The Okayplayer Interview: Murs & Fashawn, Talking 'Bout This Generation

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.Murs & Fashawn trading bars onstage

Two West Coast heavyweights have combined their talents for one of the most exciting albums of 2012. In one corner you have Murs, one of the most prominent MCs in hip-hop, who has worked with everyone from 9th Wonder to Ski Beatz to the Living Legends to Slug and so on. In the other corner you have one of hip-hop’s most exciting up & comers, Fashawn, with one of the most ferocious flows (and one of the best debut albums) released in the past five years under his belt. Combine these two rappers and you have , which is 12 tracks of unadulterated West Coast hip-hop.

The collaboration of Murs and Fashawn, while random in some ways, also makes undeniable sense. Their styles click and they trade effortless bars over production from Beatnick & K-Salaam. Okayplayer got the chance to speak with the two MCs about their new record, their work chemistry, how Brother Ali inspired Murs to take a risky career move, and Fashawn and Exile’s possible Christmas present for their fans.

OKP: How did you guys originally link up and start working together?

Fashawn: Basically Beatnick & K-Salaam and Murs, they already had an idea for putting a project together. Somebody brought my name up – I guess they were throwing names around about people who Murs could possibly do a collaboration album with. And they finally got to my name, and everybody agreed that I would be the right person. Coincidentally my manager called Murs the next day about something else, just asking for advice because we respect Murs, you know. And at the same time, Murs wanted to ask us about the album. I happily accepted. As soon as I heard the production from Beatnick & K-Salaam, I just instantly went to work. The rest is history, man.

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.Murs and Fashawn connect, politic, ditto

OKP: How familiar were you with each other before you guys started working on the album?

Murs: We’d always bump into each other on the road. We actually never worked with each other before this album, or really even knew each other, for that matter. This album was really the opportunity (to get to know each other). Half the time when we were together, we weren’t even making music. We’d just hang out, and get to know each other. Eventually the music started coming, and I think that’s why the process takes so long. It didn’t feel long, but before long we were like six months in. But at the end of the process, I had a friend; it was more than just music.

OKP: When you listen to This Generation you can definitely tell you guys had a fun time making this record. How long did it take to build that sort of chemistry, to make this kind of album?

Murs: It took us a few songs to get it down. I’d say about half way through the process. I think it was better that way because we were comfortable. It wasn’t just us trying to rap back and forth.

OKP: Why did you guys decide to title the album This Generation?

Fashawn: The title came from one of the first songs that I began working on for this album. It was a song about, everything that really encompasses everything that is right now that was before us. And stuff that we hope to see growing up, the stuff that we thought would never happened. I think it’s a really definitive record. The title alone gave us the space to give you all these other stories that come from our generation.

It really wasn’t going to be called that. It was going to be a double EP, we were going to go in our separate corners. Like I was going to take seven beats and Murs was going to take seven beats. But when the title This Generation came about, it really just encompassed everything we were trying to deliver. It just evolved into something bigger.

OKP: The album has a really classic West Coast sound, what made you decide to let Beatnick & K-Salaam produce the whole album?

Murs: They (Beatnick & K-Salaam) were the catalyst for this. K-Salaam was the one who recommended Fashawn as the person I’d partner with. They were in this from the beginning. Fash was used to working with one producer on Boy Meets World and I was used to working with one person. So I think it was natural for us just to work with one sound.

Fashawn: And we didn’t have a lot of features. I think it adds to the cohesiveness of the project. We just kept it in-house. We reached out to our friends – people like Adrian and Krondon. A majority of it is just me and Murs. And it has that harmonious feel to it, not just that melodic aspect to it. When I say harmonious I mean like how the songs flows, and how the story unfolds. I think that’s why it’s so cohesive.

OKP: Was there something that you learned about one another that may have surprised you when you recorded this album? And did you guys learn any tricks or techniques from each other?

Murs: Oh definitely I learned a lot working with him. I was so surprised by how quickly he recorded the first song. How quick he came up with it, and how powerful it was, and just how relative it was to my verse. And his vocal range.

Fashawn: As far as stuff I take from Murs, I’d have to say his work ethic. His work ethic is incredible, man. There’s so many songs that he sent me that he feels that weren’t even up to par for the album, and I was like ‘are you crazy? These records are amazing.’ He sent me a lot of records, and I was just trying to keep up. It definitely made me step my game up. It was kind of intimidating working with an artist of his caliber.

OKP: Murs, you’ve been one of the most prolific rappers out, especially in terms of collaborating with different artists, how was working with Fashawn different from say working with Slug or 9th Wonder?

Murs: Ah man, it’s just traveling the globe, and they’re each different masters of different things. Like Slug is definitely a master of one style of reporting. And 9th has taught me different things about rhythm. And Fash has the best rhythm overall. He’s just really good with cadences. So I think that was what was different with Fash was his rhythm, and his hook game is just amazing.

OKP: Murs, you recently dropped the video to “Animal Style” and you played one of the gay characters in the video. Why did you decide to do that and what has been the reaction towards the video?

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.Murs and Fashawn on the street

Murs: I decided to play one of the characters in the video because I figured I saw a lot of people stand behind a lot of things, and when it came down to making sacrifices or something drastic, they kind of turned away. I wanted to make that sacrifice, there’s a lot of human beings depending on you. I thought about doing it, and then I thought about not doing it. The pressure for me, came when Brother Ali had to go to jail for protesting with some people for the Occupy Movement to save some lady’s home. How he put all that on the line was dope, and it encouraged me to do the same thing. It’s one thing to put ‘Occupy This’ on a website. What are you willing to put on the line?

We were talking about (shooting a video for “Animal Style”), but then I started this record with Fash. And I was like ‘what’s the point of doing it, that record is old.’ And then I was like you know what, I still believe in it, and I don’t think enough people heard it. And it was a way to get more people to hear it. And also it was a way to show off the acting talent that I have.

The reaction to the “Animal Style” video was surprisingly good. There were a lot of immature people posting comments online, but I was more interested in seeing people’s reaction face to face at Rock the Bells. A lot of my rap friends were really supportive. I got a lot of love and respect for that. I was very surprised by that, I was expecting to lose some acquaintances over it, or sour some relationships. But fortunately everyone has been really open-minded and mature, and I love that.

OKP: A rapper named Macklemore recently released a song called “Same Love” about same-sex marriage, did you happen to hear that song?

Murs: Yeah, he called me right before he released his song. We talked about it, so I thought that was dope. He didn’t have to call me. We’ve been cool.

OKP: That’s cool, do you think hip-hop is going to start taking a more open-minded stance on homosexuality?

Murs: Yes and I hope it doesn’t stop there. There’s so many steps hip-hop needs to take, and homophobia is just one aspect.

OKP: Fash, you dropped Boy Meets World three years ago, when can we expect Fashawn: By the end of this year, man. Me and Exile are still working on it. Actually I took a break from it and started a project called C and S which is short for 'Champagne and Styrofoam' cups. Me and Exile got into this zone where everything was like basically sounding the same. So we just tried to take a break from it. We’re back in the studio as we speak, and working on that and hopefully we can get that to you by the end of this year. So we can get that in your Christmas stocking.