'You need a huge band when you got huge plans," raps Murs on "My Own Parade," shouting out his collaborators, live hip-hop crew ¡Mayday! on their new disc ¡Mursday! The sextet is known as the house band for Tech N9ne's label, Strange Music, and there seemed no better way to welcome new labelmate Murs into the fold than with a joint joint.
"We just thought it was a cool way to introduce Strange Music fans to Murs," says ¡Mayday! emcee Wrekonize.
Murs first teamed with them on the chunky track, "Hardcore Bitches," off ¡Mayday!'s own Strange Music debut, 2012's Take Me to Your Leader. It fit the darker tone ("Devil on My Mind," "Last Days," "Death March") the band adopted after joining the notoriously grim Tech N9ne's label. They realize now that they may have been mistaken.
"We started to brighten the music a little more leading up to ¡Mursday!, which is our funnest album to date for Strange Music," Wrekonize says. "We found out that we didn't give the fans enough credit."
Murs saw the album as an opportunity to combine his socially conscious lyrics with the more freewheeling, fun-loving spirit of hip-hop's late-'80s golden age.
"Kids are really into what's fun," says Murs. "Especially my baby. He just wants to jump around. So I want to make more active music."
Recording in ¡Mayday!'s home base of Miami couldn't have hurt the party vibe either. The band did their part with heavy pre-production before his arrival, to offer an array of pre-recorded beats and arrangements.
"I like the influence that Murs takes," says Wrekonize. "He doesn't really think about things too much, and he just kind of goes with the flow."
"We over-think, and then do a little more over-thinking, on everything," says ¡Mayday!'s other emcee, Bernz. "We're extra calculated and sometimes to a fault, so I feel like balancing that out with some of the sporadic energy we learned from working with Murs."
But the most important thing they did was to resurrect techniques from rap's early years. Once a common feature in hip-hop, the verse echoes and background ad-libs give the songs a spirit often missing from modern hip-hop.
"We talked about Beastie Boys and Onyx. We talked about those vocals that felt like all the guys were in the room at the same time and chanting out the verses and how it unified all the vocals instead of just having one guy rapping and then the next guy raps," says Wrekonize. "So we put that through the whole album and it ended up being more challenging than we thought."
But the effort was equally rewarding, both on album and in concert where he says "it gives the live show so much extra life."
"In this era of technology, you don't get that often," Murs says. "Everybody's just mailing shit in. So having all the artists in one room, I think makes our record stand out, maybe even on a spiritual level if I can say that. It makes it more real, tangible and human."