Independent Hip-Hop Icon Murs To Play at Gramophone Tonight: An Interview


Photo courtesy of Murs

One of the icons of independent hip-hop for over a decade, Murs comes to St. Louis tonight at the Gramophone. The fearless leader of the Road to Paid Dues Tour, Murs is traveling coast-to-coast to spread the word about the upcoming 2013 installment of his annual festival, which takes place at the end of March in San Bernadino, California. We spoke to Murs about the challenges of organizing a music festival and tour while promoting four (!) different projects.

What inspired you to turn your tour into a city-to-city promotion for your festival?

I usually go on tour about this time anyways, and my goal is to make Paid Dues a destination festival, similar to Coachella. I thought, what better way to raise awareness about the tour than to promote state to state? Every night, if you come to the booth with proof of plane tickets to California, we give free tickets to the show. I thought, what better way to get people to come than, if you can prove to me you have [proof of travel plans], I'll give you a ticket. It doesn't hurt us to give you a ticket and get incentive to get there.

You're currently promoting an album with Fashawn, an album with 9th Wonder, an album/graphic novel with DJ Foundation, and a forthcoming project with White Mandingos. With so many projects coming out so close together, do you work on them concurrently or are they worked on one at a time until finished?

It's interesting, everything was done at the same time except for the 9th Wonder record. White Mandingos I've been working on for 3-4 years now. the [DJ Foundation project] Merch Girl I've been working on for 3-4 years, and Fashawn I'd worked for for about a year. But, the Murs and 9th Wonder records are done in one week.

Have they all been like that?

Yeah, they've all been done in one week. So, we just sit down and knock it out. The other ones are me multitasking and recording when I could, sending verses back-and-forth. It's a slow, slow build. It seems like it's coming out of nowhere at once, but I started all these in probably 2009. Except Murs and Fashawn, which was probably 2011.

With all these projects, as well as the tour and the festival, how do you stay so organized?

[Sarcastically] Ha-ha-ha, as I look about my disheveled hotel room. I don't know, it's just the way my brain works. It definitely doesn't appear organized to me. I'm just getting it done and just happy to have something to do every day. I think starting from nothing and being broke just inspires me every day to not want to go back there. There's never a time, even sleeping, I'm always thinking what has to be done.

What is the White Mandingos project?

It's a band with Darryl Jenifer of Bad Brains and Sacha Jenkins of Ego Trip and, originally, R.A. the Rugged Man. It kind of fell apart, and I was called and [asked] to be a part of it, and I was like "sure, cool." I remember coming up with a punk-rock opera, the story of a kid similar to [our] stories about a black kid who grew up into rock and hip-hop and being an outcast, thus the name White Mandingo. The album's called The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me and it comes out May 28.

This year marks a decade since your Definitive Jux-released national debut, The End of the Beginning. How do you feel about that album ten years later?

Oh man, I felt horrible about that record the day it came out. I'm my own worst critic, there's definitely too many songs, I picked too many producers, but it definitely got me out on the road and gave me the chance to see how my world works. I wouldn't say it's my first album, but my first nationally distributed album, so I'm thankful for that. But, if I could go back and change some of those songs, I would.


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