Murs / 2006

THE rapper they call Murs gets itchy when he's away from Los Angeles. Tucson was too dusty, New York too grimy and Tokyo too far away. Even the trade winds of Maui gave him an uneasy chill. "I went there, I had a place for a month, but I left after 12 days. I'm just too big-city, I'm too L.A. Tropical paradise gives me the creeps. Really, I miss the traffic and the smog and the gangbangers."

This time last year, Murs was in a bare-bones studio in North Carolina, one with folding chairs and mixing gear set up on a bingo-hall table. It was freezing outside and Murs was cranky because the producer, the guru known as 9th Wonder, had let a crowd come in. "Random girls and friends of friends," Murs said ruefully. "I don't like that. I'm shy." Still, he dug deep and delivered a single-take performance of "L.A." with rhymes as rooted in the city as the palm trees that cast shadows on freeway exit ramps.

Man smog might kill ya

but you ain't got to worry

if you stayin' north of


Don't be scared of Crenshaw

the Slauson Super Mall or

Earle's hot dog

man you gotta do it ya'll come on

Come to the hood where we do the most good

Magic Johnson be ownin' everything like he should

Most rap tracks that claim L.A. do it with a scowl, but the Murs hometown anthem is breezy ("Yeah, I had a smile on my face, I'm glad you could hear it.... ") and has a lightheaded sway thanks to the sun-dappled sample of "Atlas" by the reggae harmony trio the Mighty Diamonds. The musical bed for the song was finished by 9th Wonder and presented to Murs who, before that night in the studio, was having a hard time connecting a theme and rhyme to the wavering personality of the piece.

"Then I was thinking that so many of the L.A. rap songs are by rappers from other places, like 2pac and Xzibit, and there's not a lot of songs by people from here about what it's really like here; the good, the bad and the ugly, but for real, not just the gangbanging stuff and Hollywood. That's what I wanted all the people in the studio, all those North Carolina people, to be hearing."

It was cold that night in Raleigh, which led to one of the best lines in the song: "Where you never have to wear your triple goose on Christmas / You can miss us with the blizzards the winters the hurricanes / Unless it's in some glasses with some actresses / perfect frames." The L.A. rapper who loses his beat if he ventures too far for too long says now he takes a bit of home with him on tour. "Yeah, that song, and it works. Even people in New York love that L.A. song."

-- Geoff Boucher

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