California-bred rappers Murs and Fashawn have much in common. They're both former graffiti writers, skateboarders and independent-minded rappers who have affinities for collaborating with one specific producer per album. But they're also more than a decade apart in age — Murs is 34, Fashawn 23.
At first glance, their new album, This Generation, out today, might seem to speak on the divide between old and young hip-hop heads. Not so, Fashawn tells us recently. In fact, it alludes to a philosophy of all-inclusiveness and seeks to knock down the imaginary walls between generations erected by the media.
Ahead of their free show tonight at Amoeba Records celebrating the release of their album and National Voter Registration Day, we talked to the duo about having children, the increasing disappearance of regionalism in rap and voting for the first time.
How did you and Murs decide to do this project?
Fashawn: Originally Beatnik and K-Salaam were going to do an album with Murs, but one of the parties wanted to do something different. Add someone to the mix. My name came about and a light bulb popped up in their head. Murs did his parts in Arizona and I was in California recording in my living room.
It seems like you and Murs have a really good energy together.
I agree. We relate in a lot of ways even though he's like a decade older than me. Both emcees, former graffiti writers, both skate. That's like my big brother. I respect and admire him. Dude's a cool cat. And I'm easy to get along with. I respect his audacity. I feel I do the same, maybe not to that extent.
I've always thought of you as an old soul.
Word. I don't know how to respond to that. We've all been here before, in a spiritual sense. I'm just trapped in a 23-year-old body with tattoos all over it and shit. I feel like I've seen it all before. Or seen enough.
So the record is about the division between the generations–
Actually, it's about the similarities and how these so-called generational gaps are imaginary. Doesn't matter how old we are, we all live in the same age. We still have to deal with the residue of what our forefathers did. We all have to co-exist. Everything that is this generation. That's why we chose to call it [This Generation].
Do you think these generational divides are just set up by the media and socialogists in order to keep distance between people?
The answer lies in the question. We're already divided. Black, white, Republican, Democrat. There's enough separation.
Sure, most of society is set up to say, “You're not like me, so we can't agree.” Not to rhyme–
That was dope. [laughs]
Are you really invested in politics?
Nah, that's the funny thing. Most people assume I am. I'm not even registered to vote. I think I'm gonna register at the Rock the Vote thing. [Laughs] It's only appropriate. That might be a good idea. To exercise that freedom, to have the option. I want to at least have it and have something to do with the new election. I feel ashamed I didn't have anything to do with Barack and the last election.
Your saying you're going to vote might have more impact than your actual vote.
Right. Who knows? I overlook a lot of freedoms and I feel like a lot of kids do too. Being black in America — and I hate to even bring that up — but I feel like the system really ignored us and didn't give an eff about us. So I never really cared about voting or thought it would be effective in any way. But I feel like as I get older and see all these different props, how they affect my life, having a daughter — I'm trying to make the effort to change.
You heard about Mitt Romney at the fundraiser when he said 47% of people depend on the government and–
[laughing] Hold on. 47% of the people depend on the government? I'ma stop right there and say 100% of the people in this country depend on the government. [laughing] That's all I have to say about that. Rich or poor, billionaire or Section 8, we all depend on the government, like it or not. He definitely doesn't have my vote, just for saying that.
Our interview with Murs is below.
I was reading that you said that this album is an “amalgamation of all different styles and eras.” That sounds very expansive to me.
Murs: [laughs] I don't know if it was a conscious decision, but that's the generation. Fash and I are ten years apart in age, but I identify more with this age, where you can't tell what coast anyone is from. Does it feel good, does it sound good, and for me, is it authentic?
We represent an era of rappers growing up — he's a big C-Bo fan and I'm a big E-40 fan. But if you listen to Boy Meets World or Murs 3:16, it wouldn't sound anything like that to you. And I think the guys Beatnik and Salaam gave us a very West Coast feeling record. Fash calls it “neo g-funk.” But the guys who made it are from Minneapolis and live in New York. That's what makes this generation. We've been influenced by rap from all coasts. Fash is a produce of the Internet generation and I was just traveling to Houston and buying DJ Screw tapes or living in New York.
I have no idea where Mötley Crüe or Metallica is from. I think rap is finally evolved to that point where it's not regionally divided. You can tell there's southern rock and everything else, but I have no idea where those bands are from. You're a rock band. It doesn't matter that The Killers are from Las Vegas or Kings of Leon are from Tennessee. I don't think any diehard rock fans are saying, “Oh, The Killers are trying to sound like they're from Minneapolis.”
When I first met Kendrick [Lamar] and Ab-Soul four years ago, I told them I feel like I should've grown up with them. I grew up in a time where people wanted to say I was either Souls of Mischief or DJ Quik and I was kinda both, and a little bit of Nas, a little bit of Boot Camp Clik. But there was no one for me to align myself with.
I was just talking to Fash and told him he reminds me of an old soul, but with you, it's the opposite. Even with Paid Dues, searching out new acts —
I attribute that to the fact that no one helped me when I was coming up, so I always felt like I should help them. I never felt like I belonged — maybe that's why no one ever reached out to me. But my wife and I took Casey Veggies out to dinner one night and said, “What do you guys want to know about this industry?” But I wasn't like, “Yo, get on my track.” I'm older, I can't hang with these guys – I was drinking lean in 2002. But I'm married, I'm adopting, I'm not partying or smoking dope. It took me four months to find out what molly was. But I'm excited about the same kids these kids are excited about — Speak, Vince Staples, Spaceghostpurrp, A$AP Rocky. I'm really into this new generation and that's why I think it worked with Fash. And Fash seems older 'cause he has a daughter he loves and takes care of, plus he's been through so much. He's way more professional than I ever expected a rapper with his circumstances at 23 to be.
You're adopting a child?
We've been approved for six months, now we're just waiting, as the social workers say, for the “right match.” We've applied for like 60 kids and for various reasons it hasn't worked out.
Not that you can know, but how do you anticipate that affecting your career?
I've been planning on this next tour being one of my last. But Fash excites me to do more stuff. I don't know if it's gonna slow down. We may do a movie. I like being around him and rapping with him. We're very similar. I planned to slow down for this child, but we're also hoping to get a 14- to 17-year-old child. So we'd give him the option of dropping out of school, getting his GED and traveling with dad, or stay home with mom and go to regular school and start community college.
It's really interesting you're having trouble getting a child that old.
Yeah, that's what we thought. They'll never tell you, but I'm starting to think it has something to do with the fact that I rap.
Yeah, but you're a legitimately successful rapper.
I just don't know if it's the stigma, like I'm gonna give the kid weed? Or have all kind of orgies? But it's been really surprising and difficult. And frustrating. But when it's right, it's right. I think it's just hard to get a kid. Way I look at it, there's something else I'm supposed to be doing right now. 'Cause God knows I'd give up everything for my child, adopted or otherwise. Maybe there's more for me to do.
Fashawn and Murs perform at 6 p.m. tonight at Amoeba Records. Their album This Generation is out today.