Eddie Murphy is a musician at heart. Overshadowed by his successful career as a comedian and actor, most of his recordings are secret treasures, sitting on shelves locked away.
Many fans thought he stopped recording in the '80s, after his hit song “Party All the Time” with Rick James shot up the charts. But Murphy quietly made a conscious decision not to add another “slash” to his name for fear that people wouldn’t take him — or more importantly, his music — seriously.
In 2013, something changed for Murphy, as he and Snoop Lion released a reggae song, “Red Light.” Testing the success of that single, he begins 2015 with his next jammin’ reggae single, “Oh Jah Jah.”
Don’t mistake this talented man for a Rastafarian, however. Murphy’s diversity doesn’t stop in his comedy, film choices, or his musical tastes. L.A. Weekly spoke with Eddie Murphy about his music and his highly anticipated return to Saturday Night Live for the show's 40th anniversary special this weekend.
L.A. Weekly: You had a band at 15 years old?
Eddie Murphy: Yes. I have a studio in the house. When I’m not working on a movie, and I’m not doing anything funny, I do music more than anything.
You did music on SNL too…
I’ve had music throughout. A lot of it is funny, but I’m always singing and moving. My donkey is singing in Shrek, and in my [comedy] routines, there’s hooks like, [sings] “I want some ice cream…” Dreamgirls was all music. I’m a music fan. One of my favorite creative outlets is going into the studio at the house with no song, and coming out with one. Bad, good, weird or whatever, just having a song. I do that for fun.
What’s your take on the 40-year SNL reunion?
I’m looking forward to going there. It’ll just be like a reunion, like a high school reunion. So that will be fun.
Do you produce other people’s music?
Just my stuff. Every now and then I’ll be like, “This is a good song and maybe someone else should track this, like a friend of mine.” Raphael Saadiq is a really good friend of mine. I had this really cool track, and he sang on it, and I was like, “That’s my song!” It doesn’t feel right when someone else is singing it. I’d much rather have somebody one hundred years from now find all my recordings and find all different kinds of stuff and be like, “I didn’t really know this guy.” I’d rather have that then put it out and have people get weirded out by it. This is why I won’t do a publishing deal. If I can’t put it out as me, then I’ll just put it on a shelf.
You didn’t shelf your reggae.
We just put “Red Light” with Snoop Lion up on the computer, and for “Oh Jah Jah” we went to a specific label, since it’s a reggae song, and put it out with a reggae label. If I went to Sony with it, they would look at me like I was crazy. Eddie Murphy doing reggae?
Would you ever perform just your music live?
Oh yeah. Since we put out “Oh Jah Jah,” promoters have been calling me to do these festivals…
So will you put out a full reggae album?
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I don’t think so. I could! But I could put out a rocker or a jazz record. I do so many different types of music up in that studio, and because I’m not paying any of the bills with that stuff, I’m just doing what I like to do. I’ve been doing it in the closet for 20, 25 years. I literally could put out an album in any genre, except heavy metal.