MURS
Interview and illustration by Jim Mahfood
Illustration coloring by Shaughn Struble

MURS: MAKIN' UNDERGROUND RAW SHIT. THAT'S WHAT THE MAN'S NAME STANDS FOR. AND THE MAN IS ONE OF THE DOPEST RAPPERS ON THE PLANET. IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE ME, SHUFFLE YOUR FAT ASS TO YOUR LOCAL RECORD STORE AND PICK UP ANY ONE OF HIS INCREDIBLE PROJECTS. NOBODY DOES IT QUITE LIKE HIM. UNDERGROUND CARTOONIST JIM MAHFOOD CONVINCED THE MAN TO MEET HIM IN HOLLYWOOD TO CHECK OUT THE NEW GOODS AT MELTDOWN COMICS. AND AFTER SOME GEEKING OUT AND LUNCH AT SUNSET THAI, THE TWO NERDS SETTLED DOWN IN MAHFOOD'S STUDIO FOR THE FOLLOWING CHAT.
 
Jim Mahfood: Okay, so, I'm hanging out with Murs in my studio, and he's looking at the new issue of Playboy.
 
Murs: Debbie Gibson!
 
JM: (laughs) Checkin' out Debbie Gibson. How's she look?
 
M: She looks good, man. She looks hot.
 
JM: She gets the thumbs up from Murs?
 
M: If you're naked and you're famous, that's all it takes to get the thumbs up from me.
 
Both: (laugh)
 
JM: So, when are you going to get gold fronts, some diamonds 'n' shit, and make the transition into acting?
 
M: (laughs) No gold. I don't believe in gold. But acting, the movie comes out this June.
 
JM: What movie?
 
M: It's based on "Walk Like A Man" from the Murs 3:16 album. I shot a short independent film that I financed, produced, and starred in. It's a 20- to 30-minute short film featuring a soundtrack with exclusive tracks from Atmosphere, Blueprint, the "Hustle" remix with E-40 and [wrestler] John Cena. I don't know what the project is going to be called yet, but the movie and the soundtrack will be packaged together.
 
JM: Sweet. Tell me about John Cena. You got him to bust some raps on the track "Hustle", and even got him to be in the video.
 
M: He's just a great guy. One of the coolest people I've met. He came down to South Central, and we blocked off this neighborhood and did the video. People were bugging the fuck out when they saw him. They were going nuts! He was amazing; he signed every single autograph, and was totally down-to-earth.
 
JM: And he has an album coming out, right? I mean, he can actually rap?
 
M: Hell yeah. I wanna be like him when I grow up.
 
JM: Tell me what else you got going on as far as work goes.
 
M: New Living Legends album dropped on March 8th. I'm only on five songs, so I don't really count that as one of my projects, but you should buy it anyway. Felt 2, starring Slug and Murs, is coming out in May or July. That's still up in the air right now. We got the new 3MG's album starring Eligh, Scarub, and myself; that comes out in June.
 
JM: Cool. You're going to have a busy summer.
 
M: Yes.
 
JM: How did the whole Felt thing come about? Or, I guess I should ask first, how did you meet Slug?
 
M: We met on the Hieroglyphics tour whenever Full Circle came out. Or, no... wait, not Full Circle. What was the one before that?
 
JM: 3rd Eye Vision?
 
M: Yeah. When was that? '98?
 
JM: Yeah, I think so.
 
M: So, we were on that tour. Living Legends and Atmosphere were opening up for Hiero. When we were in Minneapolis, ya know, we shouted out "Atmosphere", and the crowd went fucking nuts! And I was like, "Wow, these guys are actually doing something! They're puttin' it down in their city, and that's dope." So Sean [Slug] and I would trade tapes, and we got to know each other and become friends. I listened to Overcast before it came out, and dug it. So time passed and we would talk all the time. And then Sean came out to L.A. once for a vacation. He wanted an excuse to get outta town, so he called me and said, "Let's make an album." So he came out, and all we did was drink beer, smoke cigarettes, and write raps all night. And that was Felt 1: A Tribute To Christina Ricci. And then we went out to Grouch's house and recorded everything. People think we didn't spend a lot of time on it, but day in and day out we were together-- except for female time-- workin' on it. And then we went on tour after that. And after all that was over, it was like we were bonded for life. Atmosphere tours are, like, serious-ass, 75-day grueling, in a van, rain, sleet or snow, professional, all-out tours!
 
JM: That was the year you guys did that show at The Bash On Ash [venue] in Tempe, and I rocked the live art. That was the first time I met Slug and Mr. Dibbs.
 
M: That's right.
 
JM: That was my last show in Tempe before I left. You sent me off proper; you got the whole crowd to chant, "I read Grrl Scouts," over and over again! (laughs)
 
M: (laughs) Yes!
 
JM: And I gave Sean some of my comics, and he gave me an advanced copy of Felt 1. I listened to it the next day when I moved out to L.A.
 
M: So, Felt holds a special place in your heart.
 
JM: Yeah.
 
Both: (laugh)
 
JM: So, after that tour, like you said, you guys were bonded for life. It's like you went to war together.
 
M: Exactly. Going on tour is like going out to sea with somebody. Whether you like them or not, you're going to learn how to deal with them by the time you get home. (laughs) You go through your ups and your downs. I got so fucking sick on that tour I was literally shitting on myself. I had to get steroid shots. I left $3,000 in a bedroom somewhere; I was so out of my mind. So we'd been through it, like, got chairs thrown at us, almost fought each other, all that.
 
JM: (laughs) Jesus.
 
M: But that stuff just strengthens things. And I think that shows in the music.
 
JM: Let's talk about Felt 2. I think the album is incredible, and I'm not just saying that 'cause you're my buddy. This is you and Sean at the top of your game. And Ant's beats and production are just ridiculous. The whole thing is drenched in Seventies funk and soul, and it's just a fuckin' banger!
 
M: (laughs) Thanks. Yeah, Ant came through. He's a real producer; he was there. He doesn't just do the beat and send it to you in ProTools. He was there throughout the whole process, and was very hands on. We'd be at home writing, and he would come through after he got off work or whatever. Even if he was just there, all quiet and nodding his head, he was part of it all.
 
JM: If there's a Felt 3, can I do the comic book for that, too?
 
M: (laughs) Of course. If we're worthy of another comic. Everyone, buy the Felt comic book when it drops on May 4th. You won't regret it!
 
JM: There's some shameless pimping going on here!
 
Both: (laugh)
 
JM: You were on the road touring relentlessly all year in 2004. No major touring for you this year?
 
M: Not really. Unless I can open up for the Deftones or something like that. At this point, the money isn't that important to me. Only thing you're doing when you're touring is trying to pay bills. I'm blessed because I don't have any children or anything like that. I have three little goddaughters that lost their father that I take care of, but other than that I'm trying to find ways to be happy with what I have. If fortune and fame do come this year, I wanna be happy first. Because fortune and fame don't bring happiness.
 
JM: Have you been offered to sign with any major labels?
 
M: Yeah, but I don't play their game. I never felt like shopping a demo, ever. What I don't get, even though I'm polite to them, is kids that come up to me and say, "Listen to my stuff and tell me what you think!" And I'm like, "Fuck what I think!" I never did that to anybody I know. If you're selling your shit, I'll buy it, period. I was in the mall the other day and some ghetto kids, some straight gangbangers, were sellin' their CD, and I already had one of 'em. And I told them where I got it, somewhere on the Vegas strip, and they were like, "Oh, yeah. Cool. Thanks for supporting us." I mean, Jay-Z has bought underground tapes from cats I know. I respect that hustle.
 
JM: Have you ever discovered anyone that's really good from buying tapes or CDs?
 
M: Not really. No, wait. There was some kid whose demo I got that I totally loved. This year I'm trying to help a lot more people with their music. I'm not going to say their names, 'cause someone will try and steal them away from me. (laughs)
 
JM: Do you think hip-hop is going to cycle around so that one day guys like you will be on the radio or on MTV? Does that even matter?
 
M: We've been waiting for that cycle to come around for so many years. I've heard Saul Williams and people talk about it. I've heard everybody say it, and, personally, I don't give a fuck. If you put your head down and get serious and work really hard, you're going to succeed. If you never give up, you can never fail.
 
JM: I've heard you rap on your albums about how you feel like the black community doesn't embrace your work as much as you'd like.
 
M: Yeah.
 
JM: So, who would your ideal audience be then?
 
M: I don't know. But I know I haven't found them yet. Or they haven't found me.
 
JM: Do you think that's because you're not a stereotypical black guy? I mean, you rock street-style rhymes, but you also collect comics and toys, you play video games, you skate....
 
M: Yeah, that could be. But I come from the same neighborhood as most black guys. I probably got beat up, and beat up a lot more people than your favorite gangster rapper. I been shot at more times and had a gun in my hands more times than most. Right now, I'm rappin' to Aesop Rock's audience and Atmosphere's audience, and that needs to change and expand. Because to me, I'm the best rapper on the West Coast. I'm not being arrogant, but there's not a lot of people that are as versatile and decent and solid as I am as a writer and MC; live show-wise, work ethic, just period.
 
JM: Do you like arty hip-hop, like Anticon?
 
M: No, I'm not a big fan of it. It's some of the worst music out there. I think that people that make that type of music don't have enough reality in their lives. I don't like to say anything negative about anybody 'cause it's just my opinion, and it may not mean shit. But it's not my thing.
 
JM: What about Anti-Pop Consortium or Beans or stuff like that?
 
M: Yeah, not my thing. I think they're great people, but I listen to gangster rap every day. Give me some E-40 and I'm happy. That's my life, that's where I grew up, and that's what I relate to. But that's not necessarily the type of music I make. That would be like you only reading Marvel comics, but you make indie comics.
 
JM: Right. Did you used to drink a lot of 40s?
 
M: (laughs) Yeah.
 
JM: Smoke a lot of weed?
 
M: Yeah.
 
JM: You used to deal weed?
 
M: Yeah.
 
JM: When did you quit doing all that shit?
 
M: Last year. Well, I quit with the weed when I was 17. I quit drinking last year, and quit smoking cigarettes, too. I even quit eating meat.
 
JM: Who are some of the guys in the underground that deserve more attention?
 
M: Brother Ali, Blueprint, One.Be.Lo, and Eyedea and Abilities, who have been shit on and overlooked so much. Eyedea and Abilities are the only guys I know that take this shit as seriously as I do. Slug, too. I mean, we're all like scientists when it comes to this music. We'll break some shit down to you, especially when it comes to hip-hop. And, you know, I can't forget Justice League and Little Brother and them.
 
JM: You're on Z-Trip's new album, Shifting Gears, rapping on a track called "The Breakfast Club", which is going to blow people's minds and put a smile on their face when they hear it. Tell me about that track.
 
M: Yeah, Z-Trip and I have been hanging out, making lots of shit together over the last year; stuff people haven't heard yet. He's got almost a whole rhyme book of mine at this point. So he wanted to get me on the new album. I got my wisdom teeth pulled out one day, and drove from my dentist in South Central to Zach's [Z-Trip's] house to rip that track. My mouth was still numb when I was doing it, and I couldn't feel one of my eyes. I was bleeding profusely!
 
Both: (laugh)
 
JM: You really are the hardest working man in hip-hop!
 
M: Yes.
 
JM: Who's your favorite porn star?
 
M: Wow! Huh, lemme see. I just saw her in Vice. Tierra something or other. She's the only Mexican girl in the Max Hardcore videos. And Olivia O'Lovely, 'cause she was in my "Risky Business" video, and she let me spank her.
 
JM: You a Belladonna fan?
 
M: Who's that?
 
JM: She's this totally hot, all-natural, crazy white girl with tattoos. Really dirty and filthy. You'd like her.
 
M: Whoa!
 
JM: The crazy thing about living in L.A. is you can actually run into porn stars in your neighborhood. I ran into Charmane Star one day at my bank. I was standing in line behind her, and I recognized the tattoo on her arm. It was crazy!
 
M: What did you say to her?
 
JM: Nothing. I couldn't speak. It was just too tripped out for me.
 
Both: (laugh)
 
M: I've only seen Kool Keith at my bank.
 
JM: What?!? Kool Keith! That's my man!
 
M: That guy is fuckin' insane in the membrane.
 
JM: When are you guys going to do something together?
 
M: I don't know if I could work with him. I don't even know if Keith speaks English.
 
Both: (laugh)
 
JM: Did you talk to him at the bank?
 
M: Yeah. I told him to stop wearing all that goddamn red. And he just laughed at me.
 
Both: (laugh)
 
M: But anyway, he's legally insane. Can't drive a car. He has to have a driver with him at all times. He has one house for his clothes, one house for his shoes, and one house for his cereal.
 
JM: What?!? That's not true!
 
M: I'm serious, dude! I have reliable sources. So, he wakes up in the morning and gets dressed, and then walks down the street barefoot to his shoe apartment, gets his shoes, and then walks to his other apartment where his cereal is at.
 
JM: Wow! Tell me another Keith story.
 
M: I know one time backstage, during the Black Elvis tour, he made a friend of mine individually wrap 140 pieces of chicken into sandwich bags so he could give them out to the crowd for snack time with some Capri Suns.
 
JM: I love that!
 
M: And at the end of the night he wouldn't talk to the kid because he was white.
 
Both: (laugh)
 
JM: Damn, man. I think we should end it there. That's funny shit. We've been talking for over an hour, and I still have to transcribe this whole thing.
 
M: Really? Damn.
 
JM: Yeah. I thought tastes like chicken had some little intern that does that, but apparently not. Thanks so much for your time, man. I really appreciate it.
 
M: Anything for Food One.