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Murs unearths underground rap for the Blind Pig

BY SHARON JACOBS
Managing Arts Editor
Published May 11, 2010

Murs is one of the most recognizable characters on the underground rap scene. It’s not just because of his signature dreadlocked updo — although his hair will be on show for all who come to his concert at the Blind Pig tonight. No, there’s something else about Murs that’s inherently accessible, even to the typical indie band-fawning college student.

Murs with Nocando and MC Kadence


Tonight at 8 p.m.
The Blind Pig
$14

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For instance, Murs is a fan of Vampire Weekend. In an interview with the Daily, he brought up the band's second album, Contra.

“I don’t like it as much as the first record, ’cause I love the first record, but I like it a lot,” he said of the prepsters’ sequel.

Besides a flair for indie rock, Murs admitted enthusiasm for artists as diverse as Frank Sinatra and Insane Clown Posse. And he delved back into the realm of indie when attempting to describe his own typecasting as an “underground rapper.”

Murs’s stage name is an acronym for “Making Underground Raw Shit” — but what “underground raw shit” exactly is can be hard to decrypt. According to Murs, the rap underground represents more than just the type of label under which an artist records.

“It’s kind of like (when) people say ‘indie rock,’ ” he said. “Like, the White Stripes album (Icky Thump) was on Warner Bros., but it still sounded like indie rock, you know? I think underground is the same thing — there’s a sound, there’s a feeling to it.”

And like indie rock, underground rap has its superstars.

“I think Redman is an underground artist … I think Wu-Tang is an underground rap group, but they are platinum-selling artists at the same time, and have a pop viability," he said.

“There’s a certain feeling to it and I haven’t been able to put it into words, but I’m definitely not opposed to … being labeled ‘underground’ or ‘indie,’ or whatever I’m labeled.”

And Murs is all over the rap underground. Besides his numerous solo albums, he rhymes with California hip-hop supergroup the Living Legends and has recorded extensively with producer 9th Wonder. And in his free time, he sometimes works with Slug of Atmosphere to craft album-length homages to B-list actresses under the group moniker FELT.

But six months after the release of FELT 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez, Murs admitted he’s never heard back from any of the celebrities he and Slug have honored.

“I don’t think we’re on their radar,” he said.

And if FELT does it a fourth time, their subject might not even be an actress; according to Murs, Slug has suggested a tribute album for Heidi Fleiss, the infamous "Hollywood Madam."

Whether recording solo or collaboratively, most of Murs’s lyrics come from personal experiences or friends’ stories — he’s often been called rap’s “everyman.” So it’s no surprise that he’s played a few shows that might not seem typical for a rapper from Los Angeles.

“I’ve performed for Willie Nelson,” he laughed, “I opened up for him by accident … it worked out, I told a couple NASCAR jokes, some black people/white people jokes.”

It’s certainly possible that Murs won himself some new fans from that unexpected audience; thematically, his literate tales of regular people and their problems aren’t so different from country ballads.

“I don’t think I have a desired audience,” he said of his live shows. “I think anyone that desires to see me, I desire to perform for.”

For prospective Blind Pig attendees, that’s as good a welcome as any.


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