We often look to artistic types to help us make sense of the world, but the music community has been largely silent during these troubled times. LA-based hip-hop artist Murs, however, a longtime independent favorite, has helped fill the void with his major label debut, "Murs for President" (Warner Bros.). On it, he calls for a change in the way the country does business. He sees crumbling school systems, lost libraries, a failed health care system, apathy - and a need to finally do something about it. It's one of the year's most essential discs.
The 30-year-old master of narrative songwriting, born Nicholas Carter, talked to us about the record and the state of hip-hop.
Q. Did you feel you had to make a big statement as you moved to a major label?
A. Yes, there's a bigger sense of responsibility because there are more people who will be exposed to my music. I wanted to create a record that inspires and maybe help change or enlighten your perspective.
Q. A crucial line is, "Nas said hip-hop is dead, but I got off my [butt] and did something instead." Are you saying that if hip-hop is dying it's because it has become so insular and has lost touch with the people and its roots?
A. Yes, yes, but that's just part of it. Hip-hop is about nothing these days. Listen, what other genre incessantly writes songs about itself? Rock has a few songs at most. Listen, Def Leppard could have written a great song about its drummer but didn't. We need to be about ideas, but the music is bankrupt. The elite are supposed to be Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco, but I listen and learn nothing. I used to listen to KRS-ONE and really expanded my horizons. Hip-hop has no songwriters anymore, and that's what I'm trying to be. I can't stress enough how bad things are. The raunch, the disrespect for women, the banality. Where are our Smokey Robinsons? Our Michael Stipes? Let's face it, when it's all said and done, we look at things from a long view, rap will be looked at as a blight on the history of pop music.
Q. Last thing. Who's your running mate?
A. (Long pause) I'd say God. Who'd vote against him?