Making underground rap supraliminal
MURS talks about the changing face of hip-hop
Behind all the “bullshit and stereotypes” (in the words of his latest single, “The Problem Is”), there’s MURS—the friendly, dreaded, Los Angeles-bred rapper who has been creating socially conscious lyrics and artful collaborations in the California hip-hop scene for almost two decades.
Known best for his work with the Living Legends and Felt—his two-man project with Atmosphere’s Slug—MURS (Nick Carter) will take to the Bell Memorial Union stage at Chico State on April 27 to mark the release of his latest album, Fornever. He’s bringing with him friend Sick Jacken (of Psycho Realm), who appears on “The Problem Is.”
CN&R: Fornever is the fourth album you’ve worked on with producer 9th Wonder. How have the dynamics changed after working together on multiple albums?
MURS: It’s like any other marriage. I think that if you wanna make it work you gotta put effort into it. There’s definitely a groove we’re in now—no pun intended, considering the music we make—but we have an understanding of each other and know what to expect from each other.
What is it like to be a part of hip-hop during such a progressive time? Where do you think it will go?
[laughing] Man. I’m hoping to see a transition into an era of some more socially conscious music. I mean, I think there’s room for both—there’s room for the gangsta rap and the socially conscious rap, it’s just not balanced [yet]. I’d like to see it become more balanced. I think we’re starting to see a lot more creativity. You know, even with the bright jeans, bright colors—I think we’re starting to see more creativity in the individual.
What do you think has caused that shift?
Maybe [it] could be social networking. It’s about wearing your stuff on your sleeve now, like, “This is what I’m into, this is what I’m all about.” And with things like MySpace, all of a sudden you have a way to connect with people who are like you. You can be who you want to be. If you are a nerd like I was in high school and you were into underground hip-hop, you had to search for it, but now via online you’re exposed to the music more quickly. … So you don’t feel so alienated, and I think that’s encouraging people to be themselves.
You’ve appeared on dozens of collaborative albums. How is it different working on a solo album?
I still consider the one I’m doing now a collaborative album. But with a solo album, you know you get to drive the ship. When I work with Slug, etc., I try to let him lead because it makes me a better rapper to learn from someone who’s more experienced and, in my opinion, more talented in some ways. So if I let him fly and get in behind him, it works.
How do you like performing solo?
Ah, man. I kinda love it. I think it’s better for me because I’m such a unique and spontaneous and crazy ball of energy. There’s no way for me to get in anyone’s way or trip anyone, I can get into the music, manage the crowd and decide how the energy gets transferred.
If you had to sum it up in one word, what is “the problem"?
[laughing] Oh, man. If it was me that had to say, I’d say the problem is you. Everything starts with yourself. There’s a lot of selfish people and a lot of people that don’t know themselves.