I’m feeling good. I’ve been doing press all day. I got like three more hours left of press. Oh, man, I’m right where I want to be.
How did you and Erick Sermon approach making your new album Rapp-Murr-Phobia?
Me and Erick Sermon went in the basement and banged out everything. From the hi-hat to the kick to the snare to the bassline to sentence to the paragraph, we made everything from scratch. And then we came to Koch like, ‘Yo, look what we got.’ They loved it.
What was it like working with Erick Sermon this time around?
Erick Sermon discovered me and he discovered Redman. I was already familiar with E. But when I went to Def Jam, it was suggested that I work with other producers. E was still there then, watching the project. E is inspirational. He brings the best out of you and he makes you get wicked. He’s still making hit records 15 years later.
You kept the guests very limited on Rapp-Murr-Phobia. Why?
To tell you the truth, I didn’t really think about it. I thought about it, but people only want to fuck with you when you’re hot. If you’re not hot, then they don’t want to fuck with you. If you’re not going to make them a whole bunch of money, then they don’t want to fuck with you. This is an album, not a compilation. I would like to think of this album as harder than Enigma but more lyrical than The Most Beautifullest, because those are the elements that we created it under and we did what we thought we should. We never had an A&R or a micromanager turning records down, discouraging individuals and making you go left field. I never had any of that and it took me for a loop when I did. It stopped being fun. This shit is fun. It’s crazy. It’s banoodles!
What made you choose “Nobody Do It Better” featuring Tyrese as the lead single?
I thought, ‘What does the world want to hear from Keith Murray? I’ve been gone for four years. What am I going to come back with that has some significance? I could tell you about the diamonds in my chain. I could tell you about selling crack. And I could tell you about beating motherfuckers up. I could tell you about motherfucking robbing niggas, but no one wants to hear that bullshit. Better yet, I’ll tell you about the history of myself and why I am who I am and why niggas can’t fuck with me. At the same time, I can make you feel good and dance and smile during the hook.’
Are you getting the response you wanted from “Nobody Do It Better”?
Shit, people are responding bigger than I thought they would because I had a minimum goal. I’m nervous now. Every time I hear it or people tell me it’s a smash, I get chills. They don’t have to tell me that. DJs around the world are calling and the Koch radio department stays on the phone about the song and they’re telling me that it’s a smash. Out of nowhere! That’s the essence right there. Who can do that?
Would you say Rapp-Murr-Phobia is your best work to date?
Definitely. It’s harder than Enigma but more lyrical than The Most Beautifullest. There were no restrictions. I sat down and analyzed my life, what people want from me and why I’m different and I took it there. This album sounds like nothing out there.
After all these years, how did you go about improving yourself?
I did a history of myself. I got rid of my phone. I didn’t have a phone for a year or so. People know where I am. I did my history. I listened to my first album, my second album, Redman’s first album, EPMD…I put myself in the state that I was in when I first made that music. I didn’t go outside. I didn’t get on the phone and do interviews and I wasn’t doing this extra press. I said, “Let me sit down and do the knowledge to myself.” I had to bring it back. It was too far gone. Everything was too far gone. I had to ask myself, ‘Why does the world love Keith Murray so much?’ I listened to my older songs and I was like, ‘That’s why!’ I put my mind back in that place. That zone that I was in and that feeling, that’s the bug. That’s what me and Erick got back to – that bug. Not the corporate appeal but the artistry.
To older fans, you’re a legend while to younger fans, you’re brand new. Who is this album for?
That is where I’m going – to the people who understand! I don’t have time to worry about the people who don’t know and don’t understand. I’m approaching this like a new artist. All the new fans I get, I appreciate them, but I’m not trying to chase Middle America. Why the fuck would I do that when I have hundreds of thousands of people looking for me to come out? I got a ton of fans. In order for real hip-hop to win, real fans have to support it. Don’t just stand by and watch the sideshow. It’s up to Koch to distribute the record and bring me to my core audience. That’s what I’m looking for. I’m not trying to run out there like, ‘Accept me!’ The ones who don’t really know what I’m capable, once they hear the tape and hear how my true fans are receiving it, they’re going to love it too. I stayed on point and I go outside. I’m outside every day. I’m outside, everywhere, doing shows in every country. They know I’m there.
You haven’t dropped an album in four years. What is it about you that allows you stay quiet, come back and have fans waiting for you?
My blessings are strong. I was programmed to do this and I’m doing this the right way so that I can get more exposure. Like the “Candybar” record, Kevin Liles picked that record. That was a hit record. The females love Keith Murray for that record. DJs tell me whiteboys request it at Bar Mitzvahs. Look at this shit! It’s just that I didn’t have a good run to promote that, but they know this man. Just like “Fatty Girl” with LL and Ludacris. They know this man! Then I had “Badunkadunk.” Motherfuckers are making records like that and believe me, I’m going to sue those country motherfuckers on the commercial like, ‘Can I get a Badunkadunk Burger?’ Tracy Morgan made it popular on Saturday Night Live. That’s why the single is addressing every single intricate thing. That’s why you’re loving me. I sat down and put this shit into proper perspective and into the order in which things are swaying.
No more Sonic for Keith Murray?
I’m flattered though. That’s why I said in the record, “Who got them saying ‘badunkadunk’ around the world?”
Do you look at Rapp-Murr-Phobia as a new chance for you in the game?
I prayed for this! I meditated and prayed towards the East for this. I know God’s going to answer my prayers because I’m a good dude and my blessings are strong. All that negativity, see, people got a chance to try to shed negativity on me because I got the $2 million and they didn’t get it and they’re frustrated with their lives and they wanted to strike at somebody doing it. I never said nothing in the media and I was never talking shit and battling people. Nah. I’m going to come back with the opportunity that I was given and I’m going to do it right. I have no bitterness and I’m not mad at anybody. I got another shot. Nah. Close your face! Nah. Close your mouth! Fix your face! Close your mouth! Kevin and Lyor didn’t even know what to do with me. They were leaving, so Def Jam had to excuse me. Fix your face! Close your mouth!
What exactly happened between you and Def Jam?
My contract got terminated. They no longer wanted to explore that option.
Do you have any ill will towards Def Jam?
Nah. It’s business. I totally understand because I asked to get off the label. They were like, ‘We’ll talk about it.’ I didn’t know that Kevin and Lyor were leaving. If you look at it, the artists that dropped around that time didn’t really do anything. The whole machine was fixing to leave. I totally understand it and I asked to get off. The way I got off, I didn’t recognize it at first. Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.
Is another Def Squad album possible?
That’s coming out in the second quarter next year. It’s called Tsunami.
Erick Sermon just signed Vic Damone. Are we going to see you develop new talent?
I like Vic Damone. I cosigned him. I did a song with him and E. My little brother, Dee Murray, is incredible. He’s my little brother and he’s on my album. If people want to see what I’m coming up with next, it’s L.O.D. Dee Murray is the one.
What was it like shooting “Home Alone” with R. Kelly?
It was a motherfucking nice experience. I learned a lot, as far as business-wise, from being around R. Kelly and watching him. He’s a good dude. There were a lot of nice women and it was in a prestigious environment. I knew I had to get there. Then he brought me on the road and let me rock shows with him. That was that shit.
Would you work with R. Kelly again?
Hell yeah! I’m trying to find R. Kelly right now to get up with that motherfucker.
Hip-hop has been blamed for just about every bad thing that’s happened lately because of the popular “gangster image.” How do you feel about that?
That’s what the media has been praising for so long! Now the media wants to bash hip-hop. That’s why I named the album ‘Rap-Murr-Phobia.’ This is their worst nightmare. This is the creative shit. They say, “Niggas are tired of the bullshit.” Well, we’ve been here. I’m the motherfucking thought-provoking dude. Let it shine.
Your name has stayed in headlines even when you didn’t have any projects coming out. Does controversy just have a way of finding you?
I’ve been dealing with controversy my whole life. I’m nothing new to controversy. But how you bounce back is what makes you the warrior. We’re always going to go through stuff and there’s always going to be people that don’t understand you and there’s always going to be stuff in the media that’s not true, but it’s about how you bounce back.
How do you deal with what’s written about you?
I read all of that shit, but I haven’t been out for four years, so I haven’t been in the media. When the shit happened and it was, ‘Oh, he did this’ and, ‘Oh, he did that.’ I didn’t say anything to the media. I knew I could put out records to shut all of that shit up. Look at R. Kelly. He was accused of dealing with underage females. America doesn’t like that but he’s selling 900,000 records a week. America doesn’t like that, but they forget it. It’s about the records. I can’t dwell on anything negative. Even negative situations help me. I know and understand that as the individual that I am. Knowing and understanding that, I can use it as a hurdle, like, ‘Watch this!’ That’s why nobody does it better!
How do you look back on everything you’ve accomplished in the game so far?
I’m just like, ‘My art is like my life.’ I don’t turn it off and then turn it on. The way I rap is the way I live and the way I live is the way I rap. I’ve got a lot to do. I’ve been interrupted by stints in jail and deaths and just everyday life. I take it all and shine.
What are your goals for Rapp-Murr-Phobia?
Well, my goal for Rapp-Murr-Phobia is to get it into the arena where the real motherfuckers, the people who love hip-hop, the people who use hip-hop to get them through their day, those are the people I want to get the album to. I get letters about how some people were about to kill themselves and slit their wrists and then my song came on and saved their lives. That’s significant. I know that other rappers can’t tell you about that. I know my shit is significant. I just wanted to make a well-rounded album that’s going to create a platform for me to come back again and help people get through problems and have the people say, “It’s dope.” I can say, “Thank you” and I can do it again because that’s my inspiration.
What are you basing the success of Rapp-Murr-Phobia on?
I’m on Koch. Koch is an independent distributor. We all know that the majors occasionally move more units, but as the tide is turning, the majors are not doing better than the independents at this time. I know that and I read a lot and I talk to Alan Grunblatt and Erick Sermon. We look at the industry and the money that I can make on Koch can be better than what I could make on a major. It’s all about how the game is played. I play the game like the block. The numbers don’t lie. If I’m making a certain amount off sales and I have a realistic goal about what I want to make and it’s realistic to me, then it’s good. I know how many people out there in the world know me. I’m an international star too. This is the game. You play the game like the block. The first-week phenomenons, whatever. I’m going to go out here and turn over every stone. My blessings are strong and I have a goal.
Will you be dropping albums on a more consistent basis from here on out?
Hell yeah. I already got the beats for my next album. I’m ready!
What’s the most beautifullest thing in the world today?
Understanding. Communication. Having a chance to do what you’re doing so that people can accept it. Then we can all boogie, woogie, oogie, baby.
What advice would you offer to up-and-coming artists?
Just be true. Don’t try to get in here just to make money. And stop lying in your motherfucking rhymes so much! We know you’re not selling ki’s. We know you don’t have any pistols or guns. Stop lying so much. Keep it creative and truthful. Just keep your heart in it and don’t let nobody tell you that you can’t do it. People told Keith Murray, “You’re not coming back out. You won’t have the No. 2 most-added record. You’re not coming back out.” If I would have listened to that, I would have ended up in the nuthouse somewhere. Instead, I stayed positive, kept a smile on my face and brushed my shoulders off.
What do you want to say to everybody?
I just want everybody to support that album on July 31. Support real hip-hop. It’s a whole album. It’s not just a single here and a single there. It’s specially designed for my core audience and for those that want to hear some shit. Straight up and down, the flows are crazy and the beats are blasting. Trust, it ain’t no half-assed bullshit. It’s whole-hearted, so get it.