The current state of the game isn't strong.
Back in the late '90s, stagnant rap got a righteous kick in the gonads from the whole "backpack" movement.
Now in the 2000s, the hip-hop scene has become rife with repetitive ring-tones and IQ-lowering catch phrases. And there ain't much opposition out there.
Well, unless you're talking about real rappers like Murs, a man who spends his spare time building clean water wells in Africa for impoverished youths.
Yesterday, we here at Crossfade spoke with the hip-hop mastermind about "Making Underground Raw Shit," the current state of the game, and his Paid Dues tour.
Crossfade: Let's start off with your charitable work for children in Africa. Since you first traveled to Ethiopia a few years back, what has been the involvement and outcome of your efforts?
Murs: My wife and I currently sponsor three children. Two of whom are young men we met on our first trip. The third is a young girl my wife met on the following trip. Our eldest "son" recently graduated and we are helping him through college. And thanks to Facebook, we're able to communicate with them pretty regularly. There are also plans to build a well for fresh water in their village of Korah. And eventually, we plan to adopt a couple of children from Ethiopia as well.
Is your philanthropy reserved for children in need?
The majority of it is focused on children. We recently adopted a baby boy from North Carolina and should be bringing home a 15-year-old young man from Alabama in June. We also volunteer every summer at a camp for teens with autism. And I speak at high schools from time to time when my tour schedule permits. But outside of our work with kids, my wife and I love working with Habitat for Humanity.
This year marks the third annual Paid Dues habitat build, where 25 kids make a donation and in return get VIP tickets to the festival as well as an opportunity to build a home for a family in need alongside some of the artists on the bill.
I like the all-across-the-map eclectic feel of your work. What stands out for you within your catalog?
My favorite collaborations have to be the series of five records I did with 9th Wonder. I think our chemistry is amazing. In my dreams, I like to compare it to the work of Bernie Taupin and Elton John. Most recently, I recorded an album with Fashawn called This Generation. It reminds me of when Slug and I first started with Felt. I learned so much from him during the recording sessions and the songs are a lot of fun to perform.
Fashawn's currently on this run with me. So if you get the chance to catch us live, you'll get to experience the fun firsthand.
Seeing how we are roughly the same age, I feel an instant connection to your work. It's like a nerdy, hardcore, funk, hip-hop, punk rock party has exploded inside my favorite beer and I know what's going on. When tackling a track or album, what's your process from beginning to end?
It really begins with the music. And whatever the beat reminds me of, that's what I write. On occasion, I will write without music. But it's always been difficult for me to find a beat to fit my lyrics rather than putting lyrics to the beat.
Are you reactionary like a poet? Reacting to the day? Or more spiritual and/or philosophical? Do you muse on past experiences and memories?
I would say I'm both. My newest album with 9th Wonder, The Final Adventure, is a perfect example. There are songs like "Whatuptho," where I'm giving my opinion on the current state of rap. Or "Tale of Two Cities," where I talk about the ongoing genocide and gentrification taking place in South Los Angeles. There are also songs like "Funeral for a Killer" and "Dance with Me," the loss of a friend and the loss of a lover, respectively. And as far as spiritually, "A Better Way" is my attempt at reworking Hammer's "Pray."
I would imagine that you derive pleasure from all your work. But between podcasting, touring, and your extensive body of recorded work, which of Murs's many fields of practice brings Murs the most pleasure?
Like everyone else, I probably derive the most pleasure from not working. Going to Comic-Con or Disney or just sitting on my couch watching TV. But within my scope of work, I really enjoy writing and recording, even coming up with the artwork and video concepts. I enjoy all my projects, especially before they're released, when it's still like my little secret.
You're no stranger to the festival circuit. What are your opinions of situations like that as opposed to over-bloated; almost 80's arena rock tours some "bigger name" rap/hip-hop acts seem to be gravitating towards these days?
I was just speaking about this with Prof and MC from MPLS, who are also on this tour with us. The only reason I want to and will do an arena tour one day is so that I can have my own personal private bathroom to take a shit in before and after I go on.
I also can't front ... The Katy Perry 3D movie made me want to do a stadium/arena run too. It looked so awesome. Other than that, I really enjoy the intimacy of playing smaller rooms.
And on that note, what are your feelings/opinions/desires for rap and hip-hop in 2013?
More true talent and originality rising to the top as it did in 2012. And as I always think the rap world and the world in general could use some more positivity. Smile.
Any chance to see more stuff with our beloved Whole Wheat Bread?
Probably not. So I recommend everyone Google and download our free EP, Murs and Whole Wheat Bread are The Invincibles. And play it over and over again till it becomes a part of you. And who knows if I get this house on Jax beach and season tickets to the Jags. We may get the band back together.
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What's next? Recordings? Collaborations? Charities? Shit, with your schedule and work habits, I wouldn't be surprised if you tried out for the LA Galaxy and eclipsed Beckham in popularity.
Becks is amazing. I am humbled by the comparison. Next up is completing This Generation World Tour with Fashawn. I believe Brazil and Australia are next for us. And I am releasing a new album this summer. Well, actually, it's a band with Sacha Jenkins, founder of Ego Trip magazine and Darryl Jennifer of Bad Brains, called The Whitemandingos. The album is a rap/punk rock opera about a kid named Tyrone White. The album is called The Ghetto's Trying To Kill Me.
Murs's Road to Paid Dues Tour. With Prof, Fashawn, and DJs Foundation and Fundo. Friday, February 15. The Stage, 170 NE 38th St., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $15 plus fees via completeticketsolutions.com. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-576-9577; thestagemiami.com.