Transformations: An Interview with MURS

Transformations: An Interview with MURS

You still recognize this guy, right? MURS is one of the most well-known independent artists in the world, but lately he’s been missing an important piece of his identity: His dreads.

Despite a dramatic haircut that drew mixed responses from his fans, the change simply marks a milestone in his career; an indication of what’s to come next.

The West-coast rapper has built a name for himself as a member of one of the most-legendary (no pun intended) rap groups in California history, a commercially-successful and hugely-prolific solo rapper and an accomplished business man. MURS has nearly done it all. But, even then, there’s always more. Now on the verge of releasing his latest project, the “Bad Man” rapper has teamed up with a Ski Beatz, a producer that’s been responsible for some of the most-well known tracks from artists like Mos Def, Talib Kweli and even Jay-Z.

Partnering with Dame Dash’s new-ish imprint DD172 / Bluroc, the rapper is poised to once again assert his dominance in the independent rap market with Love & Rockets, Volume 1: The Transformation, Ski Beatz by his side and an army of global fans behind him. We talked with MURS about rapping, his career and bringing back the Jheri Curl.

aboveGround: The first thing, obviously you’ve got the album coming out with Ski [Beatz]. The first obvious question is what’s the story behind the album’s title, [Love & Rockets Vol. 1: The Transformation]?

MURS: Man, I’ve wanted to name it that for a long time. It’s the name of a comic book series and the name of an 80s pop band. Like, the yin and yang, the balance of life. It’s love and rockets, like you know, love and war, peace and war, two opposites.

Right. And then the whole “ Transformations” part, does that kind of tie in with cutting the hair? Or, is that a separate thing?

Yeah, exactly, it ties into all that, man. Exactly, I’m taking a step and recognizing my place as – I guess – a veteran, or something of that nature in this game. And, the responsibility to provide opportunities for younger people and to set an example for them.

Not just younger people, but young artists. Realizing that things change when people start asking you for advice and saying that they look up to you and things like that. So, I am transforming into that role and being married for me. New label. All types of things. It’s still happening.

Was there a particular event or anything that happened that spawned the idea in your head that that transformation was taking place or is in the process of taking place?

Just stuff I’ve been reading. Being married, counseling, everything. The transformation was happening already and the title came to me just one day with my wife at – I don’t call it counseling, but – like life coaching kind of seminar thing that we were at. It just described perfectly what I’m going through.

Like, the album was already Love & Rockets before that. The transformation was just me moving from LA to Arizona, me getting married, you know and also being more involved in community and volunteering and out reach. I’m getting ready to adopt children from Ethiopia and having kids, and puppies. The whole settling down, or stabilizing, that’s what I like to call it.

You guys are adopting kids from Ethiopia?

“Working with Ski was different because he wasn’t aware of me and my fan base or my history so I felt like there was alittle bit of proving to be done and I think that always makes me a better rapper.”

-MURS

We’re working on it. We’re in the process. I went there last year to volunteer and my wife has been out there two years in a row volunteering. We sponsor three kids. We’re helping to build a well and eventually a school and a leper’s colony there. She mentors children with autism and just mentoring different high school kids and entrepreneurs.

I know you mentioned this a little bit in the album. You know, how other rappers are using money to buy jewels and you’re using money to build schools – I think – is the line that you used.

Yeah. And, you know, it’s not just me. It’s Immortal Technique helping and Sage Francis is helping a lot. There’s a – I don’t wanna call it a movement cause that term has kinda been cliché – but, there’s definitely a spirit of outreach in the hip hop community. Especially in the independent rap community. Rhymesayers heavily funded our last trip to Ethiopia, bought lots of shoes and stuff for us to take over. It’s just inspiring others to do the same and inspiring others to come together and maybe eventually forming some kind of organization. We worked with Habitat For Humanity through Paid Dues. Twenty-five kids came out and we helped build a house for underprivileged families and they got VIP tickets.

What do you think inspires of drives that mentality – like you said – especially, like you said, you see the more-famous rappers and they have lots of money and they do very little in terms of helping out it seems like but yet you’ve got on the other side, the independent guys, they’ve got less money but they’re putting more into the community.

I think a lot of artists that are making a lot of money began rapping out of desperation and not self expression. They wanted to remove themselves from adverse economic circumstances. And, I got into it to express myself and do self expression. And, I’ve been able to do everything I’ve ever wanted to do in life. When it came time for me to own a Mercedes Benz and all of this other stuff, I did it. And it just wasn’t really fulfilling.

Once you really – and not just sending money places and writing checks – but, like for me, going to Ethiopia and touching the people and like hugging kids with HIV and playing with them – that’s fulfillment. It just felt right to me. And, I think it would feel right to anyone if they took the time.

Working with kids with autism just changed my life. It was was like, wow, it means something to them, and they mean something to me. I miss those kids. I think about them every day. The challenges they face.

I bought Gears of War 3, like, I’m not some saint, you know. But, I just know that no matter how much stuff you buy it’s not going to make you any happier.

I mean, my life is stable. I’m stable. My wife and I are able to support a few other human beings and that is what makes me happy and I realize that money isn’t what makes me happy. All of these rappers. If you look at them – if you honestly look at them – going to jail and getting caught cheating on their wife and the drama they encounter, they can’t possibly be enjoying it.

On the album, you’re working with Ski Beatz, it’s a little bit of a different style. What was different this time around working with him?

Working with Ski was different because he wasn’t aware of me and my fan base or my history so I felt like there was alittle bit of proving to be done and I think that always makes me a better rapper. Just the music was different, it’s just way different than working with 9th [Wonder] or anyone else that I’ve worked with. I feel like a better rapper, I learned a lot from him because he’s been in the game doing relevant, successful things for so long. It’s impossible not to learn something from him.

I definitely made a friend. I think that’s the most important, so hopefully we won’t get too comfortable but we’ll keep working because we formed a bond. And, we’re about to go and do 50 cities together, that’s definitely going to add to the music.

How did you get in touch with him in the first place?

Through Damon Dash, man. He kind of hooked the whole thing up. Tabi Bonney introduced me to Damon Dash. I kind of said, ‘Yo, why aren’t you putting a West-coast artist out,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, let’s start a record.’ I’m like, ‘Well, do you need to hear it?’ He’s like, ‘Nah, Tabi tells me you own a festival and you got a lot of fans, you just took him on tour. I need help getting out on the road. You help me, I’ll help you.’ And then he kind of hooked me up with Ski. I hope Ski doesn’t regret it.

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