LA rapper Murs has almost six albums and 10 years of a career retreating behind him, but he still gets to play a first show now and then—this time, it's with Felt, the indie hip-hop power collaboration with Minneapolis' Slug and Ant that will be making its debut official appearance at the Paid Dues Fest in LA (moved after the Great Punk Rock Riot at the scheduled San Bernardino venue last weekend). Felt popped out as a geeky side project in 2002—an EP recorded in a week and dedicated completely to Christina Ricci, which established certain traditions—the newest Felt girl is Lisa Bonet, since Christina never made a call back—and set up a standard to beat on a 2005 follow-up album that basically introduces Murs into a fully functioning Atmosphere and lets the tape roll. Atmosphere producer Ant handled all the production this time (instead of Living Legend Grouch), and they had more than a few days to record, too, knocking out a record that makes a persuasive best-of-both-worlds kind of argument, even if pinched-nose Atmosphere geeks miss the humor. Today's Monday, and the show is Saturday, and, says Murs—a guy with plenty of OC ties who takes this call now at the Liberty Boardshop in Brea and also includes a post-interview nod to Hurley—sometime in between, they'll start practicing.
OC Weekly: So Christina never bit.
Murs: Of course not—she paid us no mind. She completely ignored us, and we felt really bad. We gave her a whole album! People say her name every day because of us! We made her a fan base in the hip-hop community.
What was it about her?
She was just the girl me and Slug appreciate the most. We were both infatuated with her before we met—he had mentioned her in a song, and I made a whole song about her, and he was like, "You know we both have this . . . thing?"
So how about Lisa?
We didn't know who to do—I think we were both thinking of Lenny Kravitz.
How is working on Felt different than working on other records?
The last one was made right here in OC. I was living in Buena Park, and Slug was living with me for a week—right off the 5, right by the 7-Eleven. I'd get up and run errands, and he'd sit in my courtyard, smoke cigarettes and drink coffee, and then I'd come home and we'd drink Budweiser and write songs all night. We had to drive all the way to Lake Balboa in Ventura to record—lots of it was written and conceived on the 5. And this one was at the Montrose Hotel in Hollywood. Slug rented a suite, and me and him and Ant recorded four-track versions, and then we went to Minneapolis and did the actual physical recording. I call it an Atmursphere record. It's basically their record with me featured on it, so it sounds totally different than the last one. Which some people hated, and some people hate now, and some people still like.
You and Slug seem to work really quickly together.
We have the same work ethic, and we're both writers, so we're never really out of the feel—thank God. We're always having ideas, and when you start feeding off each other, and then add a decent producer to the mix, it's not so hard to spit out an album.
What do you think of this criticism that Felt isn't "smart" enough?
Atmosphere is more in the Sage Francis/Anticon genre—brain rap, I guess. More neural rap. I'm not into neural rap—I've never done it, and I don't think Sean [Slug] is making that kind of music anymore. And Ant has always made the same beats. This album was really a voice for Ant, and anyone who thinks it should be "smarter" doesn't know what to expect—Ant said, "If I made an album, this would be it." Ant is nothing like Slug—he's been giving beats to a guy who's voicing stuff he might not even know about or might not even feel. They talk structure but not concepts. But this record—he'd drink a 12-pack straight through, smoke two packs of Marlboros and watch us write. "Take out that whole last part." He's really more creative than people give him credit for.
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What makes a record smart? It's different than a record that makes the listener feel smart?
I agree—it's just a simple thing. The Internet and the press is the firearm of the intellectual. A lot of cowards from my neighborhood got tough all of a sudden when they got guns, and a lot of people get tough when they get a message-board account, or when they get their journalistic credentials, or—or I won't say "tough," but they have an opinion all of a sudden. And people abuse it like people abuse firearms: freedom of speech and then the very next amendment is the right to bear arms.
What's going to be the next Felt record?
It definitely won't be what you expect, and even if we do it with a producer you expect, it won't sound like you expect. We want people who are fans of us to be fans of growth and fans of life, and fans of life are fans of change and growth.
What will you do if one of these girls gets in touch with you?
Definitely a hug is in order. And wherever it goes from there. . . . Maybe I'd shake her boyfriend's hand after that. Or if she's single, maybe I break up with my girlfriend and we elope. I'm literally out of my mind. But it would definitely be safe for Christina or Lisa, so they shouldn't be scared. The sky's the limit.
MURS, SLUG AND ANT PERFORM AS FELT WITH AESOP ROCK, HANGAR 18, LIVING LEGENDS, EL-P, GROUCH, BROTHER ALI, CAGE, 3MG, BLUEPRINT AND 2MEX (HOSTED BY CHINGO BLING) AT THE PAID DUES FESTIVAL AT THE SHRINE EXPO CENTER, 700 W. 32ND ST., LOS ANGELES; WWW.PAIDDUESFESTIVAL.COM. SAT., 4 P.M. $30-$85. ALL AGES.