By: Serge Fleury
The art of MC’ing isn’t rocket science, in fact the equation is quite simple: Keep hitting the people with solid material; and they’ll keep you from being tomorrow’s history lesson in their extra credit "Hip-Hop 101" college course. Many have tried, and a lot have failed in the 30+ years of this industry. But for the few that can keep up with the "supply-and-demand" mentality; the reward is well worth it. Especially for an artist that hasn’t had anything handed to them on a silver platter.
In 1994, a young and hungry MC by the name of Keith Murray dropped an album called "The Most Beautifullest Thing In This World." The album would go on to sell over 500,000 copies. He then followed up with "Enigma" in 1996 which was fairly successful in its own right, but before he could truly enjoy his new found success; he was sentenced to a 33 month jail term stemming from a bar fight. While in prison, "It’s A Beautiful Thing" was released, and at the same time, a significant drop-off in his album sales were also occurring.
After serving his prison term, he parted ways with Jive Records, and headed over to Def Jam Recordings. There, he would join his fellow Def Squadian Redman, as label mates. He soon dropped his fourth installment, "He’s Keith Murray" in 2004; but his situation at the super label deteriorated when he was removed due to an altercation with another employee. Now after a three year hiatus, Mr. Murray AKA, "The Lyrical Lexicon" steps back onto the scene with his latest offering, "Rap-Murr-Phobia (The Fear of Real Hip-Hop)", through Koch Records. So is this independent label really a graveyard? That’s exactly what the compound-word lyricist, lets the world know. That life truly does exists, after the major label deals are gone.
CrackSpace.com: So what can we expect from your new album, Rap-Murr-Phobia (The Fear of Real Hip-Hop)?
Keith Murray: Real drum-driven tracks. You can expect word play, vocabulary, and you can expect rhythmic flows. Along with verbalization and articulation. You can expect a well-rounded album, not just one or two singles, and the rest of the album his garbage. This is a "Keith Murray" album; featuring Redman, Method Man, Erick Sermon, L.O.D., and Lil Jamal.
Is there any particular meaning behind the name you chose for your project?
Keith Murray: Yeah, because rap is taking a beating right now; [they're] saying its the creation of society’s woes. A lot of people tried to kick me when I was down. Now I’m up, and this album is a dedication to Hip-Hop. Also for all those who know and love Hip-Hop, and Keith Murray. This album is also about how I do me in this element, and what the people love me for. I’m not trying to appeal to the masses, of those who probably won’t get it in the first place.
CrackSpace.com: Do you think "lyricism" is a lost art form in today’s Hip-Hop?
Keith Murray: Its forgotten because the people that are involved in Hip-Hop now, don’t know the history of it. But it has its levels, there are still a lot of dudes out there spitting. But it the end, either you perform, or you die. Which one are you going to do?
CrackSpace.com: So you’re not worried about your lyricism going over the heads of the average listener?
Keith Murray: I take pride in my lyrics going over n***as heads, because the mothaf**ckas that do get it, is going to root for it. I’m a thought-provoking MC, I’ll make you look in the dictionary. That’s my sh*t! I’ll make you be like; "what the f**k did that mean?" I don’t want to be just straight forward that you can total understand everything. I’m from an era where you make people think.
CrackSpace.com: So how did you manage to stay focused on music with all your personal troubles and label drama?
Keith Murray: I’m used to drama in my life. Both my parents passed away, I’ve been in and out of jail, my friends passed away, and they’ve also been in and out of jail. I’ve been poverty stricken, I’ve dealt with domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse. That’s just life; you take the good with the bad. How you come out of a negative situation, is what counts.
CrackSpace.com: Have you took any steps to try and introduce yourself to a younger audience that might not be familiar with your work?
Keith Murray: I’m not trying to go out there and stretch myself thin, I’m just dealing with the basics first. If I go out there and make some new fans, then that’s cool. But there’s a lot of mothaf**ckas that already know "Keith Murray."
CrackSpace.com: So what’s been one of the major changes for you, by going from the majors to the independent circuit?
Keith Murray: Well independent labels don’t have dollars to throw around, they do; but they’re tight with their sh*t. Every dollar counts, you ain’t getting no car service sitting outside for five hours, driving you around the streets, and bullsh**ting your ass off. The budgets and overhead is a lot lower, but you can make your money on the back end. Now Koch is competing with all the majors out there. Now your first week sales won’t be the same as a major label, but that’s when you grind it out and pace yourself.
CrackSpace.com: What’s the biggest misconception about Keith Murray?
Keith Murray: That I’m not a real nice guy. I never whipped somebody ass that didn’t deserve it. I’m a communicator; and I’m not just going out there, and not caring about people’s needs. I really do care.
CrackSpace.com: Your last album was released back in 2003. Was it hard to get back in the studio and a make a full length album after a four year lay off?
Keith Murray: I didn’t even listen to that f**cking album. It wasn’t hard at all, I [know] I’m nice. I [know] I got what it takes. Its just the fact that I had to go sit down and find the right words; and that’s just what I did.
CrackSpace.com: So basically during that time period, what were you doing? Were you still making music?
Keith Murray: I did a mixtape called "Kicking Ass pt. 1", and then I came back with "Intellectual Violence." I’d just press up like a 1,000 copies and give them away. I didn’t try to sell any of them.
Keith Murray: It didn’t even feel like three winters to me. Damn; three winters went by that fast?
CrackSpace.com: [laughter] Yeah, three winters sure did go by that fast. It was back in 2003 when you came out with "He’s Keith Murray", back on Def Jam. But now you’re back in the game, and we’re happy you have you.
Keith Murray: Yeah, thanks man. I just had to come back in the game right way.