MURS turned his lifelong love for comic books into the basis for his new album. As the rapper traveled throughout his native California, he appreciated the love he received from fans and artists, many of whom said they appreciated how MURS represented The Golden State. He also thought of himself as an ambassador for the state, and while thinking of the Captain Kangaroo television show that was one of his favorites as a child, MURS realized he was a superhero in his own right.
Hence, Captain California, an album that features MURS telling the stories about his beloved California. The Strange Music rapper constructs tales about the streets and about relationships featuring memorable characters, ones who would fill right into the storyline of a comic book.
“The whole album is based on my love of comic books,” MURS says. “On Captain California, I’m making things colorful and vivid and telling stories where I sensationalize them without glorifying them.”
MURS focuses on his attempts to get with a girl on the humorous “Lemon Juice.” He and fellow rapper Curtiss King trade back and forth rhymes where they alternate dissing each other and soliciting the girl’s attention. MURS, who drew inspiration from Positive K’s classic “I Got A Man” cut for “Lemon Juice,” says the song is a reflection of his real relationship with Curtiss King.
“We’ve been working together for years, but I had to find the right place for our personalities to collide ‘cause our whole relationship is just me and him going back and forth talking trash about each other,” MURS explains. “We’ve done more serious songs together, but nothing that encapsulates our friendship the way it truly is in real life the way ‘Lemon Juice’ does.”
MURS also looked to real life for “GBKW.” Short for “God Bless Kanye West,” MURS tells the story of three young black men trying to survive modern America in the midst of the societal situations that regularly put them in precarious situations. MURS feels that Kanye West, who said that he needed help for some of his mental issues, is representative of a lot of young black men.
“As a people, we need therapy,” MURS opines. “If black America was one person, it would need a lot of therapy. But in our community, we don’t get a lot of help. The people that are surrounding Kanye are not giving him the help required. But people are criticizing him coming out and saying he needs help. Kanye’s been through a lot. We’re all going through it and we don’t have the mental health services that are necessary in our community. We pray for each other and I believe in the power of prayer, but we could really use more mental health professionals in our community instead of mocking Kanye West. He’s having problems and trying to work through them. He’s like a football player playing hurt, to me.”
Elsewhere, MURS creates a conflicted hero on the haunting “Colossus.” The protagonist is a 6’4” street soldier who runs the local drug game. But for all that he has going for him, from women to money, it’s a short-lived lifestyle. The same can be said for the main characters of “Shakespeare On The Low.” Here, MURS condenses Romeo & Juliet into a song where Shakespeare’s most famous story is re-imagined a story between star-crossed lovers who happen to be a Blood and Crip.
While MURS tells stories of desperation of pain, he also showcases happier themes. On “1000 Exploding Suns,” for instance, he crafts a tale of a guy who is a superhero. The main character stays married, stays faithful and raises his children with his wife. But the song doesn’t just trumpet the man. “His woman is a superhero for sticking by his side and loving him despite all of his flaws,” MURS says. “He wasn’t balling at first and she stood by him and had kids with him, even when he wasn’t able to support the kids. I think we need more good, hardworking people to have kids, because we’re being out-bred by idiots.”
Today’s children are coming of age in a world that is becoming increasingly segregated in many ways. That’s one reason MURS wrote “G Is For Gentrify.” The meditative selection explains how reshaping long-entrenched neighborhoods has long-ranging repercussions.
“I know I’m speaking to a majority non-black audience,” MURS details. “To me, the way you get through to anyone is your admission of guilt or to blame yourself. Then it’s saying, ‘I’ll work on this if you work on that.’ To me, that’s the overall message that America needs to embrace if we’re going to have to work with the right wing and Donald Trump.”
Long an advocate for Los Angeles and independent rap, MURS has also been a vanguard for both, coming of age as a member of the Living Legends rap group before establishing himself as one of rap’s most acclaimed and prolific artists of the last 20 years, both as a collaborator and solo artist. After delivering a string of solo projects and collaborative albums with Slug of Atmosphere and another set with producer 9th Wonder, MURS signed with Strange Music and combined with ¡Mayday! for the 2014 album ¡Mursday! He followed that up in 2015 with his Strange Music solo debut, Have A Nice Life.
As he’s done throughout much of his best material, MURS focuses Captain California on two of his favorite topics, both of which lend themselves to story rhymes. “I was definitely trying to focus on what I do well, which is tell stories and talk about girls,” MURS says. “I can’t help but to be political. I don’t feel like I’m recognized as a political rapper like Lupe Fiasco and dead prez. But on Captain California, I made a conscious effort to narrow it down to what I do best.”
And with Captain California, MURS is establishing himself as rap’s new superhero: an avenger trying to shed light on the virtuous while chronicling ways to help those in need.