“One of the most requested songs I have is ‘L.A.’” MURS mentioned, adding “My first tour for Murray’s Revenge, I didn’t perform it and every night people would request it. Why would I come to North Carolina and do a song about Los Angeles? Then I realized, people love that song wherever, I guess it’s my genuine love for my city, people feel that.”
I was a 28-year old sitting in the Strange Music studio with one of my favorite emcees, trying to focus on what I would ask next, but my mind was back in Maryland. Back before college. Back when I was just discovering hip-hop. Back to the very moment I had just discovered MURS through that very song.
I thought about that moment, what made “L.A.” so special. It was a song about a bunch of places I had never been to in a state I hadn’t even stepped foot in, but the way the sample swayed like palm trees in the California breeze combined with the passion and energy in his voice made me feel like it was my home.”L.A” was the very first MURS song I heard, but it wouldn’t be the last.
As much as I love that song, what really kept me going back was the stories. Just as I could close my eyes and feel the California sunshine, I could close my eyes and see Trevor dropping a sack of money in MURS’ car and feel Okey Dog’s haymakers. Nobody tells a story quite like MURS.
Through his stories, I kept learning more about hip-hop and more about the career of the man who got me into it. Finding out he wasn’t on a major label shook the plates of my musical foundation and unearthed the world of the underground. It’s where I found the music that matters to me most because it matters to the artists who created it. It’s where creativity, passion, and authenticity reign over marketability. It may take more digging YouTube searches until 4 AM- but the gems found underground are more rewarding than the cubic Zirconia handed to us on the surface. The road less traveled makes all the difference. MURS taught me that.
After the brief trip down memory lane, replaying every moment from that first time I heard MURS, to the time I met him at Paid Dues, to listening to Have A Nice Life in preparation for my first big interview at Strange, I rejoined the conversation in time to hear MURS share some insight into the three things that have defined his career more than anything else.
When I was a kid, I used to travel a lot through the city and would have weird adventures, so by the time I was in my 20s, I had all these crazy fucking stories. So, I just started putting them into songs.
The first rap I wrote was called “Red Dots”. I used to go out and battle people at clubs when I was 15. I battled some dudes who were in their 20’s they ended up coming to my high school and tried to jump me and pulled guns on me. I didn’t have any money for a gun and I didn’t want to shoot anybody, so I made a song about how I killed them. From there I was like, “oh, cool, I can just take shit that happened to me.”
I’ve been such an avid reader and a comic book fan, and I also feel like hip-hop is African culture and the storytelling is an oral tradition. We are not a written history, we are more of an oral history, so us telling stories is how we’ve moved along our culture, our history and our morals. I think it’s in me naturally. Also, I think there’s an extreme void in it in hip-hop now. I’ll carry that torch. The way people know, Jay Z as the hustler or Tech N9ne as the most successful independent rapper, if I had one thing to be remembered by I’d like to be known as a great story teller.
Creating a California inspired album:
It’s something that happened organically. I love where I’m from and I feel like there’s not a lot of unity. I work with people from San Diego, Bay Area, and Los Angeles, and that rarely happens, because we are such a big state that we tend to be very regional.
The Have A Nice Life Tour was one of the best of my career. It was me in the mini van that I own with my homies. When we got back to California, walking through Oakland people were like, ‘Yo! Whats up?!” In Fresno, Bakersfield, at the gas station, at the movie theater, people would say “I love how you represent for us.” That’s so cool, I’m glad people can approach me. Going to Comic-Con or Dodger games, people picking up trash in the city will stop and say whats up. People are happy to see me and I’m happy about that. I feel like a super hero. I’m not showing my son my car or a necklace, he sees that people genuinely respect and love me and I love and respect them. I feel like I’m home and I can’t be anything but this.
The love I got I wanted to show back to my state. I wanted to try to tell as many stories about my state from as many different perspectives as possible from prostitution to gang-banging to comic book nerds. That’s where this album came out of. I got to talk about something I truly love while doing something I love, telling stories. Hopefully people around that world will feel that love.
Being Signed to Strange Music:
I try to go where I have something to offer. Being here at Strange, I feel I have a unique perspective. Whether it’s my hair, or all my homies are from the blue team, they are allowing me to come here and be myself. Like, “Hey, ¡MAYDAY!, let’s do something fun. Let’s be the one Strange album with a white cover with some bright colors. Let’s do some songs in Spanish.” What can I bring here, you know? I’m trying to add to the legacy of Strange.
And this is an independent label that is going to fight. They are going to fight to put Tech on the radio. They are going to fight to put me on the radio. I know they are going to put their money into it and I can’t say there’s a label in the country or the world that is going to do that for an independent rapper right now. At the same time, I want to make a song called “Pussy and Pizza”. Cool. I want to make a song with zombies and strippers. Okay. It wasn’t about “how can we package this?”. It was just an idea I had that they let me get it off. Travis is constantly encouraging growth and creative expression.
Twenty years after his first solo album, taking pieces of everything he’s experienced and created since (and before) MURS is set to release Captain California, an project made entirely of stories about California released by the number one independent hip-hop label in music. Captain California might just be the most MURS album to date.