Keith Murray: Yo TSS.
TSS: Yo Keith, what’s going on man. How’s it going?
Keith Murray: Alright, how you doing brotha?
TSS: Not doing too bad man, what’s up?
Keith Murray: Rapp-Murr-Phobia (Fear of Real Hip-Hip) is coming out July 31st.
TSS: I hear Eric Sermon is executive producing it.
Keith Murray: He produced the whole thing, except for Mike City from L.A. and a producer called Shuko from Germany. They each did a track.
TSS: So Eric Sermon did all the tracks besides that?
Keith Murray: Yeah, the man himself. I realized my fans are all I got. I gotta give them that original flavor. Fuck all that experimenting and shit, just stick to the script. Rapp-Murr-Phobia. It’s time to face your fears. Hip hop is taking a negative beating. Keith Murray ain’t no stranger to controversy and I rep that. So it’s time to let real motherfuckers come through.
TSS: So you think this album is a return to form for you?
Keith Murray: I made this album the way I made my first two albums. Just me and Eric in the basement making the music we love to make, with the spirit of hip hop when we were making it by ourselves and we weren’t subjected to the world and their opinions of what a record should be. This is what a record should be, what comes out of our hearts and minds.
TSS: It sounds like you’re trying to cut off all commercial influences with this record.
Keith Murray: Wellâ€¦nah, not really. Because real hip hop is gonna be commercial sometimes, it deserves to be there. We need commercial. My record is the number two most added record to urban radio across the nation. It’s a smoothed out beat with a dope ass R & B nigga on the hook, and me doing what I do best, delivering my articulation and vocabulation in the here and now. So it’s real relevant, nah mean? Without radioâ€¦the industry is hard without radio. Fortunately we got radio. Now we over that hurdle, we can cross some more hurdles.
TSS: I saw in your press release that Redman is on the album. Can you talk a little bit about the current state of Def Squad and if you have any projects underway?
Keith Murray: Def Squad is picking beats right now to do our album. Our album is coming out second quarter. It’s gonna be called Tsunami.
TSS: Do you guys have any guest spots on the album?
Keith Murray: Nah, it’s just like my album. My album is a Keith Murray and Eric Sermon album, not a compilation. So you’re only gonna hear my friendsâ€¦L.O.D., Method Man, Redman, Eric Sermon, and Little Jamal. On the Def Squad album you’re just gonna hear Def Squad. Rappers come out with five special guests, six special guestsâ€¦and that’s a compilation.
TSS: Yeah, too many guest spots can mess up the flow of an album.
Keith Murray: Yeah, one thing about us, we make albums. We don’t make two or three singles and that’s it. Def Squad has always been known to transcend boundaries. Which means East Coast, West Coast, Midwest and overseas with full LP’s. We take pride in what we do. You know?
TSS: You talked about L.O.D. What’s up with the Legion of Doom, because I loved Enigma and they were all over that album.
Keith Murray: I like to think of this album now as harder than Enigma, but more lyrical than The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World. L.O.D. is a gang. The L.O.D. I talk about don’t be rappin’. Some are dead; some are in jail from gun clappin’. Just a few guys from L.O.D. happened to start rhyming over the years. They’re on my album. Through death, jail, and setbacks in our personal lives we’ve unfortunately never been able to put a collective project together, but we’re doing that now.
TSS: When can be people expect to hear the L.O.D. album?
Keith Murray: It’s gonna come out on Koch and it’s gonna be out around the same time as the Def Squad joint.
TSS: What was it like working with Tyrese on the new single?
Keith Murray: It was dope. Ty is a real creative guy, and he’s a good person. Eric came up with the beat ahead of time, Ty did his part and it just came out. We let everybody do them, and that’s why it came out so dope.
TSS: When you heard the beat, did you know that you wanted Tyrese on it?
Keith Murray: Eric and Tyrese are friends, and me and Tyrese have the same publicist. So that’s how we became friends. He heard the beat, I already had the rhymes, and Eric said, “Yo, Tyrese would be the perfect person.” We went to him and asked him to do it. He did it, we paid him what he deserved, gave him his credit, and it worked out great.
TSS: I’ve been listening to the track on your MySpace page and it’s dope. I really like it.
Keith Murray: Thank you, I appreciate it. I knew I had to come back with something substantial, something meaningful. Something the world will listen to and be like, “That’s vintage Keith Murray. I don’t know what that other shit was, but thatâ€¦that’s Keith Murray.”
TSS: I read in a recent interview you did with XXL that you felt like Def Jam tried to make you change up your formula. Do you think Koch gave you more creative control?
Keith Murray: Most definitely. Nobody was micro managing us. We were in the basement, we made it at our pace, and then we brought it to Koch. And they loved it.
TSS: So you didn’t really have any label pressure?
Keith Murray: Not at all. It was real laid back, like, “When ya’ll gonna hand the album in? Okay, ya’ll want a release date? Here’s the release date. We need the album.” All of a sudden, boom, my single is number two across the nation most added to urban radio. Video is done. It was just added to BET Rough Draft. I just wanna keep it fun. When it starts getting too serious and everyone is uptight, then it don’t work good.
TSS: So is this album is going to have a more fun, laid back vibe?
Keith Murray: Well, nah. Ain’t no bafoonery going on. I ain’t showing my teeth. No more Mr. Nice Guy. I’m gonna give you whatcha used to, with the gruddy producer, shit bout to get Medusa.
TSS: So the album still has a hardcore aspect to it?
Keith Murray: If anything, it’s lyrical with lot of wordplay. A lot of my vocabulary that the normal individual don’t use, I put it in there. It’s more thought provoking, more of a drum driven album than some happy go lucky shit.
TSS: It sounds dope. So July 31st is the release date?
Keith Murray: Yeah. I will make that too because I just mastered it last night.
TSS: I’ll be looking forward to picking it up.
Keith Murray: Good looking.
TSS: I read in another interview that you told Jive records not to put out It’s A Beautiful Thing and The Most Beautifullest Hits. When they did that behind your back, were they violating any terms of your contract?
Keith Murray: Nah, they had the right to do that. But that’s why I left. I was like, “Yo, I’m locked up. The album isn’t done. You’re not going to do what you need to do because I can’t promote. Why would you even do it?”
TSS: Do you think that had a negative impact when they did that?
Keith Murray: Yeah it had a negative impact. You can’t fool people. I’m locked up, and then an album comes out that they hired someone to go in and finish. Come onâ€¦Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing any label. Labels hire you because they want to make money. I want them to be on my good side. I want to be on their good side.
When I deliver an album, I need them to get it to my people. Fuck whoever doesn’t know it or understand it, I’m not trying to please them. I’m pleasing the millions of motherfuckers out there that know about me and want to go get the record. Hopefully enough people go get it so I can reach my goals that I have at Koch.
TSS: Do you have big expectations with this being your first album in a few years?
Keith Murray: The biggest expectation I got is for the right people to hear it. That’s it. I’ll go do my shows and get my motherfuckin’ percentages of my sales. I just want the right people to hear it in the right frame of mind. Fuck the controversy, fuck the haters. The hater’s voices are dying now. Before it was, “Keith Murray is never coming back again.” Now he’s back with a hit single. Now it’s, “Oh, but can the record sell.” It’s always something with these people. And then you grab one of them, and they go and tell police. It’s a whole bunch of touchy feely shit. That’s why the album is called Rapp-Murr-Phobia, Fear of Real Hip Hop cuz they fear us. Haters fear us. They don’t want to see us do it. If we do it, they don’t have a voice.
Niggas need this motherfuckin album. If this album doesn’t do decent, the fans let it down. The fans gotta support b. Fuck what they saying about hip hop is down and middle America isn’t buying albums. Fuck that. I do this for motherfuckers that love it, need it, and get through their life with it. Not somebody debating on, “Is it real? Is it dope?” Motherfucker, I’m the motherfuckin man. I’m telling you it’s real and it’s dope. You feel me?
TSS: Definitely. With this being your first album in a few years, how does your promotional strategy change?
Keith Murray: I’m gonna promote myself as a new artist and go through all the channels so I can reconnect with people out there looking for me and checking for me. I’ve waited three and a half years for this. And I won’t sleep one minute until I know in my heart that I’ve done all I can do to help Koch have this album be a success.
TSS: Do you think the internet is a big promotional tool today?
Keith Murray: Yeah, because it’s all about singles and digital music now. So if I don’t sell a substantial amount of records, I could go to ring tones and digital sales. Ring tones are big right now, bigger than sales.
TSS: So it’s a different strategy now?
Keith Murray: It’s a combination of old and new. The internet adds a different element, but you still gotta keep it grass roots.
TSS: You still gonna utilize the street team strategy?
Keith Murray: All day. I’m my own biggest street team. I go outside everyday and people talk to me and see me in the weirdest places. I can’t take a shit somewhere without someone saying wassup. They know this man. And it’s up to me to put my fans on the same page with me and Koch. Put everybody on the same page, let it run for nine months, and let me come back.
TSS: This is the beginning of a new chapter in your career.
Keith Murray: Exactly. It’s the re-introduction. Ain’t nobody out there doing it like me. I got my own style. I stand out in a crowd like a sore thumb. And I get busy on stage. I’m a real entertainer. I take pride in rippin’ stages down. My theatrics is substantially out there, know what I’m sayin’?
TSS: Are you going to be touring by yourself or with other people?
Keith Murray: I don’t know yet, but Koch is putting together a tour. With the single being so hot now, of course I’m gonna be on the road with other people displaying my talents. I also gotta flex my sex appeal for my female fans.
TSS: (Laughs) Do you have a lot of female fans?
Keith Murray: Do I? I think I have more female fans than maleâ€¦well I don’t want to diss the fellas like that. But, the females love Keith Murray, and I love them.
TSS: Soâ€¦I don’t want to say groupies, but a lot of ladies come backstage after your show?
Keith Murray: What’s a groupieâ€¦A female fan that loves your music and shows appreciation for your work? I don’t call that a groupie, I call that a fan.
TSS: So do you get a lot of female “fans” trying to hang out backstage after shows?
Keith Murray: Well backstage is a popular place to be for the partygoer. So they back there. And they’re all on the streets like, “Hi Keith Murray. We love you Keith Murray.” Motherfuckers don’t know this because I’ve been incommunicado. I haven’t been outside for the average hater to see it. But now that I’m outside again, they will see it. You’ve got bus drivers blowing the horns and waving when they go by. This shit is a phenom. Now they giving me love on the radioâ€¦everyone listens to the radio. Nobody do it better baby, that’s why you loving me. I’m an underdog and I don’t stop. I don’t let a motherfucker tell me that I can’t when I can. I’m a lyrical, ferocious, tyrannical madman.
TSS: It’s great to hear you so pumped about this album. Because I’m a fan, and I’ve been waitingâ€¦
Keith Murray: That’s what’s up. I know what I got. If I don’t say it’s dope, who is? I know what I got, and I feel real good about it. My heart is all the way in it, and I bump this shit. I really play my shit. I don’t make it and put it away. No, I love this shit.
TSS: In one of your interviews that I’ve read, you had some quotes about jail that I wanted to ask you to elaborate on. You said, “Jail is a poor man’s university” and “Jail saved my life.” Could you explain to people what you meant when you said that?
Keith Murray: Jail is a poor man’s university meaning the poor usually get incarcerated. If you have half a brain and you go to jail, you can come out on your feet and sharp. It teaches you how to grow up. In an environment where you have to protect yourself, not be vulnerable, and learn how to communicate, it teaches you how to be a man. Or you can go in with no sense and come out a motherfuckin’ idiot. It’s all up to you. Once you’re inside, you gotta be there. You can make the most of it and come out good, or make the worst of it and come out worse then when you went in. It’s an education you can’t buy.
Jail saved my life because it preserved me. I’ve always been young, I came in the game young. I’m still around. People think, “Damn, Keith Murray been around for a long time.” Cuz I came in 19 years old. I’ve been in the industry 12 years, but only active for four or five. So it saved my life by preserving me. I sat down, got my head right, got my body right. I got out and now I like to believe I’m more on point than the average mortal.
TSS: It’s impressive that you took such a negative thing and turned it into something positive.
Keith Murray: Jail ain’t nothing new to me. I got people in jail right now that’s never gonna come home. Never. I was in there with a nigga that had 85 years. In a cell with him. Every day I woke up I was a day closer to home, and he was a day closer to dying in jail. You can’t take that shit for granted.
TSS: So you felt grateful to get another chance?
Keith Murray: Hell yeah, I could have been that man. I could have ended up dead. I have so many friends and family members that are dead. I could have been dead or in jail for life. But god chose to give me strong blessings and give me opportunities to make a living for myself, be heard, and stand up for what’s right.
TSS: I heard that you’re also starting a program for young people at risk.
Keith Murray: Yeah, it’s called Show and Prove. I go to the detention centers and build with the kids as much as I can. I lay it on the line for them, lay out my life. I tell them that they can take two roads: the easy way or the hard way. I put it in front of them like that, and maybe a few of them will take that lesson and decide to take control of their life. I try to be a prime example because I’m a warrior. I’ve been through setbacks; we all know I’m no stranger to setbacks. But it’s how you come back from a setback that counts. If you’re going through it, that’s life. But it’s how you bounce back that counts.
TSS: It sounds like music has been a big tool for you turning negatives in your life into positives. Do you think music can be good for kids to channel their energy into?
Keith Murray: Most definitely. But get into for the right reasons, not just because you think you can make money. You gonna waste your time and be fake, and then your blessings wont come. Be real in whatever you do.
TSS: Keith, I know you have to run, so we’re gonna wrap it up. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I’ll be on the lookout for the new album.
Keith Murray: No doubt, thank you. Peace.
Rapp-Murr-Phobia (Fear Of Real Hip Hop) will be in stores in July 31st.
For more information, go to www.myspace.com/keithmurray or www.kochrecords.com.
“Nobody Do It Better” Featuring Tyrese
Keith Murray – Nobody Do It Better (Feat. Tyrese)