Murs brought the world a gift with his latest full-length album, Have a Nice Life [Strange Music], and it’s not just the birthday cake adorning the cover—although that is pretty cool too. The veteran Los Angeles MC, Paid Dues Festival visionary, and all-around hip-hop spokesperson weaves together a powerful and personal narrative over the course of the record’s 14 tracks. It’s his most immersive and inventive work to date. So, we decided to talk to him about Have a Nice Life, signing to Strange Music, what he’s been reading, and so much more in this exclusive interview.
How did you approach Have a Nice Life?
I recorded 40 to 50 songs and then chose from the entire batch. Overall, my goal was to make a record of love for the people that was easily accessible sonically. I think it came together as an overall theme, but without planning for that at all. My goal was just to record the best group of songs I could.
Lyrically, were there any pervasive themes?
It’s really whatever is on my mind at the time. Those thoughts and feelings are what influences me. I had an idea for “Okey Dog” for a while. I didn’t know what it sounded like until I heard the music and I had a moment of inspiration though. When I hear the right music, it often comes. A song like “Skatin Through the City” was based on hearing the beat and, in first ten seconds, I had the hook.
It’s interesting you had the lyrical idea for “Okey Dog” for a while, but it took the music to bring the song out of you.
I have been wanting to tell this story for quite some time. I began each verse, and I had some of it written down about two or three years ago.
What’s the story behind “PTSD” [feat. E-40]?
It was a beat done by Curtiss King. That came together a while after he was sending beats back between myself and my best friend Terry. Since Jesse Shatkin produced the album, we also wanted his input on the beat trading process. There was this one particular beat that they both really liked. It had a more up-tempo double-time feel. I originally didn’t really like it, but they encouraged me to give it a shot. One night I was on tour with ¡Mayday!, and this photographer wanted to get on stage and take pictures. I didn’t allow him, and then he copped an attitude. He mocked me, and then I kind of lost it a bit and went to bed furious. The next day, I was driving the van and put that beat on and went for it. E-40 brought something incredible to it. He’s the greatest guy and an amazing MC.
What was “I Miss Mikey” about for you?
Jesse gave me the beat. I didn’t like it and became extremely frustrated in trying to write something. That frustration coupled with me missing my friend Mikey sparked the inspiration to write. I thought that it was difficult, but at the same time something I had to do. Just like dealing with missing Mikey is so difficult—death is something you have to expect in life. So I knew that if I put the time in that I would come up with something great. Jesse has a great ability of finding the best parts, whether it would be the hook, part of a hook, or other aspects of the song. I can really dislike a performance, and he always seems to have a great ability to find bits and pieces that he likes. It all worked out in the end with this song. I didn’t go in with any of this intention.
Has rap become second nature at this point?
I believe that to do my job properly I have to become almost like a channel where things are flowing in and out. My emotions have to come through me and then I translate that into writing.
What attracted you to Strange Music?
It is a place where everyone works really hard and has a lot of integrity. They are men of their word, which is an extremely rare thing to find in this industry. The people involved can keep their word and don’t have to answer to a board of directors or higher-ups.
When did you first come in contact with Tech N9ne?
We have small history, yes. I booked them for my Paid Dues Festival in 2009, and they flew me out in return. Then, Tech N9ne invited me to perform on his Sickology 101 tour. I really enjoy working with the people I am involved with-lots of trust and respect all around.
What inspires you outside of music?
I read a lot. It’s definitely something really important for me. I’m also inspired from just living everyday life, man—meeting people and being open and having new experiences. I try and live 100 percent and give it my all, every day. Speaking to people, interacting just really through “loving and living.”
What do you tend to read?
I read a ton of different material. I am currently reading The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth. My favorite author is Walter Mosely. I read about 300 comic books per year. I just read this amazing, I don’t know what to call it, “Hood Erotica,” book called I’m In Love With The Coco. I also love Game of Thrones. I am really all over the place.
If you were to compare the album to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
I have no idea! It could be a John Singleton movie or something like The Guardians of the Galaxy, as I have been watching that a lot lately. Singleton would be my voice, if I had one, cinematically.
How about The Guardians of the Galaxy directed by Singleton?
That sounds good!