A smart man once wrote, "Opinions are like rap careers, everybody's got one." That smart man was the rapper Murs, and knowing the truth of that statement firsthand, he must also be aware of the unlikelihood of his rise to fame. After more than a decade and seven full-length albums under his belt, Murs released his first on a major label this fall, the ambitious Murs for President.
"The title first came from the politics of being on a major label," says Nick Carter, the man behind the Murs moniker. "If you're going to be involved in those politics you want to be the president of them. Then it was about representing all sides of the coin in hiphop: I think I can do all of that."
Murs rose from the ranks of California crew the Living Legends as its most-popular and well-recognized member, cutting records with underground heavyweights like Slug and 9th Wonder. It's no surprise that Slug and Murs connected to make well-liked records (Felt and Felt, Vol. 2), as their styles and appeal come from the same essential source: honesty. Murs has always walked the difficult line between self-deprecation and battle-rap braggadocio that ties him thematically to the Atmosphere frontman, Slug.
"Like it was said on one of my albums, 'I walk the Earth like Caine in Kung Fu,'" Murs explains of his ability to connect with other artists (this includes Snoop Dogg, who makes an appearance on the new album) and the public at large. "I meet people and get in adventures. I have an open mind. I'm kind of a nomad."
On Murs for President, that nomadic ideal is omnipresent. Murs splits time between party-pleasing cuts like "Lookin' Fly" (one of the album's first singles, featuring Will.I.Am) and dissecting complex issues on tracks like "The Science." You can sense Murs hoping that something on the new record breaks into mainstream radio rotation and garners him a new level of acclaim; something you can hardly fault him for when he really hasn't made many compromises to do so. "I want this album, like every album I make, to go platinum 13 times and open up doors for me where I can make songs on Disney soundtracks and totally change the perception of hiphop music in the world," Murs says (with a complete lack of irony). "I've always had high expectations for myself and my music."
As a whole, Murs for President is a very polished and slick product, and while few may call it a true classic it offers up its fair share of solid cuts. At this point the record is a longshot for mass appeal, but in a career that began so humbly no achievement is truly out of reach. The reason for the success that Murs still wishes to measure in platinum albums comes back, again, to the honesty that is perhaps his foremost appeal.
"When you take the stage and perform, you have to be humble," he says. "You have to realize how much the people in the audience sacrifice to be there to see you." Now those are the words of a smart man.