and like I had these lyrics coming to me and then…knowing Jesse for so long was like, you know, I feel like it’s like when girls live altogether and they get on the same menstrual cycle. He had the beat when I woke up with the dream I had.
I have these dreams sometimes, like I wake up in a cold sweat that I get shot just because of the shit I’ve been through. I’ve been trying to record “Woke Up Dead” for so long because I’ve been having these dreams since I was a teenager – since the first time I’ve got a gun pulled on me. Or no, shit, I got a knife pulled on me at the swings. I’ve been having these things…but the first time I had a gun pulled on me I’ve been having dreams I get shot ever since. I went to the studio and he had the perfect beat. I was like, “How’d you know I dreamt about that?” Because, I was just feeling dark. I was like, “Yeah, man, this morning I had a dream I woke up dead.” And the same thing with “Two Step”. I got to the studio. I was like, “Man, I just had this breakfast with my homeboy, he got out of jail,” and I was kind of angry. I don’t know and we started banging out the drums and I was like, “Yeah, this is how I’m feeling.” So then I call Reese and I was like, “Yo, Reese, I just did this.” King Fantastic, Killer Reese, we call him, and not just as not being facetious, not like he called Dr. Dre a doctor. His name is Killer Reese for a reason… fortunately or unfortunately however you look at that, but he also goes by King Fantastic. I was like, “This is perfect.” I call Reese and I sent it to him and I was like, “I hope this is just what we were talking about today.” I don’t feel right not including you, because this whole album is a conversation I’m trying to have with the world, and you were part of this conversation this morning. So, I usually don’t look for features. If you fit – it’s kind of like the lyrics. I have these lyrics, I have these people. I know them – my list. I feel like Kendrick Lamar might owe me a favor because I’ve done free verses for him and shit like that and I don’t call him. Same thing with Slug or Brother Ali. I know people that I think are dope emcees and I feel like owe me favors or would do a favor for me, but I don’t go, “Hey, can you get on this?” if I don’t feel like you belong on this record.
And I feel like King Fantastic, and then there’s a singer that I’m a fan of. I’ve met through some friends of mine, her name is Raquel Rodriguez. I did a song called “Mi Corazon” in Spanish and her family owns an awesome Mexican restaurant called “Gilbert’s El Indio” in Santa Monica, and…Gilbert’s El…E-L, I-N-D-I-O, for your culturally challenged ass, Jeff.
Gilbert’s El Indio in Santa Monica, and we go there for Taco Tuesdays, which is a holiday in Black America if you don’t know. Don’t shrug it off, bro. Respect Taco Tuesdays.
I love Taco Tuesday! I didn’t know it was a black thing, though. I thought that Taco Tuesday transcended race…but for black, it’s more?
No, it’s just like hip-hop is a black thing, but it transcended the black community. Taco Tuesday transcended the black community.
Oh okay, I didn’t know that.
It has or – or I feel like it has, or I could be full of shit. Anyway, we go to Taco Tuesday with my friends who aren’t black and, you know, Mexican-White people…[phone rings] alright, just got muted for an interview.
For, for Wrekonize…I didn’t know it was making that noise.
Hang up in his face.
Alright. So last thing. Her name’s Raquel Rodriguez and she sings soul music. She’s beautiful, and she has a beautiful voice. She’s a beautiful person, but she has a beautiful voice and I’m a big fan. She has a Kickstarter campaign and I bought the t-shirt and vinyl. I played the music for my son. I love her album. My wife and I listen to it.
I was introduced through our friends at the restaurant. She works at her parent’s restaurant from time-to-time, and she’s just an independent soul singer – and she’s amazing! I guess I didn’t want to force it, but I heard the song in Spanish. I was like, “Oh, can you sing in – do you speak Spanish?” She’s like, “Not really.” I was like, “Can you sing in Spanish?” She was like, “Oh, yeah, I sing in Spanish all the time.” So, Corazon was something that I wrote. Every Spanish word on there, I wrote, basically from memory. I looked up things to make sure I was correct and I called my Spanish friends to make sure everything is right, but I wrote it, even though it’s in Spanish. Then DR came in and she wrote the melody for the hook and then I wrote to her melody, like the (singing) “Oh, mi corazon” blah blah blah. Then I had Raquel come in and knock it out.
It was good because I think it hooked up Jesse who works with Sia and Kelly Clarkson and all these pop singers. I was really scared to bring in a singer because MNDR, like there’s this level of talent that I was scared to bring in a singer. I was like, “Aw, I hope you don’t think my friend sings whack,” but I’m a real big fan of hers, so I was like, “Please, Jesse, don’t shit on her. And, like, I know you’re working with A-list talent,” and he was like, “She’s fucking amazing.”
So to have Raquel Rodriguez on my album is like, she’s like, my Lina Horn, like just this soul sensation to me. I go see her perform whenever in LA. She’s amazing. She’s just not famous yet. And if she never gets famous, she’ll still be one of my favorite singers. So those are my four features: MNDR, E-40, Raquel Rodriguez, and King Fantastic. And they’re people who are very authentic that respect their craft and grind and some of them are famous, some of them are not famous.
But these songs demanded them.
Yeah, I don’t put people on my album – like I sing duets. I sing duets with people because I feel it, not because I feel like it’s going to introduce me to their market. I feel like I was dying to have Tech on this record, but the record didn’t speak to me. I didn’t have a place for him and I don’t want to abuse it. I also feel like him not having so many Strange artists on his record and not being on ¡MURSDAY!, like, when we all come together for Strangulation, I think it’s that much more special for the fans. I know that I’m going to get a chance to rap with Tech. I don’t have to force him onto my album to sell records. When we get together, it’s going to be our family doing something for our fans who are family, that are waiting for Strangulation 2 or Strangeland or whatever the next thing is gonna be. They’re waiting on it, and now they’re waiting for it for real because they haven’t heard us all on a song together all year. We’re doing our individual things. We’re breaking out, doing songs with bigger artists on our album, or people you haven’t heard of, but when we come together, it’s for the family. And I think that love is gonna generate an even greater compilation this year for whatever it’s going be at the end of the year.