Keith Murray Interview: Rap-murr-phobia (Fear Of Real Hip Hop)

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by Alex Shtaerman

Just when you thought it was safe…da na na na da na na na…bang! It’s Rap-Murr-Phobia! A disease crippling wack rappers? – No! Keith Murray is finally back with a brand new album! With the forthcoming release of his highly anticipated new LP on Koch Records, the savage lyricist that got us “lifted” all the way back in ’94 returns to deliver what Murray asserts will be “a knock out blow for my core audience”. With extensive production from legendary beatsmith Erick Sermon and guests spots from Redman, Method Man, Sermon and Tyrese, the Def Squad vet hopes to come full circle, returning to his roots to revitalize a career hampered in recent years by a three year jail stint and an album subsequently released on Def Jam in 2003 that Murray now concedes he wouldn’t have made if he had to do it all over again. “That took me to the left”, he explains, recounting Def Jam’s ongoing woes to see eye to eye, on a creative level, with many of the artists that have called the label their home. With Rap-Murr-Phobia set to hit stores July 31st, we catch up with Keith to talk about everything from Hip-Hip to jail to his alleged battle with Big Daddy Kane and more. Read the interview and get lifted.

Click here to listen to “Hustle On”, the brand new street anthem from Keith Murray.
Check out “Weebe Wobble”, new Keith Murray joint produced by Erick Sermon.

RIOTSOUND.COM: You define the name of your new album, Rap-Murr-Phobia, as the “fear of Real Hip-Hop”. Who, in your view, is facilitating the fear and who is suffering from Rap-Murr-Phobia at this point in time?

KEITH MURRAY: The album Rap-Murr-Phobia comes out July 31st, produced by Erick Sermon, and the fear of real Hip-Hop is…Hip-Hip is getting attacked right now. I ain’t even gotta go through it and talk about big face Anus – see Imus, I named him Anus…

RIOTSOUND.COM: [laughs] Oh man, Anus, that’s great…

KEITH MURRAY: See what I’m saying…then there’s Al Sharpton with his big ass fucking head [laughs] walking around all the time on TV, talking shit and trying to boycott my boys G-Unit. [imitating Al Sharpton] Oh Hip-Hop did it, it’s Hip-Hop. Then you got these motherfuckers that don’t know what real Hip-Hop is, so they don’t accept it. This album is for those who know and understand what it is. I ain’t got time to be worried about touchy feely motherfuckers, ‘cause you know how it ties into with my situation – the whole world is looking like – oh, what is he gonna do? I’ma come and rock this motherfucker!

The fear is – yo, this is about business, the bottom line at the end of the day, and niggas ain’t got time to be playing touchy feely. So get that shit straight and let that real shit bump when it come on. Get it to my fans, it’s for my people who understand it. [As far as people] who don’t know what it is and who’s critiquing it, I ain’t got time to worry about that shit, you feel me?

RIOTSOUND.COM: You obviously had a great impact on the game during Hip-Hop’s golden era; however, in this new day and age, is it difficult for an artist such as yourself to stay current with the times but also stay true to the hardcore fans that love and respect you for your classic material?

KEITH MURRAY: See, that’s where shit starts changing now. It’s all about money, ALL about money. So now the critics is like – well, he ain’t making as much money as this person or this person isn’t making as much money as him. That’s where motherfuckers get it fucked up at and that’s where I be like – yo, I can’t get caught up in that. I know what I got, I know there’s people out there that love this shit and will bang this shit! So it’s my duty and my job to help Koch Records help me distribute the records to where the people know they at. Put me in the [right] area and then let me do my show. My fans and people that don’t even know me will become fans when they’re there.

The media ain’t [the ones] buying my record, so it’s up to me to deliver an album that [Koch] feels good about and they can distribute. Now fans [today] is like – yo, you got the Redman album, I ain’t even know it was out. How the fuck people don’t know when a Redman album is out?! This shit is ridiculous B. There’s numbers [involved] too and [the record companies] move on to the next project. But I’m like – yo, this shit is serious to me, niggas gotta know [when the album is dropping] ‘cause everywhere I go it’s like – when’s the album coming out? People are like – yo, good luck, welcome back! welcome back! I’m like wow – welcome back – before it was like, oh he’s finished, he can never make another record. And now that [I] did, its like – ok, well let’s see if he sell.

I have a projected gold record being on an independent [label]. We all know the numbers game, I don’t have to sit here and go through that; that mathematic equation is old and tired in the press. [The thing is], I have a name and I [also] have a show and I got the ability to go out here and hustle. Play the game like the block, watch the product and the numbers. That’s what it boils down to. Fans don’t lie but they can overlook a project or miss a project. You gotta let them know it’s out there and you gotta get the support, bottom line.

RIOTSOUND.COM: You got Redman on Rap-Murr-Phobia and also Erick Sermon executive produced the album. In all, it seems like Def Squad is experiencing a resurgence in recent months. Do you see the Squad coming back to form, so to speak? I know a lot of the fans have been missing that music.

KEITH MURRAY: Yeah, we got an album coming out in the second quarter [of 2008]. Erick Sermon produced my album. See, it didn’t really seem to me like Def Squad went anywhere ‘cause they my family, you know what I’m saying? So when you just asked that question I was standing outside of myself and looking [from the perspective of] – it has been a while and to the average fan, they live they own life but they watching the music. See, we just living our lives. When we formulate, we put out, but we gotta be more rapid ‘cause those fans are looking.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Starting in 1998 you served nearly three years in jail stemming from a 1995 incident in New Britain, Connecticut. What was that time like for you, was it a reflective period? Were you writing music during that time and also, as a whole, what was that experience like?

KEITH MURRAY: [In a quiet somber tone] Well, I’m no stranger to jail. Me, my friends, my family members, we all experienced jail and most of us became adults in jail. Going from the adolescent dorm at 18 to the adult [population] at 19 type shit. Jail has always preserved me. I go in and I come out stronger because I’ve been used to it. It ain’t no good place or nothing like that but, you know, that’s why I am who I am now, because I did jail time before and I’ve lived in dorms and lived in a society with strangers since I was a young kid. It was off and on. So it just matured me to the world and made me more advanced.

Half of these niggas is fuckin’ retards so it just gave me confidence like – yo, there’s a whole world out here. Like, look at this nigga, he smart, this [other] nigga got money but he dumb, this [other] nigga’s a bum and this nigga’s in here just ‘cause he ain’t got nowhere to go so he come to jail so he can have meals and shit. Then this other nigga’s here ‘cause he got medical issues – and yo, they all scheming, there’s so many personalities [in jail], so many different plights for life. It makes you look at life in a more brighter perspective like – I’m gonna get my ass outta here and I’m gonna do something ‘cause I’m not gonna be fucked up in this game.

RIOTSOUND.COM: You had a very tough childhood growing up, your father, mother and sister all passed at a very early age. If you can pass along one piece of advice to a young child or adolescent going through some of the things you went through, what would you tell them?

KEITH MURRAY: You can mourn but [only] for so long. Life goes on and you can’t walk around chasing demons. You gotta learn to accept it, you can’t carry that weight on your back ‘cause it comes out in other negative areas that may be undesirable for you. So, what you gotta realize is, if you get mad or are getting in trouble and stuff like that because you lost loved ones, you gotta get that monkey off your back.

RIOTSOUND.COM: When you were coming up as an MC and were still relatively unknown, you got the chance to battle Big Daddy Kane…

KEITH MURRAY: Yo!!!! Everybody asks that question [laughs]…I ain’t battle Big Daddy Kane, my Uncle Born used to bodyguard Kane. Kane had a concert at Nassau Coliseum and my Uncle Born took me and my cousins. I was always just rapping and rapping. Uncle Born used to take me everywhere and be like – yo, battle [this one and that one]. So Uncle Born was instigating for me to be able to spit for [Kane]. We went to the diner in Brooklyn and then I just went to the other end of the table and we was spitting verses. It seemed like a battle ‘cause I was going at him and then he came at me with that line – Young boy you’re just a toy / I’m 21, undone by no one [laughs] – so it seemed like a battle ‘cause we was going at it but [all it was] is I just had the pleasure of spiting for him in a ferocious manner. Then I went to the after party and I was spitting for and auditioning for the Juice Crew in front of [Kool] G Rap, MC Shan, Big Daddy Kane, Fly Ty, Biz Markie and Cool V, just in there spittin’ like bradadadadadadada… for a good half an hour. Then I went back to Long Island and started getting into street shit until [I] eventually met Erick Sermon.

RIOTSOUND.COM: In your view, what are some of the things your longtime fans will enjoy most about the new album, and as far as some of the younger generation who didn’t grow up listening to that golden era music, what do you think they’ll get out of Rap-Murr-Phobia?

KEITH MURRAY: I’d like to tell all my fans that’s expecting to check out the album to consider this album [to be] harder than Enigma but more lyrical than [The Most Beautifullest Thing In This World]. I went back and I did the history of myself, I listened and I said – why do my fans love me? Oh, it’s ‘cause of this, boom! [sings the chorus to “Nobody Do It Better”] That’s why you lovin’ me – that’s the #2 most added record to urban radio across the country. It’s ‘cause I sat down and I thought it out. I wasn’t running around, I was in the house every day, this is serious! This is serious business and I knew I had to deliver a knock out blow for my core audience. Fuck who don’t understand it, you know what I mean, it ain’t for them. I got mad fans across the country and across the world – as long as Koch can deliver.

RIOTSOUND.COM: If you could change one thing in your rap career, would you do anything different?

KEITH MURRAY: I wouldn’t have made that last album [He’s Keith Murray] on Def Jam. That took me to the left. It stopped being fun and it wasn’t creative. It was business but it became a tug of war – and see, Lyor [Cohen] and Kevin [Liles] left [the label]. Then you see artists drop [on Def Jam] and they didn’t do good. But I did get a hit record that’s famous in “Candy Bar”, I did get that outta there. They did give me money, I’m not disrespecting that but the [album] wasn’t made under my normal circumstances.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Any parting words for all the fans?

KEITH MURRAY: This album, Rap-Murr-Phobia, is coming out July 31st, produced by Erick Sermon. The shit is phat! Females, I got shit on there for ya’ll. Ain’t no soft, over the middle shit but I’m talking about records for females too, like “Candy Bar”, I got a part 2 on there. Females love Keith Murray so I gotta let ‘em know you can bump this album. I’m putting it out and we marketing and promoting it. I’m coming everywhere, I have to take it to my people. I need to get that tour support and get on that bus and go and give that shit to who want it. I will not [stop], even if I have to go barefoot and walk the globe with a book bag on if I have to, I will get this shit [to the fans]. That’s how much more important it is [this time]. ‘Cause I see, I’ve been there before, I gotta tie the whole world together and put everyone who want it on the same page. Man, listen, Rap-Murr-Phobia! Your worst motherfuckin’ nightmare. Face your worst fears July 31st!

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