Murs & Fashawn Talk ‘This Generation,’ Changing Perception in Hip-Hop & Future Projects

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    Murs & Fashawn Talk 'This Generation,' Changing Perception in Hip-Hop & Upcoming Projects
    The similarities aren't uncanny, but they're existent. West coast indie rap scene's favorite son of the last decade Murs, tag teaming with Fashawn of the <em>Boy Meets World</em> fame, have combined forces to churn out an album signifying the modern hip-hop generation—the aptly-titled, <em>This Generation</em>. While there's a decade-long age gap, the two have more in common than most can imagine. For instance, both are avid fans of skateboarding, but aren't shy to express their gangland affiliations. They're both fans of De La Soul, but aren't afraid to get ignorant to Mac Dre records. Over the sounds of Beatnick & K-Salaam, the two MCs have molded a record that's neither too California, nor conscious. It's a complex combination of styles from all different sources—a symbolic trait that's more prevalent in the current generation. With <em>This Generation</em> released earlier this week (on Tuesday), <em>XXL</em> sat down with the two MCs for an in-depth chat. —<em>Jaeki Cho</em> (<a href="http://twitter.com/jaekicho">@JaekiCho</a>)
  • The Concept of Living in the Same Generation
    The Concept of Living in the Same Generation
    <strong>Murs</strong>: “I think Noah or Dru at Duck Down kind of was like, ‘What’s the strongest song on the record?’ At the time, I felt like it was ‘This Generation.’ And that kind of became the vibe of the record. I’m an older dude, but my mentality and my influences are more similar to the kids coming up now. I’ve always been into southern music and west coast, like Sugar Free, Young Star, and Big Moe. Like, Juvenile is in my top five. And now, these dudes are coming out like, I would say A$AP or someone would shout out Bun B as an influence, but he’s from Harlem. And in my generation, the age group I’m in, these cats were like, ‘Yo! I’m New York, backpack!’ Or ‘I’m West Coast!’ Like, it was so separated. And this new generation has no boundaries. And that’s always been what I’ve been doing so I share that energy with [Fashawn]. Also, not that there’s an affiliation, but we both grew up around Crips and Bloods, also, skateboarding and graffiti. Like I have really good friends that are pro skaters and I have good friends that are professional Crips. I think that’s more in tune with this generation. You got someone like Tyler, who’s definitely from L.A. and Odd Future is definitely an L.A. group, but they’re into other shit. That wasn’t around, and it definitely wasn’t successful. I think rap has finally matured.<br /><br />“I didn’t know Fash’—like—I’d seen him with Dilated Peoples and Evidence and so I was like, ‘Okay, he’s a backpack dude.’ Same shit people do to me, I’m sitting here judging him. But then we got together and I was like, ‘Oh, you really on some west coast hood shit—me too!’ So we started sending back records and I was like, ‘Oh shit—’64 impala? For real?’ So, now, we get our chance to do west coast ‘street hop.’ Like, neo g-funk, or post g-funk era, we represent that. We got these g-funk beats like, you hear “Peace Treaty,” “64’ Impala,” and “And It Goes,” those are some—I say they’re like Raekwon and Ghost meet B.G. Knocc Out and Gangsta Dresta. We got some, but you can’t fuck with the bars. They’re untouchable. Like, I’m really from the hood, but also, I can rap and I’m intelligent. I still grew up with the same fights, drive-bys, other shit, but I can read a book, too. But I still love Suga Free, and I love DJ Quik."<br /><br /><strong>Fashawn</strong>: “People don’t expect us to like all of that shit. Like we just listen to fucking De La Soul all day. Nah, we listen to Mac Dre, too. That’s the shit I grew up on, partied to, do things I regret to. We lived that life, too. We just wanted to display it."<br /><br /><strong>Murs</strong>: “That’s <em>This Generation</em>. Our president is half white and half black. We all love Tupac, whether you’re Asian or white. My wife is half white, half black, she has a Mormon family and she has friends that are real, right wing, and rich republican white people that she knows from her job. We went to one their Christmas parties and I’m like, ‘Man, this is going to be lame,’ and they’re playing beer pong, and the wife has a homemade picture of Tupac up, but he’s like served in the army, carries a gun, voting for Mitt Romney, but they have a picture of Tupac up in their house. And to me, that’s our generation. There are Asian kids who sound—especially growing up in the west coast, by the Bay—to me, if you want to call somebody ‘black’—everybody in the Bay is black. Like, everybody says ‘blood,’ ‘nigga’—they all dress the same. It’s unity, it’s not them acting black, and it’s just them being young. This is our generation.”
  • On the Formation of This Generation
    On the Formation of <em>This Generation</em>
    <strong>Murs</strong>: “Beatnik & K-Salaam, I wanted to work with them—I’d been hearing their beats, but I couldn’t do a solo record and they were like, ‘Yo, how about we do a collab record?’ They were throwing out names, and then Fashawn came up. Then, randomly, Hectic, his manager—who I was going to fight—called me for some advice on a business thing and I was like, ‘Yo, its crazy that you called ‘cause I was thinking about doing a project. Does Fash’ know who I am? Does he respect my work?’ Then I sent him some beats and it was—[all good].” <br /><br /><strong>Fashawn</strong>: “Sometimes [Murs] would come by my crib and we’d just vibe—we wouldn’t even make music. Sometimes we’d go to the studio and just spazz out; make a record like ‘Slash Gordon.’ But yeah, the majority of it was via email, man. There’s a song, in particular, called ‘Yellow Tape’ that he emailed me, which was a record I thought could only be done with both parties in the room—it’s just like, back-and-forth, trading bars and its just ridiculous. But I don’t think you can tell—I think the chemistry between me and Murs is really tight. You can’t tell the difference on any of the songs if we were in the room together or I was in another country.”
  • On Favorite Cuts off This Generation
    On Favorite Cuts off <em>This Generation</em>
    <strong>Murs</strong>: “My favorite song on this [album] is…It’s funny ‘cause it would be one the label would like, the R&B hook one called, ‘Reina De Barrio.’ The dude Adrian singing on it is just so dope to me. I don’t get to do too much with singers, and it just worked out. We sent the record back to Beatnick & K-Salaam and they added the singing, and at first I was like, ‘Ah, this is like real smooth for me, I don’t know…’<br /><br /><strong>Fashawn</strong>: “That shit grew on me. It’s really smooth but the shit we’re talking about on the actual verses is really hardcore, the imagery we bring to the table, like, it balances it out perfectly. The hook that Adrian laced on it is just really triumphant and big, but he’s still talking about how the streets stay on his mind. The whole texture of it is really big and bright, but the story is dark and gritty.<br /><br /><strong>Murs</strong>: “It’s a love story. And it’s also like Common, doing that ‘Testify’ song, where the girl was the kingpin. And it’s kind of like—its empowerment. Girls that are in the game—‘cause you know there are women that are in the game. It’s not the most positive song, its just true stories that we know about women that really get it in.<br /><br /><strong>Fashawn</strong>: “And, we could’ve called ‘Reina De Barrio’ anything else but we chose to call it ‘Ghetto Queen’ and I think that’ll instill some self esteem in our ghetto queens.”
  • Murs on the Paid Dues Festival
    Murs on the Paid Dues Festival
    <strong>Murs</strong>: “Oh, man. We had our biggest year yet. We had 18,000 people last year. We’re outselling the mainstream concerts. Some days they’ll have a mainstream concert on the same day and we’ll sell more tickets. So, I’m hoping that the radio can continuously support and take notice. The radio in L.A. has been starting to support Paid Dues, but I’m not changing the type of artists on Paid Dues. I think that’s good because I created Paid Dues so that we could have a platform next to the 50 Cent’s and the Jay-Z’s—where kids don’t have to come out on a school night to a dark club to enjoy the new, underground, independent music. Now, we have our Summer Jam and the kids come to school in a Mac Miller t-shirt and another kid can have his Justin Bieber t-shirt and they can be like, “I went to a concert too!” It puts us on the same level, I think.<br /><br />“My model, originally, was Warped Tour, but I’m not able to manage the brand the way that I want to tour it, and be successful. But that’s a dream of mine to take it everywhere, or to have like a Coachella thing. Hip-hop has that thing, like, ‘It should come to me,’ but I’m like, ‘Let’s travel!’ Everybody from all around the world comes for Coachella, and I think Paid Dues is worth it; I think rap is worth it. Where else are you going to see Odd Future, Dipset, Wu-Tang Clan, Brother Ali, Fashawn, Murs, Kendrick Lamar, all in one day. Like, you’d have to pay $20 and go out seven nights in a week to see that, and you may not even be able to see some of those groups, some of those groups don’t tour. So why not come from Iowa and fly to California for the weekend? It’s California—you’re going to love it and you get to be around a bunch of like-minded people. I think that it’s some place still, where moms can drop their kids off and feel comfortable. Some people even come with their parents! Another thing with Wu-Tang and Odd Future is we had parents bring their kids, and the parents want to see Wu-Tang and the kids want to see Odd Future and a lot of the parents are like, ‘Oh, I see why you like Odd Future,’ and the kids are like, ‘Oh, I see how you like Wu-Tang’—and it’s a moment.”
  • Fashawn on his Career Since the XXL Freshman Cover
    <h2>Fashawn</h2>
    " I'm a loyal San Fransico fan. Always have been. Win or lose I'm riding with the 49ers."
  • On Upcoming Projects
    On Upcoming Projects
    <strong>Fashawn</strong>: “I put everything on hold for this project, man. I felt it was really important to my career, and important just for music in general. So, it’s coming’ soon but let’s focus on <em>This Generation</em>. I have a few projects on the table. One of them is going to be produced by Exile, just to follow up from the first album. I’m working with a variety of different producers; shout out to Alchemist, Evidence and all my brothers. But yeah, be on the lookout for all that.”<br /><br /> <strong>Murs</strong>: “I got a punk record that I’m doing with some of the dudes from Bad Brains and Sasha Jenkins who’s a journalist from Queens. So he called me up and he’s like, ‘Yo, you want to be in our band?’ I’m like, ‘Sure!’ I feel like I can do that. It has no bearing on the [project with Fash’ and I]. And 9th Wonder and I are going to do our last album together. We just felt like it was the end. I came to his house one day with my wife and I was telling her like, ‘I got to have a conversation with him I feel like it’s just time to end our journey, I don’t know how he’s going to take it,’ and then we go in the house and out of nowhere, my wife looked at me crazy ‘cause [9th Wonder] was like, ‘I think this should be our last record.’ And I was just coming by his house to see his family, to see his daughters. His brother, his father, his mother, my mother, like, we’re family. So, it just hit a point where we don’t need these records to bring us together anymore. He has Rapsody, so I want to give the shine to him, and Rapsody actually raps the first 32 bars of our last album.”
  • Murs On Gay Rights and Acting the Role of a Homosexual
    Murs On Gay Rights and Acting the Role of a Homosexual
    <strong>Murs</strong>: “That was crazy. That was something that I’d never do again. I mean maybe, if it was artistically called for, I could do something where I kissed a dude again but it wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. And we had more scenes planned and I was like, ‘Yo—this is not for me.’ Holding a dude’s hand and shooting a video, the people that were walking by didn’t know that we were shooting a film, so I got to feel…I was strong about my stance, about rights for same sex marriage and same sex equality, but actually having to be in that role and having people grab their kids and point and me its like, ‘Yo, I see what you go through every day, homie, this shit is no joke.’ The dude who played my boyfriend is actually a homosexual male, and he’s a boxer—he trains my wife, that’s how I met him. Another thing about being mature—he is like the best lightweight boxer on the west coast, one of the best. So, dudes come up to him and call him ‘faggot’ and he can’t fight these dudes, but he could literally be like, ‘I can beat your ass!’ He was telling me stories, like, ‘This dude came up to me in a bar started doing shit and I niced him up a little bit, I was like, Yo, I fuck bigger guys than you in the ass.’<br /><br />“A lot of rappers are saying yes to same sex marriage, but nobody’s putting themselves on the line and making a difference, and its been a while since a rapper did something that was controversial, that made people uncomfortable. Rappers, like we talked about all day be like, ‘Fuck the police,’ to make people uncomfortable. And for the past 20 years rap has kind of been like, ‘I’m getting money, I’m getting money, and I’m selling drugs!’ And I felt like I owed it to Ice Cube, Ice T and Schoolly D—people who pushed the envelope—to do it again. They were doing in in the name of the streets, giving a voice to the ghetto. And if I can do it to give voice to the homosexual community in hip-hop—even though I’m not a homosexual—then I need to do it. It made me uncomfortable, shit. Man, I couldn’t watch that, bro! That wasn’t easy for me. Especially dudes. Haters are like, ‘He’s gay anyway!’ And—I think I’m biased but—I acted my ass off, that’s what made people feel uncomfortable and I had to worry about that and really get into the character and really talk to him like, ‘How would you and your boyfriend sit on a bench in the park?’ I had to really get into the character, and I had a lot respect for actors. Like, its okay for a motherfucker to act like he was a drug dealer and we’re all know he wasn’t, but as soon as I do it about homosexuals to prove a point, it’s not okay. And I’m like, ‘That’s bullshit, man.’ But I’m glad that I’m pushing that boundary and I’m thankful that the gay community supported it for the most part. Those were the people I was worried about offending. We got the conversation going and that’s all I want—people to talk. To me, that’s what music should be. It should be about bringing people together and making us talk about what’s uncomfortable and making us think.”
  • Live What You Preach: On Conscious Rap
    Live What You Preach: On Conscious Rap
    <strong>Murs</strong>: “It’s one thing to be a conscious rapper, but all these conscious rappers, they’re not saying anything new. Chuck D is the only one who really put his ass on the line; you’re just following his lead. You know, Fash’ and I, on the back cover of <em>This Generation</em>, we’re actually going to a place where Dumbfoundead spoke in Koreatown. He invited us to speak to these kids, and he’s really in the streets. There are very few rappers that are really getting out there and speaking. And Fash’, he’s done the Boys & Girls Club and I’m working with kids with autism. Like, it’s an awesome time for conscious rappers to really live what they rap about. Everybody’s criticizing gangster rappers for not living what he’s saying but nobody’s going like, ‘Ay, you talk about freedom and peace, but when’s the last time you were in the community?’ Paid Dues, we have a habitat for humanity build—every summer I’m doing a week with a teens with autism camp, trying to go to Ethiopia every year to volunteer, speaking in high schools, whatever we can—these are things that need to start happening. And also making videos that challenge people, but at the same time we got to have strip club songs on the record. It’s everything. Nobody’s 100% anything. Rick Ross does great things in the community. I heard about that before I heard about some conscious rappers doing shit. You know? Conscious rappers [sometimes] have more kids than the other rappers. ‘Cause I’ll tell you one thing, conscious rap will get you laid. [Laughs.]”