Murs and ¡Mayday! Share Thoughts on Their Chemistry, Their Music, and The Magic That is ¡Mursday!
Chemistry. Whether you are talking about your favorite sports team, the dynamics of an office, or the cohesion of a band, that word always seems to come up as an all too important intangible. No one can ever predict whether a group of individuals will have the right mix to make things work, but almost everyone can agree that it is necessary for success, no matter what the objective is. In the world of music, that can be all the more critical, especially given the fame, exposure, and distractions that come along with having a hit song. It is all of the aforementioned that make the recent release of ¡Mursday!, a collaboration by veteran L.A. rapper Murs and the Miami based group ¡Mayday!, all the more interesting and meaningful.
“I just told them like, ‘Look, I want to do it like the Beastie Boys where we’re all rapping together, and I want a muthfuckin Grammy, and I want to go platinum. Fix that shit…ya’ll got the beats for that shit? Cool,’” jokes Murs, as the group opens up on how the idea for ¡Mursday! came about. With ¡Mayday! being on Strange Music for the past three years and Murs recently added to the roster this past February, the project seemed like a no brainer, especially with Strange Music’s penchant for having artists on the label work with one another. But it only takes a few minutes of observing their banter, while sitting poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, to see that their coming together is less contrived and more organic. “For us, it was dope because we’ve been fans of his for years”, adds Wrekonize. “We respect what he does and have always been fans… and because he has a connection with Strange and we have a connection with Strange, when they asked us who we want to work with on our album, we had a list and Murs was on that list…and we had the perfect track for him for our first album.” Wrekonize continues his story on how the reverence for the group’s newfound partner grew after their initial collaboration on the track “Hardcore Bitches” off of their debut album, Take Me to Your Leader. “We bumped into him a couple of times, while we were climbing up in the industry and he’s always been the kind of person that is very personable and real, and it’s hard to find that in the industry, especially in hip-hop. It’s just like, people really don’t give a shit about other artists a lot of times…it’s very competitive. This guy is very genuine and he’s about real interaction.”
Now, we don’t really give a shit anymore, and we’re interested in making ourselves happy musically more, and ¡Mursday! helped that. I feel like we feel way more open.” -Bernz
One listen to ¡Mursday! by any Strange Music fan will quickly reveal that it is distinctly different as compared to other projects put out by the independent powerhouse. Songs like “Table Tops,” “Spiked Punch,” and “Brand New Get Up” all tout a fun, upbeat vibe that may not be expected considering ¡Mayday!’s catalog. As the conversation shifts from how the collaboration started, to details of the project itself, the question arose as to what it was like making an album that might be considered “light” on a label known for its darker tone. “On the phone, we had a conference call before the ending of the last Tech N9ne tour,” recalls Murs. “I said that I want this to be like a celebration. This is the first release on Strange that has like, a white album cover, bright, funny faces on it, and the first Strange release that doesn’t have Tech N9ne on it.” Wrek follows up with an observation that was made by Murs early on in the process. “His [Murs] argument, a little bit, while making the album was that he felt like when we signed to Strange, because of the atmosphere at Strange, you automatically start to do a darker brand of hip-hop. It’s inherent to kind of being amongst those fans and Tech N9ne. Not to say he [Tech] only does darker music, but even when he’s doing happy stuff, it’s always on the darker scale of the spectrum. [Murs] wanted to make something that was more us and that’s kind of harping back to what he heard originally from us. And his music is like that too, so we mesh in that sense.” Adds Bernz, “Murs has a great way of being… he’s a lightness in the room and has a lightness to his approach. Even if it’s a serious subject, he has a certain lightness to him that I admire a lot and I definitely wish I had more of. I definitely feel that this album has given us the opportunity to feel free to really, truly do whatever we want.” Bernz elaborates by stating, “Where it was like, before, we were the new kids on the block and we wanted to impress and we wanted to make sure that people felt like we were worthy of being on the label. Now, we don’t really give a shit anymore, and we’re interested in making ourselves happy musically more, and ¡Mursday! helped that. I feel like we feel way more open.”
The more dialogue that is shared amongst the group, the more the creative similarities and learnings between everyone becomes apparent. While discussing the song “Here,” it is easy to see how the idea of not fitting in resonates with each of them. Murs has long been known for his verses that speak on his status as somewhat of an outcast growing up, and it seems that the ¡Mayday! members can relate, especially when describing the earlier days of the group. Wrekonize starts by stating, “We came up as a six piece hip-hop band from Miami where like, everyone is imported.” “WE did not belong there,” Bernz says emphatically as he echoes the chorus from the song while Wrek continues. “Then, we signed to a label that is based in the Midwest, that is all Midwest hip-hop that’s dark, and here we come, like, six piece full band, bearded, looking like a crazy biker gang…we’ve felt like that our whole career. And we feel we do real hip-hop, but we’ve always felt that every time we try to pitch the stuff we make which we feel is great in the arena, it’s judged upon how we look or where we’re coming from, and we’ve always been put to the side.”
The power of influence works both ways, and at some point of the conversation, Murs offers up what he took from the experience after flying to Miami to immerse himself with the band. “I feel like blending with them, I can write a better hook now. I’m still not as good as either one of them [Wrekonize and Bernz], but I’m getting there. They didn’t like, literally show me like, ‘This is how you do it guy.’ But, it was like just being around and soaking up the energy…just being around their greatness in that aspect definitely helped me. I don’t usually drink, everyone on Strange knows I’m not a huge drinker, but that’s what they do so like I start drinking with them and hanging out, trying to absorb their whole energy, taking it in and you know…I almost ruined my marriage, ruined my life, I’m addicted to coffee now…but I may write a better hook, you know what I mean…is it worth it….hmmm [laughs].”
“I’m fucking around trying to put everyone else on stage and a lot of people I put on, not that they owe me anything, but they’ve been lightweight ungrateful or low key rude.” -Murs
Another first for the group that may be attributed to Murs’ presence was the inclusion of “Serge’s Song,” which has verses done in Spanish for much of the track. “It was a song that I wrote, not expecting it to be on any album,” states Bernz. “I wrote it after visiting my friend Serge that was in jail. It didn’t have any English rap versus on it…it was just the Spanish you hear on it. And then when he [Murs] heard it, he was the one that was really like, ‘Man we should really put this on this album.’ You know…the majority of his fan base is Mexican. And obviously us being from Miami, we have so many Latin American fans, you know what I’m saying. We have never really thought about it to be honest with you, and when he finally brought it up we’re like, man, it totally makes sense, and now we feel retarded for not doing it sooner.” Adds Murs, “Man, I think hip-hop needs to grow the fuck up. Like, it’s still a party, it’s a dope ass beat, we put some English in there, but we got so many negative comments on YouTube…I think it was good because it introduced the dialogue. I think intelligence always wins. Even if the person on the screen doesn’t admit it, when they’re reading that comment back, they’re like, ‘yeah, they do have a point.’ So I’m glad we did it, and this is the first time I’m saying this, but I thought it would be better received. But I’m not gonna stop performing it, because it’s one of my favorite songs.”
The timing of ¡Mursday! is worth noting, considering Murs’ time was often dedicated to his involvement with Paid Dues, an annual concert event largely noted for providing a massive stage for newer and independent artists. Earlier this year, it was announced that Paid Dues would not be happening due to financial troubles with Guerrilla Union, the primary partner for the event. While broaching the topic of his recent involvement with the curation of a hip-hop stage at the Sunset Strip Music Festival, Murs offered several thoughts on the future of Paid Dues. “I don’t think anything will ever be the same…I put out an official statement because I felt like the fans kept asking, and I owed them that because of all of their support. And still behind the scenes, I was working and then literally, ¡Mursday! came out and was the number one album on iTunes, and I was like, ‘Fuck, I’m pretty good at rapping, and like, I kind of might have a future.’ I’m fucking around trying to put everyone else on stage and a lot of people I put on, not that they owe me anything, but they’ve been lightweight ungrateful or low key rude.” As the conversation continues, it’s clear that there is some level of disappointment, but Murs is also quick to point out that the focus is on him as he works on his current project for Strange. “Paid Dues next year, like, I don’t know. I’m working on my solo record. If I never do it again, cool. I did it and I made a lot of other rappers want to do it…I’m not gonna say no names, but you see a lot of other rappers doing festivals now. And some of them have inspired me, so I’m glad my light has reflected off of them and now they shine and they have huge sponsors and are doing shit…If it comes back next year, I’ll be happy, but if it doesn’t, I’ll understand. But honestly, once I turn in my album, I’ll be able to seriously sit down with it.”
In the meantime, the attention for the collective will be on touring and bringing ¡Mursday! to fans live and in person. The group is in the midst of 38 dates alongside Ces Cru and Kap Kallous, and at the time of the interview, you could feel the collective urge to perform in front of their fans. “I’m ready to be on tour…after this album and working like we have, I’m ready to hit the road,” states Bernz. Murs takes the sentiment one step further: “Our live performance is really good. I feel like I have to say this.” Adds Bernz, “I’ll put it up against anybody’s bro,” though Murs is quick to correct. “Except Tech N9ne. I don’t want to put it up against his, because his is really good. However, anyone that is not on Strange, we’re fuckin your shit up…you don’t want to see us. We don’t rap over our own vocals…motherfucker.”
Interview by Mark Anthony Jenkins
Photo Credit: Samantha Whitehead