Murs is waiting for his wife to go into labor on her due date, August 11, when he picks up the phone. The irony isn’t lost on the veteran MC that August 11 also marks Hip Hop’s birthday. “How cliché would that be?” he says with a chuckle.
It’s good to hear Murs laugh considering he’s just come through one of the most challenging periods of his life, something he was brutally honest about on 2018’sA Strange Journey Into The Unimaginable, his last album for Strange Music, Inc.
As part of the highly personal project, the Living Legends MC rapped about his still-born child, divorce, paralyzing grief and the pain he experienced as a result. With those dark times in his rearview, Murs is not only awaiting the birth of his third child but also celebrating the release of his new album, The Iliad Is Dead and the Odyssey Is Over.
Produced by 9th Wonder and The Soul Council, the project reunites the Hip Hop super duo, resulting in the magic chemistry that was present on 2004’s Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition.
In Part 1 of HipHopDX’s interview, Murs explains why making A Strange Journey Into The Unimaginable was necessary, his views on women, stance on the n-word and why he’s got mad love for his English teachers.
HipHopDX: So baby coming any minute, huh?
Murs: Yeah. It’s a whole thing. Honestly, it’s a bittersweet thing. It’s a triggering experience for us. One success and one failure, so there’s two feelings, you know? It’s just hard to battle.
HipHopDX: I was going through your catalog and I was thinking about your last record, A Strange Journey Into the Unimaginable, specifically the song “Melancholy.” I was thinking about everything that you’ve had to go through to get to this point. Now that you’ve kind of purged that out of your system, did you feel a different vibe when you recorded this new one?
Murs: Yeah, definitely. I was in a different place. I was able to just make music again and be fantastic, not in the modern sense of the word, but in the literal sense of the word — just make shit up, tell stories and be in the moment with the music. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without making that last record. I’m sorry to fans if it feels like I forced that mood on them. It’s just what comes out and that was right on top of whatever theme was going to come out.
HipHopDX: I think that record was right on time, and I think it’s something you definitely needed to do. I love hearing more about the personal side in what you’ve experienced. There’s definitely things on there I relate to and I also think it can help make people a little bit more courageous when it comes to maybe talking about their own shit.
Murs: Right. Yeah, that is super important.
HipHopDX: How does it feel to have the album out there and back with 9th Wonder again? That must’ve been quite the experience.
Murs: It always feels good to put it out. It’s getting a great reception. It’s the best reception I’ve had for a record in years. And I probably spent less money than the last couple records. I’m glad it’s resonating. It felt good to hook up with 9th Wonder again. Everything’s changed for us. We stayed the same, but we’re still solid.
HipHopDX: Yeah, that chemistry is there. As soon as you get back together, it’s like, “Oh, yeah. This feels good.”
Murs: Yeah, yeah. I guess it’s really when you know your family and that’s how we’ve always approached it. I think that’s why, you know? To me, I trip out on it because I am able to record where someone has seen so much success and is, to me, one of the greatest producers of my generation. It’s a blessing and something I didn’t take lightly, so I was definitely trying to rap my ass off.
HipHopDX: You did, yeah.
Murs: See, 9th only did three beats on the whole thing.
HipHopDX: Oh, he only did three beats?
Murs: Yeah, he only did three. The rest was The Soul Council. Eric G did two, Kash did two, Khrysis did two, Nottz did two and 9th’s daughter, JDEAFBEATS, did one.
HipHopDX: Yeah, that’s right. And she’s 15 years old, right?
Murs: Yeah. So sweet. She smashed it. I’ve known her since she was born. So it’s ill to have someone you’ve known as a baby making a beat for your record. But she’s been diagnosed with profound hearing loss. She’s just like [9th]. She loves basketball and music, and she found a way to be great at both. She’s an amazing basketball player and her dad sponsors her team. It’s called Carolina Dream. She’s an amazing young woman.
HipHopDX: So there’s a few songs on here that really stand out to me – “My Hero,” “Night Shift,” “High Noon” with Rapsody and “Give Me a Reason.” I’ve wanted to talk to you about this for awhile. On one hand, I feel like you have this immense gratitude, respect and love for women. Then, a song like “Unicorn Glitter” totally throws me off. Is it the two sides of Murs? Is it simply the complexities of the human condition? What is it?
Murs: I think it’s … I mean, it was all Tupac because Tupac could make “I Get Around” and “Keep Ya Head Up” on the same record. Nobody’s view of anything is 100 percent. I think there’s a lot of social justice warriors that want to pretend it is and they can’t. To me, that’s when it erupts in something and you find out, “Oh, such and such activist has sex with all of the girls at the protest,” you know what I mean? When you try to be this person that no man is … It’s different with men of God, but even the men of God I’ve talked to, they admit they have lustful thoughts, you know? I don’t feel like I’ve ever, in any of those songs, maybe used the word bitch more than once.
Murs: Especially with something like “Unicorn Glitter” or “Freak These Tales” where I guess I’ll say I’m condoning these stories of womanizing or whatever it’s called. To me, it’s about balance. I’ve made lots of “Love and Appreciates.” I’ve made “Dark Skinned White Girls.” So, it’s just doing the whole spectrum. And even in “Unicorn Glitter,” I’m really being educational, and it was maybe a metaphor for women who think they’re better than other women because I see a lot of powerful things happening. No woman is better than any other woman. There’s so many things going on that I feel like are really great for women. But some women are so preoccupied with hating on all other women.
HipHopDX: What does your wife think?
Murs: She’s a very in-tune woman. She really knows her body. I’ve dated other women who just … I’ve had to tell girls, “Your bra is too tight, you probably haven’t tried a new bra size since high school. You probably should do that, it’s not good for you.” You know, breast cancer. Because I grew up with a mom who was very open about it — cramps, her menstrual cycle and everything that was going on with her body. So when I went on a date, I was more familiar.
A lot of people’s mothers don’t feel empowered, so they don’t tell their daughters certain things about their bodies. If a girl has a lot of sex, that doesn’t mean her pussy is loose. These are myths, but a lot of women believe these things. Men talk about pussy so much, why not say something that could be helpful to women?
HipHopDX: Right. But do you think that the young women really want to hear about it? I don’t, personally. You can’t think all women talk that way. It makes me cringe when you said that.
Murs: I think it’s a personal thing. I don’t like the word Peter. I was dying to have sex with a girl for at least a year and a half, and she finally was about to have sex with me and she said, “Oh, your Peter is so whatever.” I literally got out of the bed and walked out of the house and never tried to have sex with her again. So I did that. I don’t think it’s a one-way street, you know what I mean?
HipHopDX: Yeah, that’s a good point.
Murs: 9th listened to that song and was like, “Whatever,” but then one of my hardcore fans from New Mexico — she’s a young lady who’s been coming to my shows since she was 16 — she DM’d me and said, “This is my favorite song.”
I’ve had women say, “This offended me,” and I’m like, “Well, you know what? I’ve performed this around women. I’ve had women tell me they love these songs.” So, I can’t base what I do off the opinion of making one woman uncomfortable because I know I make music that resonates with women and there are not many rappers that can say that.
HipHopDX: Right, totally. I listened to “My Hero” and then it’s like, whoa, I get a totally different feeling from that one. I love how you approached the topic though. I thought it was beautifully done.
Murs: I make real music for women who are, in a way, like me. I like backpack rap, but that’s not who I am. I love gangsta rap. I grew up in the inner city. I’m an inner city kid that appreciates those rappers as well, but they don’t speak my truth. Atmosphere doesn’t speak my truth, but I love Atmosphere. But DJ Quik speaks more to my life experience, but I love them both. And I think that that’s kind of what you can … You know how I said that women who listen to and love “My Hero” and “Unicorn Glitter,” and that’s who I speak to. And I think the best part about it is, for someone like you who doesn’t care for that song, we don’t have CDs or tapes anymore, so you don’t have listen to it [laughs].
HipHopDX: That’s smart, yeah. I’m not saying it’s not well done, it’s just I couldn’t get through the whole thing.
Murs: I mean, I think it’s for the women who can … what’s the band? Oh God, the Russian group.
HipHopDX: Pussy Riot.
Murs: Yeah, Pussy Riot. I feel like that’s … like a unilateral thing like the n-word, I’m like, “Alright, I don’t want to say it anymore.”
HipHopDX: What is your stance on the n-word?
Murs: I think I use it way too much on this record.
HipHopDX: Yeah? Did you listen back and you were like, “Damn, oops?”
Murs: I listened to it and I listened to it with my son. I let my son curse. My son’s seven. I curse at my kids and I let my kids curse around me — not at me. I’m not ashamed of playing music for my kids, but the n-word does make me cringe. I’m like, “You can’t say that word.” And it’s the only word that I say that I don’t let my kids say.
HipHopDX: It’s become such a part of this generation’s lexicon. It’s crazy to me that word has been normalized and I’ll admit, it can make me uncomfortable.
Murs: Yeah, it doesn’t make me uncomfortable to say it or to listen to it. But to me, it makes me uncomfortable around my children. It’s the only word that if they say it back to me, I’m like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” So my wife is always like, “Don’t say that,” and I try. That is something that’s going to change. I can do it more in my music than I can in my real life.
I’m the same way with saying ‘cuh’ in my songs. That’s a term that’s only used by Crips, and I’ve never been a gang banger in my whole life, but I’ve grown up around Crips my whole life. It’s almost a cultural thing. And I’m like, “Yo, I’ve got to stop saying it.” The n-word, I can turn it off and on when I’m in the right settings. The same thing with saying ‘cuh.’ Even I say it to dudes that are Bloods. I was around rappers the other day doing the Eric Andre Show and there was a Blood rapper there and I kept saying it. I had to step aside and say, “Hey, bro. If you feel some kind of way, I’m sorry.”
When the camera is on or I’m at a job interview, I could turn it off. But if you catch me at home with my brother or talking to my kids, I’m going to say it. Cuh and nigga is like, “blah, blah.” Cuh, part of it represents genocide, but it also represents brotherhood and the positive aspects of tribalism.
HipHopDX: I just premiered a track from Black Ink Crew’s Phor. He actually wrote this song called “Whole Lotta” and he made it clear, “This isn’t just about gang life, it’s just about the brotherhood that comes from it.” For some people, that’s their only family.
Murs: Yeah, it’s a code. I don’t want to let it go, but at the same time, I actually have friends that are real Crips that are like, “Don’t say that to me if you’re not a gang banger” or “I’m cool with you saying cuh, but you’re not even in a gang.” I’ve had to deal with all of the fallout of it. Those are just two words that I’m really working on desperately.
HipHopDX: That’s cool of you to even recognize that in yourself. I think that shows a lot of maturity and that you want to grow as a person. I think that’s all we can really do as people. What was your upbringing like? I know you grew up in Los Angeles, but I don’t really know too much about the real Nick [Carter].
Murs: I definitely talked parts of the truth here and there. In my eyes, I come from a good family, but it depends on who you ask. I grew up in mid-city L.A. for the most part. I lived in Lynwood, which is near Compton and Watts. Then we moved to the Valley. I came up in Los Angeles at the beginning of gang banging. There was always gangs, but I came up in the crack era, where it was really bad. Colors was about my neighborhood type of shit. I didn’t see Colors until I was 20 years old. It came out when I was 8 or 9, but my mom didn’t let us see it because we were living it. She married not the best guy to help be able to move us out of that type of environment. And so I got to live in the Valley with white kids for three years. Then she got divorced and I had to move back to L.A.
That three or four years kind of changed my life because I learned how to relate to white people and learned that there’s something outside of my neighborhood. And then I went to a really great high school. One of my English teachers just hit me on IG and commented on my album because I named it The Iliad is Dead and the Odyssey is Over.
HipHopDX: Yeah, I’m sure they assigned both those books.
Murs: They’re like, “What a title, Nick!”
HipHopDX: That’s so cool. My English teacher actually showed up to my mom’s memorial event in June, and she was the one who really encouraged me to write.
Murs: Oh, wow.
HipHopDX: Yeah, she showed up and she sent me a card, and I was like, “Oh, my God. You don’t understand how you impacted my life. You changed the entire course of my life.” My English teacher man, shout out.
Murs: Shout out to English teachers, man.
HipHopDX: For real [laughs].
Murs: Man. Yeah, he put me onto so much. I think I’m going to DM him and tell him. He assigned a book by Thomas Pynchon called Gravity’s Rainbow. I read it and it was super confusing, but he helped me understand it. And based on that book is how I made a connection with El-P because he’s into Thomas Pynchon. I took an IQ tested in elementary school and it was on the high end. I skipped a grade and got to be in the Magnet program. I had AP English with Dr. Smolin, a [Grateful] Deadhead who sat on top of the desk. And that was my 12th grade AP English teacher. He was amazing.
I thought about the day when he did that and I was like, you know what I hated most about school? — and this is the opposite for a typical kid — I hated the kids. I loved my teachers and I hated the kids. Because I was like, “Man, I should probably give a shout out to the few teachers that were awesome.” And I started thinking of my teachers. Every single teacher I’ve had, I fucking loved them.
HipHopDX: In 3rd grade, I transferred from public to catholic school. I didn’t fit in really, but I loved my teachers. I had a tough time with some of my classmates.
Murs: Yeah, that sucks. I guess one thing where I’m stoked about being a parent is, hopefully, I can raise kids that are kind. Fuck language and fuck curse words, I just want to raise my kid to be kind.
In Part II of the Murs interview, he pinpoints a moment in time that changed the course of his entire life and more.
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****REVISED**** Here are the production credits for the album track by track. I will go more in-depth in days to come. I am extremely grateful to have been able to work with such amazing artists. ??✌? @thesoulcouncil @9thwonder @kashdontmakeme @khrysis_ @ericggg @nottzdaruler @jdeafbeats #theiliadisdeadandtheodysseyisover