As Murs explains to HipHopDX, their relationship was more like a brotherhood and they did their best to navigate their vastly different personalities at the time — despite the sometimes tumultuous nature of the group.
Over the past 23 years, Murs and The Grouch have put their perceived differences aside and learned how to respect each other, so much so they decided to form the duo Thees Handz.
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Two years or so ago I called my brother @thegrouch and told him I’d love to do his Grouch Stole Xmas Tour 2019. It was 2017. Time flew by. And 2019 was upon us. We had only become better friends since then. Oh if you don’t know we have always been the least cool with each other out of all the Legends. We’ve always had love and respect for one another. Brothers. But good friends? Nah. By 2019 tho? I would say our relationship had done a 180. And now that we were actually friends and still planning to go on tour I figured we should do a project. Neither of us had much time but we made it happen. *there’s a skit on the album about the whole recording process* We started in March and now it’s finally here! I’m so happy with the finished product. It was a challenging, healing and extremely fun process. We amazed and frustrated each other over and over. And in the end I couldn’t be prouder of what we created. I hope yall enjoy it! So please catch THEES HANDZ on streaming platforms worldwide. CD and vinyl coming soon to select record stores, websites and the merch booth! 🎥 @marmofilms Link in bio and story!
The two seasoned MCs dropped their inaugural self-titled album earlier this month, which features production from Ant of Atmosphere, fellow Legends member Eligh, DJ Fresh, DJ Rek, Brady Watt and The Grouch himself.
Fans of The Grouch may have noticed a different side of the Bay Area-bred MC has emerged. While remnants of the conscious, peace-loving rapper are still there, on this record he’s more raw and in-your-face, unafraid to flex his more primal facets.
In an interview with DX, Thees Handz explain how they were finally able to mend fences, the process behind naming their group and why the word “bitch” pops up so frequently on the new record.
HipHopDX: Grouch said when you guys were in Living Legends that you’d sometimes butt heads. What had to happen for you guys to finally come together and do a whole album?
Murs: I think we both decided to grow and become better individuals. I think that is something we did and became men. As men, we are friends. As kids, we couldn’t be friends or we weren’t friends.
HipHopDX: What was the problem back then?
Murs: I don’t know. I don’t think that we were compatible personality-wise. I don’t know. We’re very, very different and come from very different upbringings, different environments. We’re very different people. I think as we grew, we became more tolerant of other human beings. We could tolerate each other, but we weren’t … Living Legends wasn’t a group that came together as friends. We came together for the purpose of making music, making money and being successful. So we formed a brotherhood. Have you ever seen the Deadliest Catch?
Murs: It was something like that. We were a crew on a ship, we did it well and we caught a lot of fish, but then we weren’t friends. It was just functional. But we had each other’s backs to death, you know what I mean? I have been ready to fight over Grouch, but we definitely have fought each other and punched and kicked each other in the face before.
HipHopDX: Oh man. Is there anyone out of the Legends that you walked away, aside from the Grouch, having a close friendship with today or do you guys still kind of consider each other more like business associates?
Murs: I think it was definitely more of a brotherhood than business associates because when you go on the road with someone, it’s like I said, Deadliest Catch. It’s not like we’re like, “Oh, we worked in the same row of cubicles.” Grouch’s mom let us live at her house [in Alameda, California] for months. We lived in her basement. She had four kids of her own, then five grown men living in a basement with one bathroom.
HipHopDX: That must have been a nightmare.
Murs: We made songs and played beats to the wee hours of the morning and she never complained. She never kicked us out. And this is all while we didn’t like each other as human beings, me and Grouch, and he still let me live in his house. We came together for rap but at the same time, like the saying goes, “It’s deeper than rap.” We never faked it. We did do a lot of music together when I was in Living Legends and it just wasn’t authentic. When it became authentic, then it was time.
HipHopDX: When I saw Living Legends play at that ARISE Festival in Colorado a couple years back, Grouch said something to me that made it clear I had done some growing. Maybe we’re all on this little journey where we’re changing and able to get along better and understand each other as people.
Murs: Yeah. I think that’s what’s great — human beings growing and showing growth. I think it’s very true.
HipHopDX: What had to happen for you, Grouch?
The Grouch: I think we both did a lot of growing up and as we got older together … or not even really together because we’d never hung out hell of a lot over the years. I mean, I lived on an island for the last 10 years and so I didn’t see him much, but I would see him in passing. I would see him at music festivals or certain events and I was lucky to be able to do a Living Legends thing with him a couple of years ago. Every time we would see each other over the years, we would kind of catch up and be like, “How’s things with you? How’s your wife? How’s your family?” It would be like, “Oh my kid’s going through this.” Then, “Oh your kids went through that, too? My kids went through that when she was that age.” And so it would just be more about realist shit every time I saw him and grown human being stuff.
And we recognize that we started to see eye-to-eye — this is from my perspective — we started to see more eye-to-eye on things outside of music. I think we grew more of a mutual respect for each other. We weren’t in the group Living Legends together where we’re both competing to be one of the most popular in the group or the best lyricists or whatever it was. We had our space from that.
The Grouch: We had always talked about possibly doing something over those chance meetings where we’d be at a festival and stuff, but I didn’t know it was ever going to come together. And then when I moved from Hawaii to L.A. this past year, I was like “OK, I’m back.” I felt like I want to connect with the people that I know out here. So I called Murs and I was like, “Yo, you got a new baby? Can we come over and see the baby?” And he was like, “Yeah.” So I brought my daughter over there to his house soon after I got back from Hawaii. I met his wife for the first time and then we just connected like that on some family grown man, friend, brother shit. Shortly after that, he was like, “Hey, what about this album? What about How The Grouch Stole Christmas? You want to do it?” And I was like, “Hell yeah.” And for me, it was the perfect project to land on coming back from 10 years in Maui.
HipHopDX: Well, The How the Grouch Stole Christ-Murs Tour kicked off on November 12. What’s that going to look like?
Murs: We’re still working it out. And I don’t know what it’s going to look like to me. Me and Grouch have never done a tour together. Never. We haven’t done much together, so it’s going to be interesting.
HipHopDX: Maybe you’ll become closer or maybe you’ll catch Thees Handz [laughs].
Murs: Oh yeah, no more fighting anyone. I don’t think there’s going to be no fight. I think I’m riding in my own vehicle for the first half of it anyway, so there’s not going to be a lot of times for us to get on each other’s nerves.
HipHopDX: By the way, I love the new video.
Murs: Oh, thank you.
HipHopDX: One of my favorite parts is when you’re sitting there in the witness stand and you start arguing with the bailiff. You look like you jump out after him and that was the funniest shit to me. Was that a fun video to shoot and who came up with the concept?
Murs: The director came up with the concept. Well, we came up with it together. I’m going to give him more credit. He’s got a few videos from me now. But it was definitely a lot of fun on set.
HipHopDX: Now, to your credit, you warned me there was excessive “bitch” talk on this record. I was joking with my husband that I should just call you a bitch during this entire interview [laughs]. You did mention you were going to try to use a different word, but it just didn’t fit right, is that correct?
Murs: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s the “Murs N Corey” song.
HipHopDX: Tell me about your decision to move forward with all those “bitches.”
Murs: That was mostly Grouch, man. He kind of got on this album and really wanted to show another side of him. I’m a full-on vulgar person all around, all the time with my music. But over the years, Grouch has been more earthy and positive. But he’s a single man again and he’s living in L.A. I don’t know if I inspired him to be that way or he was already there. I think DJ Fresh told him like, “No more life raps. No more life raps.”
HipHopDX: Oh. No more “you ain’t artsier than me” stuff?
Murs: Yeah. Nah. We got a little colorful on this and I was happy to complement him. But, I did warn him about maybe dialing it back for his fans, but hopefully they’ll rock with it.
HipHopDX: Hopefully. I feel like if you’re a loyal fan you probably would. And plus, it’s so catchy, especially that new track he just put out for the video. That hook is too good.
Murs: Yeah. I hope people feel that way. I didn’t really care for that song or that beat to be honest.
HipHopDX: Oh, wow. I liked it.
Murs: But Grouch came with the concept, I came up with the hook and then he wanted the name the group after a song that I didn’t like. So I was like, ‘OK, if that’s what you feel you must have.’
HipHopDX: I did notice a little switch with The Grouch on this album.
The Grouch: To be honest, I’d split with my ex. I was a single man again and so I had to learn how to be that again. Then my world opened up in that way as far as dating and hanging out with other girls after being in a relationship for 18 years with one person.
HipHopDX: Whoa. Eighteen years. I didn’t know that.
The Grouch: So yeah, I went a little bit wild but not too wild ’cause I’m still a dad and I wear a couple of different hats. But I will say, aside from that part, living on an island in Hawaii, I slowed down a lot. All my inspiration was from beauty, nature, family, peace and love because there’s not much of a gritty other side to paradise, you know?
The Grouch: When I came back to LA., I was like, “Fuck it.” To be honest, I didn’t want to come back to LA. and I still don’t really want to be there to be completely honest. I’m there for my daughter so she could be close to her mom. But it woke me up a little bit and I knew that the universe was telling me you got to go work again. I was kind of certain some of my tools were not as sharp and some of my muscles had gotten lethargic, you know what I mean? When I was in Maui, I was chilling.
Having this project with Murs pushed me to do things that I hadn’t been doing and we worked on a faster pace. I never had deadlines while I lived in Hawaii ‘cause it’s like I’m just working how I want to work and that’s comfortable. And so that’s good sometimes, but it’s not good all the time.
HipHopDX: L.A. is like a rat race, too. That had to be a huge adjustment for you.
The Grouch: It’s a huge adjustment. I was a little bit depressed — lightweight depressed, not real depressed — but the first six months back here were a little tough.
HipHopDX: Well you kind of went over naming the group in the video. You guys are talking at the bar in the beginning and you’re like, “That is stupid. That is dumb.”
Murs: That’s kind of how the first conversation went.
Murs: Exactly like that.
HipHopDX: So that was more of a true story.
Murs: Yeah, definitely. People liked the name. So I was pleasantly surprised. He made a good choice.
HipHopDX: So many ways to use it. “Thees Handz” are coming to a city near you or come catch “Thees Handz” at the Aggie Theatre.
Murs: It’s great, right?
The Grouch: We just couldn’t come up with a name for the group in the beginning. When I’m going to name something, I just kinda think, “It’s going to come, it’s going to come,” and I don’t worry about it. But at the beginning of recording this project, Murs was like, “What’s the name? What’s the name?” And I was like “I don’t know.” He kept shooting me some ideas and they were kind of funny, but a lot of them were like joke-based. And I wasn’t really feeling the ones he was coming up with. Then he just kept shooting ideas and I was like, “No. No. No. No.” And I was like “Damn, I hate to be a guy who was saying no, but I’m not really offering a lot of ideas.”
The Grouch: So we had the song “Thees Handz” and I was like “What about Thees Handz?” And he was like, “Fuck no.” Then I was like, “We could spell it differently.” And he goes “Oh yeah, I’ve always wanted to spell something differently.” Just like how Eminem has backwards letters in it or just something like that, you know? When we dropped the name on people, everybody seemed to fucking love it. And so Murs was like “You were right.” That’s what he ended up saying to me.
HipHopDX: It’s super funny. So I trust you guys will be doing lots of material from this record on the tour. Are you going to do Legends stuff, mix it up a bit?
Murs: We’re definitely going to be doing some solo songs and then I think it’s like half of everything — half a little bit of Legend stuff and classics, so to speak, and four or five of the new songs, four or five Legend songs mixed in, mix in a bunch of solo songs. It’ll be a nice mixture.