Since Hip-Hop’s inception, there have always been rappers who have had the potential to be legends, but the unfortunate stars didn’t align in their favor. Grand Puba had the swag but no big push, The D.O.C. had the insane momentum, but witnessed his vocal chords crushed in car accident, and the list goes on and on. Def Squad product Keith Murray’s story doesn’t fall far from the top of the setback tree. Originally introduced through Erick Sermon, the self proclaimed lyrical-lexicon made a colossal impression with his single “The Most Beautifullest Thing In The World” in 1994.See Also:
Through the years, his verbose and complex style stood out immediately placing him on the tip of every critic’s pen. He would be put on pause though serving three calendars for an assault charge. Landing at Def Jam after the jail time, another physical altercation would put everything to a halt. Now off a four-year hiatus, the 33-year-old Murray is back refocused. AllHipHop.com’s Streets is Talking interview series sits down with Keith to get the real story behind his all of his highs and lows, victories and blows.
AllHipHop.com: How did you get your start?
Keith Murray: Well my uncle T-Roy is an original b-boy. He used to go out to the parties and I would be in the doorway, just looking. I had to be 10 years old or some s**t. I was looking at them n***as like, “That’s so f**king cool!” He had the Grandmaster Flash album when he had the Rolls Royce and the bear skin rug, [On the Strength] and the Run-DMCRaising Hell album; I was like, “How they do this s**t?” He was like, “All you got to do is make up a rhyme that makes sense.” Ever since then, I had the bug. I started writing rhymes and I was real studious in school, so I would incorporate vocabulary in the rhymes; that’s how my style developed.
AllHipHop.com: Is it true you stepped to Big Daddy Kane and battled him?
Keith Murray: Well my uncle Born True, God bless the dead, he used to be a bodyguard for Big Daddy Kane back in the days. Me and my cousin Drift, God bless the dead, always hung out together. He was the beat-box, and we went everywhere; tearing n***as down in every borough when we was young. I [told my uncle to] take us to Big Daddy Kane. He took us to a Juice Crew party, I auditioned there. Then he took us to the [Nassau] Coliseum when Kane had a show, then we went to the dinner and Born was like, “Kick some s**t.” So we exchanged flows at the time, it wasn’t really like a battle where I ran up on Kane and defeated him; I had the opportunity to rhyme back and forth with him.
AllHipHop.com: Were you trying to give Kane the business even though it wasn’t a formal battle?
Keith Murray: I still remember my rhyme, you crazy! Yeah, I was serving Kane the business, but then he killed me like, “Young boy/you just a toy/I’m 21/undone by anyone.” It was Big Daddy Kane! You couldn’t defeat him. He was in his prime!
AllHipHop.com: Did you battle for anyone else who we would be familiar with?
Keith Murray: No. Well, I auditioned for the Juice Crew. Kool G Rap was in the room, Big Daddy Kane, Fly Ty, MC Shan, Cool V, DJ Polo. Them n***as were in the room like, “Spit.” I got a DVD of that; I’m going to put it out.
AllHipHop.com: So what was the reaction, who was feeling you, who wasn’t?
Keith Murray: Everyone was saying, “He’s nice, put him on.” But then I went back home to Long Island, and I didn’t hear anything else about it.
AllHipHop.com: So how did you hook up with EPMD?
Keith Murray: K-Solo is from Long Island. One day [he] came to the block, and we used to rush him rhyming all the time. I had heard Erick Sermon had moved from Brentwood which was one town over from C.I. [Central Islip], so I told K-Solo to take me to E’s house. So K-Solo said, “Aight, meet me on his block.” We [end up in Sermon's] basement, E put on a beat on and I blacked out. That’s it. It was on since then.
AllHipHop.com: How were your first sessions or just being around with Erick Sermon when he record his second album No Pressure? From what I hear, those were your first times really hitting a studio?
Keith Murray: I never really did a demo until I met Curt Cazal from JVC Force and he did a little demo on me, but that was before [meeting] E. But I went to E’s house right before he went on that EPMD tour, that’s right around the time EPMD were about to break up. Erick went to Atlanta, and I went back to the block. A year later, he came back and said, “Let’s do it.” Being around Erick making that album was crazy because like you said, I [had] never been in a real studio. So I just followed his lead and when it came for me to rhyme, I went banoodles.
AllHipHop.com: What was it like the first time you met Reggie?
Keith Murray: Well Redman, I was with Erick Sermon for two years before I touched the mic. So I’m like, “Is this s**t going to happen or not?” Then he put me on that record “Swing It Over Here” with Redman. First time I met Redman, I didn’t [recognize] him; K-Solo knew him…[one time] I had to go to traffic court and he had to go to traffic court. We sitting in traffic court the same and we didn’t know each other. He had [released] “How To Roll A Blunt” and I didn’t even know him yet. I told [Redman] one time and he was like, “That was you?” Just me and him in front of the judge. [Later on], we smoked out and then we did “Swing It Over Here” and it was on.
AllHipHop.com: Did you beat the traffic ticket?
Keith Murray: Nah, my license is still f**ked up to this day, still! This is when I was 16, pushing a car that wasn’t mine with no insurance.
AllHipHop.com: What were you pushing back then?
Keith Murray: A Corvette, a burgundy Corvette; my step-pop had it. It was crazy.
AllHipHop.com: You dropped your single and title album The Most Beautifullest Thing In The World in 1994, can you describe that time period?
Keith Murray: I was selling drugs on the corner; that was my first year of community college and s**t just popped off. Erick was like, “Here is your show tape and here’s your plane tickets, I’ll see you when you get back.” Ever since then, I been on the run. My first tour was with Biggie, Meth, Redman, Nas. That was the era I was in. We was always around each other chilling, rhyming doing shows and s**t like that. So we all grew up in the industry together. Boot Camp Clik, them was my n***as - Jeru Da Damaja,
AllHipHop.com: So break down what happened between you and Prodigy of Mobb Deep at The Tunnel [legendary New York City nightclub].
Keith Murray: So we came up with The Most Beautifullest Thing In The World and we dropped that. Then that’s when Mobb Deep came with the interlude [on The Infamous] “F**k all you rappers that talking getting high on records and all that spaced out s**t.” I overlooked it. Erick said, “No, that n***a talking about y’all.” I seen him [Prodigy], and was like, “Yo, who y’all talking about on that record? Because it started getting out that you n***as was talking about us.” They were like, “Nah we ain’t talking about y’all.” So they call me to do [LL Cool J’s] “I Shot Ya.” I laid my verse first; I ain’t know who was going to be on the record or nothing. Then he comes on the record and says something [suspect], and E caught it.
AllHipHop.com: Then you see him at The Tunnel?
Keith Murray: That’s when we used to run in The Tunnel wilding. Wow, The Tunnel! Everyone always talking about their Tunnel stories, Murray was in The Tunnel, baby.
AllHipHop.com: Tell me a of Tunnel story...
Keith Murray: I will tell you a sick Tunnel story. It didn’t even happen in The Tunnel, it happened outside The Tunnel. Me and my man 50 Grand was driving in the car, in the Lexus Erick gave me when I first came out. We seen some girls, we were looking, looking, looking and BOOM my bumper crashed into a car right in front of me. I get out of the car and it’s Biggs [Kareem Burke] from Roc-A-Fella [Records]. My f**king Lexus is dented up to the moon [Lexus emblem]! His car ain’t even touched! He about to file with police and I’m like, “Oh no, please don’t do that because my ass is going to jail.” We exchanged numbers and s**t. I gave him the office number for E. I don’t even know what happened with that.
AllHipHop.com: So back to Prodigy, he said you snuffed him in front of police and ran out.
Keith Murray: Let me just make it clear, I have no problems with Prodigy. I snuffed him, yeah, but it wasn’t in front of police. I snuffed him, he ran, and I chased him, then my n***as were fighting his n***as. [We] caught one and beat him under the car with the cops there. They were saying we beat him under the cop car, stop f**king lying. My n***as beat him under the car and cops came and said, “Take it around the corner.” Matter of fact, ask Trigga Tha Gambler what happened; he saw it. I got love for Prodigy, I’m not disrespecting the n***a.
AllHipHop.com: So what happened after the first album did what it did and everything cooled down for you a little bit.
Keith Murray: I caught a case in Connecticut. Some dude got hit in the head with a stool. They said he got multiple lacerations from a razor blade. It happened to be the promoter’s younger brother, that ran up in the middle of a fight n***as was having. And I’m standing on the sidelines looking at the s**t. So he gets damaged, and they’re like, “Keith Murray did it.” I’m like, “I didn’t do s**t, so n***as couldn’t put it on me.” The district attorney said he didn’t go after me because I’m a rapper, he said he went after me because of my criminal history. I did three years for that.
I got railroaded, so I took it like a man and wiped with my hand. But I came out with Enigma before I went in. Enigma is my second album where I went spontaneously disgusting on them. I’m sitting in court and the mothaf**king album coming out the same day. So I never really got a chance to market and promote that album.
AllHipHop.com: Did you record label Jive have your back with what you were going through at the time?
Keith Murray: Yeah, Jive had my back 100%. They paid my lawyer fees and all that s**t. I was making money for them so they were willing to do whatever to do to help, and I appreciate that from the bottom of my heart.
AllHipHop.com: You released It’s A Beautiful Thing around this time.
Keith Murray: Oh yeah. I told Jive not to release that album. “The album ain’t finished, so don’t put it out.” They still put it out and that’s what made me discontent with them.
AllHipHop.com: How did the jail time change you? Did anyone try to test you since you had a deal?
Keith Murray: One thing about Keith Murray is Keith Murray is a cool dude. Keith Murray don’t bother nobody and nobody bother him. They tell you straight up don’t play
basketball in jail if you’re not ready to get into a confrontation, that’s were most of the fights start.
AllHipHop.com: You got hacked?
Keith Murray: Nah, I’m just real nice in basketball, and they couldn’t take it because they were getting a little frustrated that’s all. I love a good confrontation though.
AllHipHop.com: So you get out of jail.
Keith Murray: So I’m like listen I want to get off Jive to pursue other avenues, then Def Jam bought the project for $2,000,000. So it was cool, I went over there and start recording. At first I thought I was going to a boutique label, but I was at a corporation. Then the A&R factor came in; I never worked with an A&R before. Then the suggestions of doing this and that, that started thinning me out. It didn’t become fun anymore.
AllHipHop.com: So it was more about the business than music over there?
Keith Murray: It was like they want something but they didn’t know what that was and I didn’t know what to give them because I’m used to doing what I do. So it was definitely a crossroads.
AllHipHop.com: Was that “Candy Bar” song their idea or yours? It seemed out of your zone at the time.
Keith Murray: It was Kevin Liles’ idea. I thank him for that record because that record kept me current and I still do shows now. When that s**t comes on, it’s over in that mothaf**ker. It surprised the hell out of me on how big that record is.
AllHipHop.com: But the record didn’t get as big it could have --
Keith Murray: -- Been because the growth was stunt because of the situations that occurred.
AllHipHop.com: What’s good with this album?
Keith Murray: The album is called Rapp Murr-Phobia. It comes out July 31st. I named it that because as I been doing the knowledge of the game, Hip-Hop has been taking a lot of low blows right now. And I see that the same way Keith Murray is. The take advantage of you and hang you out to dry. I would like to think that this album is harder thanEnigma but more lyrical than Most Beautifullest Thing in this World. Erick Sermon produced the whole thing. I got Redman, Method Man, L.O.D., Lil' Jamal from Illegal. I feel real good about the album. This is something I made because this is something I made and I liked making it. It was fun and I love it. My heart is into it. It’s an album!
AllHipHop.com: Have you ever seen the Beef 2 DVD?
Keith Murray: Yeah.
AllHipHop.com: What’s your comment on the EPMD segment of the tape where they were alluding to that Erick Sermon sent some guys to rob Parrish?
Keith Murray: K-Solo started that bullsh*t! He’s the reason why EPMD broke up. He said that. They got the boss looking like the villain. I wasn’t around that time, so I don’t know. I can’t really talk about it, but Erick Sermon is a good guy.
AllHipHop.com: Can you elaborate on how K-Solo separated the two?
Keith Murray: Yeah, he was Parrish's man. He told Parrish [that] Erick did it all. He’s the reason why EPMD broke up. He’s the reason why Parrish was like, "E did it."
AllHipHop.com: When’s the last time you’ve spoken to Solo?
Keith Murray: I don’t f**k with Solo. I haven’t seen Solo since Solo seen himself. [Laughs] Last time I heard, he was walking around with a Biblesaying he's Jesus Christ and Suge Knight is the devil. N***as is crazy. You can print anything I say. I don’t give two s**ts.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, keep it funky.
Keith Murray: Word up, funky like a chunky money. July 31st Rap-Murr-Phobia: The Fear Of Real Hip-Hop. You got Al Sharpton boycotting G-Unit, Al, go sit your ass down somewhere! Leave a young rich man [50 Cent] alone, trying make a living. And Imus, “Oh, Hip-Hop did it,” f**k you, you leprechaun looking ass n***a. And the media going to take it like, "Yeah, Hip-Hop did it." Why wait to say all that? We going to keep doing it and nobody going to stop us! And we [are] going to get everyone that loves us to support us! We don’t need y'all!
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