Anyone with a foot in the L.A. hip-hop scene has probably shared a handshake or some dap with him at one point or another over the past few years. With a million dollar smile and a humble demeanor not common amongst those in hip-hop, Inglewood native, Thurz, is one of the most likeable artists one could meet. With his latest EP, Designer, being pushed as part of Red Bull Sound Select’s “30 Days In L.A.”, Thurz can surely expect to expand his reach beyond his already supportive fan base.
Building off of the critical acclaim of his L.A. Riot release in 2011, Thurz is on a mission to show that there are multiple facets to the music that he creates. Though L.A. Riot was a concept album that was built around the infamous event that took place on April 29th, 1992, Thurz has made it a point to show that his musical direction has continued to expand since then. “For L.A. Riot, I was in a state where I was leaving a group. I worked hard to get that group to where it was, so a lot of emotion was involved. And at the time, I was researching the riots because the anniversary was coming up. So I was able to pull different emotions from researching the experiences from the riots and communicating and interviewing people in the neighborhoods where it broke out. And it inspired a lot of new songs, so like, it’s pretty much drawing a correlation to my mind state and it kind of made me an “L.A. riot” musically. Thurz goes on to explain that L.A. Riot was very much like a “destroy and rebuild” process for himself as an artist. “It was kind of darker than any music that people heard from me prior to then. So coming into the Designer EP, I was in a different state…I was in a brighter moment in life, trying to have fun, and the music represents that.”
“So coming into the Designer EP, I was in a different state…I was in a brighter moment in life, trying to have fun, and the music represents that.”
A quick listen to the Designer EP is all it takes to see the state of mind that Thurz is referring to. From the upbeat tempo of ’21,’ to the bouncy ‘Favorite Girl,’ the vibe is distinctly different, and in some ways reminiscent of the lighthearted demeanor Thurz displayed as one half of the duo, U-N-I. The difference is the maturity in his rhyme skill as well as the overall musicianship and production. The collaborations and features throughout the album span an entire spectrum, including contributions from BJ the Chicago Kid, Clyde Carson, and the soft yet hypnotic voice of Kelsey Bulkin. When describing what it was like working on Designer, Thurz states, “Man, we just had fun. We were in an environment where I just had a lot of friends coming through…everything was started from scratch. Musicians would just come in and I would just pick out a tempo and different sounds that I wanted to go off of, and everything just started coming together. As Thurz gets into the details of the various tracks, he elaborates on the song that seems to epitomize the release. “The song that really kicked off the EP was ’21.’ So, we had a barbeque. We had alcohol in the studio…it was really like a party in the studio. And I was like, I want this song to feel like when I was twenty one in Vegas. When I was twenty one in Vegas, we was wilding out on the Strip, trying to holler at every girl, going into every club, playing poker and all that. So I just wanted to have fun, and wanted people to see me in a different, well…not different…it’s all in the same vein, but a brighter light.”
Thurz further explains that “Designer” is part of a bigger ideology, and when asked whether his project Blood on the Canvas will be released, he further elaborates on how the projects are tied together. “So, the Designer EP plays a core role in that there is a lot of fun, vain songs on there. Like when I’m talking about being ’21’…I also have a song called ‘Favorite Girl,’ and it’s fun…I’m talking about pursuing this female or whatever. Then you have ‘Right Now’ and it kind of gives you a [bit] of where I came from, my history a little bit, where I’m going, and how I feel right now. It’s all playing a role into what I want Blood On the Canvas to be. I don’t really know what it’s gonna be…I just want to make sure that it sounds like nothing else and just put my all into it so that the sound represents my mind at that time.”
“Man, it’s just kind of sad to see the lack of value in Black life. And for Darren Wilson to not be thrown under the bus right now, it’s not really cool.”
Current release notwithstanding, the discussion strays back to the topic of L.A. Riot a bit more and how that release still resonates, especially with the recent situation in Ferguson, Missouri. Whereas the making of that album served as a bit of a cathartic project, the premise touches on a topic that is all too familiar for young Black men in America. “It was crazy…some of the topics touched on in L.A. Riot is a lot of stuff that is definitely relevant and continues to happen in different cities. We kind of have a recurrent theme of miscommunication between police and the black community I guess all over the United States. And seeing that in Ferguson…it’s a cycle, a continuous cycle to where we don’t have a system that protects Black people. Man, it’s just kind of sad to see the lack of value in Black life. And for Darren Wilson to not be thrown under the bus right now, it’s not really cool.”
The eclectic vibe of Designer shouldn’t come as a surprise to fans. In talking about his upbringing and musical influences, Thurz explains that his household always had a variety of music, especially being the son of immigrants. “My mom is from Belize and she is from the Garifuna culture and my biological father is from the Ivory Coast, but I didn’t really group up with that side of my family. My step father is Belizean as well, and growing up under that culture, you have a large respect for family and culture overall. And they’re always celebrating…there is always something to celebrate in the Belizean culture.” His testament to the importance of both family and culture are illustrated in the video for “Perfect Words” which includes footage from his grandmother dropping words of wisdom, as well as a Garifuna band performing during the intro. “And you know,” Thurz continues, “these are all essential things I saw growing up as a youth, and having these foreign parents kind of made me different from everybody, it gave me different principles and I think it was key to me being the person that I am today. A lot of the music that was played in the household, they played everything from soca to punta, reggae, dancehall. We still had soul music and a lot of oldies and all that, and then I had my older brother that put me on to hip hop, along with my uncle. So it’s just a very diverse palate of music that was introduced to me over the years.”
Though he has been on the grind as an indie artist for some time now, it seems like the hard work is paying off. Thurz will be one of the featured artists during the Red Bull Sound Select’s “30 Days In L.A” and will share the stage on Thursday, Nov. 13th with the likes of Killer Mike and El-P when they perform their latest release Run the Jewels 2. While mentioning the show, Thurz reveals that he and Killer Mike recorded a track awhile back titled, “Bitches and Drugs.” “Me being able to work with Killer Mike at Stankonia [Studios] and build with him…he’s a very knowledgeable guy. I kind of have an artist’s admiration for him. He’s really about being an activist and a dope Black individual.” There is no indication whether that song will make the set list during either one’s performance, but given his own buzz at the moment, it appears Thurz will be just fine without it.
Words By: Mark Anthony Jenkins
Photo Credit: Samantha J.