Words & Interview by Andres Tardio
The world of rap battles has gone from a street corner hobby to a global business. And there are now a few MCs who have etched their faces on Mt. Rushmore of the battle culture. Murda Mook is certainly one of them.
From the battles on blocks to the Total Slaughter stage that was organized by Eminem and his Shady enterprise, Murda Mook has become one of the most prominent figures in the platform. He’s established himself as a worthy MC on beats, too, calling out any other rapper in the world on the BET Hip Hop Awards cypher next to Snoop Dogg. And now, he’s ventured into the world of film with Dame Dash. It’s no wonder Drake recently publicly pondered a potential battle with him.
Mook recently spoke with us about the state of the battle world, his efforts in film and his potential battle with Drizzy. Read on to find out what drives him to continue battling and what could make him battle more next year than he has in the last few years combined.
Crazy Hood: Your BET Hip Hop Awards cypher verse was one of the night’s most talked about moments. What was your purpose with that verse?
Murda Mook: I wanted to have the most talked about moment at BET of the awards. I wanted to be the most talked about person after the awards was over.
Crazy Hood: So, what was going through your mind while you were performing that?
Murda Mook: Actually, what was going on in my mind? It was kind of blank. I didn’t see the crowd, really. I didn’t really know what was happening. I just knew I went up there and I started rhyming. Usually, that’s how it happens. I was nervous to start it off, but then, you know, once I started rapping, I just did what came naturally. And I just blacked out.
Crazy Hood: You could tell. The emotion was just so raw.
Murda Mook: Yeah, I heard the crowd dealing with me or whatever. They were showing a lot of support. Once I pretty much knew that the crowd was into it…It relieves you, but then it lets you know you gotta go even harder now.
Crazy Hood: Now, it felt like you were proving a point about the old stigma about battle rap. Was that part of your plan?
Murda Mook: That verse, the reason I did that was because this was actually my second time doing the cypher. When I did it the first time, the producers told me I had to do 16 bars. I couldn’t go over. So, when I did the 16 bars, they was hot, but then when I went there, the other people that were rhyming with me got to do 34 or 40. I felt a little betrayed. I’m like, “Damn, if I would have knew that, I would have structured my rhymes totally different.” So, I told myself, “If I ever got the chance to do it again, I’m gonna make sure I have the best verse ever heard on the cypher.” That’s what I wanted to set as a goal.
Crazy Hood: That was the motivation. Now, as you reflect on this year, what stands out the most about your battle with Loaded Lux?
Murda Mook: Maybe that I won so handily. That whole thing stands out the most, in the fashion that I was victorious in. I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting it to be us both in the trenches, bar for bar, blow for blow, pause, like back in the days. I didn’t expect it to go that way?
Crazy Hood: Why do you think it went that way?
Murda Mook: Well, the crowd was fucking with him in the first round. I think it was just the angle that I took. The angle made the battle go that way. When I came out in the first round, the approach, the crowd were impartial. Then, they went to my side and it was no looking back from there. The angle got the crowd thinking like, “Oh, we see it your way.” The argument was won in the first round.
Crazy Hood: Did you feel like he had bars that were solid or did you feel like he didn’t come correct on this one?
Murda Mook: Nah, I feel like he had incredible bars, to be honest with you. His bars were incredible. They just didn’t hit because of the approach that I took. If nobody would have brought something to light with the crowd, then they would have had no reason to see it the way that I put it. Once you make the crowd question themselves, they’re not gonna want to seem like hypocrites. So, even to themselves, they’re not gonna want to make themselves look that way, so what they may have laughed at before, they don’t want to laugh now. They don’t want to seem like hypocrites. What they may have felt before they may not feel now. It’s just a little jedi mind trick.
Crazy Hood: At what point did you decide to throw on the du-rag?
Murda Mook: After I battled [Iron] Solomon, a lot of people was like, “Yo, you killed him, but we want the Mook with the du-drag.” Mad people said that to me. I felt like a lot of people wanted to see that, so I wanted to give people something to remember. That was a moment for people to reminisce. For that split second, it brought them back to that Mook they fell in love with when they first started watching battle rap. It was received well.
Crazy Hood: It was kind of hard for you to miss at that point.
Murda Mook: Once you kind of get your groove, you get on fire. When you’re on fire, it’s hard to stop somebody that’s on fire, no matter who you are, no matter what defense you play. Once you get in that groove, that’s it. I was in that groove.
Crazy Hood: Is that a fear for you? Knowing you’re a highly regarded battle MC, you can go into a ring tomorrow against anyone and they can get on a roll like that. Is that a real fear for you?
Murda Mook: I don’t think about it when I’m battling. But, when I know I’m about to battle, that definitely goes through my mind. But that’s why I go so hard, for fear of losing. So, what I’ll do is, I’ll prepare so hard until I feel like I can’t lose with this. I don’t care what anybody says, the worst that can happen is we go back and forth and it’ll be a really dope battle, but nobody is gonna beat this. Either we tie, or I’m gonna destroy them. That’s the only thing going through my mind. But the fear of losing is always present when I’m preparing. I don’t want to lose.
Crazy Hood: After the Solomon battle, you often talked about how people weren’t giving you credit for it as if he wasn’t a worthy opponent. People were discrediting the win as if it wasn’t a valuable W. Then, you come back and with this Lux battle, you took on somebody that people regarded as the best by far after the Calicoe battle. Do you feel redemption or do you feel like people are trying to take away from this win, too?
Murda Mook: Yeah, they are trying take away from this one, too. With me, I’ve been at the top for so long, people are tired of it. So, to get me out of the way, they’ll do that. My Solomon battle was to let people know I’m on some prophet type shit. It was more real life shit than wanting to rap about bars and made up shit. It was more deep, real life, insightful shit that I thought people would appreciate more. Battle rap fans didn’t appreciate it, but it was on the news in Florida. A lot of professors and things and such gravitated towards it. So, it did what it had to do for me. In the same breath, I was letting people know. No matter what I do in battle rap, there’s always going to be person that says someone else can beat me. Even if they’ve clearly been beaten, other people are going to say, “This person is the best now.” So, there’s never gonna be that redemption because there’s always going to be a new person [to battle]. That’s just the reality of it.
Crazy Hood: Does that frustrate you or inspire you?
Murda Mook: It frustrated me early on. I was doing it to be considered the best to do it. That was the reason I wanted to do it. People started to consider me the best at it, but then it started to transition into a sport, other battlers started coming in. So, I had to start to understand that people are going to have their favorites no matter what. You’ve got LeBron James. Many people consider him the best at basketball. But then you have people that’ll argue and say that Kevin Durant is the best or that Kobe Bryant is the best. People have their favorites. You can’t knock them. So, that’s what is inspiring. It’s a conversation piece. As long as we in the conversation, that’s all that matters.
Crazy Hood: You make a good point. There’s no ranking in battle rap. It’s just opinions. According to many, you’re one of the best. But who do you consider Top 3?
Murda Mook: Right now, the top three would be Hollow Da Don, Charlie Clips and Arsonal. Those are the three to me.
Crazy Hood: There’s no ranking. Cats are battling all over, overseas, in small leagues, so it’s hard to see where everyone is.
Murda Mook: What you have to see is the effect that they have on the culture. You have to rank the impact. Do people want to pay them to come out? How much is somebody willing to pay him to come out? You can’t say anyone is better than anyone else. You can’t even do that in regular sports, either. If someone scores more than you, it doesn’t mean he’s a better basketball player than you. It just means he can score more than you. It’s no way to rank that. You just have to be one of the best.
Crazy Hood: Well, they have ranking where they’ll rank a player’s plus or minus points or they’ll tally up all the stats together to create the ranking. But you can’t do that with battling because there’s no win-loss record.
Murda Mook: Battle rap is all opinion driven. It’s all with how you feel. So, certain battlers say things that people will feel, so they’ll take a liking to that particular battler. It’s all opinion. That’s why I don’t like it being judged. Leave it up to how the people feel.
Crazy Hood: We’re talking about cats going to other leagues. I haven’t watched the footage and I’m pretty sure you haven’t either, but people are saying that Charlie Clips lost to Charron because he freestyles every round and Charron came with three rounds that were prepared. Do you feel like that…
Murda Mook: Charlie Clips lost to Charron?
Crazy Hood: That’s what the Twitter world is saying.
Murda Mook: Lost badly or just regularly lost?
Crazy Hood: They’re saying he freestyles every round and Charron came as prepared he came against Suge.
Murda Mook: But Charron…And then I heard that Charlie Clips lost to Illmaculate. Is that true?
Crazy Hood: Some people are saying that, too. So, do you feel like that lowers Charlie Clips’ ranking? Or do you feel like how some people, especially those who work at URL feel, like if it ain’t on that stage it doesn’t truly count?
Murda Mook: Well, how I feel about it is I feel it counts everywhere. I feel that if you battle, it counts. Wherever you battle, it counts. Some people feel like, “Well, if it wasn’t over here, it doesn’t count.” That’s just a way out. They use that as a scapegoat to just say whatever you feel like saying for not preparing. For me, it counts wherever. I don’t care if it’s in the backyard or your mother’s living room. If we battle and you lose, you lost. That’s it.
Crazy Hood: Going away from battling for a little bit, what can you tell us about working with Dame Dash on Too Honorable?
Murda Mook: It’s an experience. It’s my first time being on a set of a movie. I did a movie before, but I only had a minor part and in this movie, I’ve got a major role. Just getting used to the lingo. A lot of laughs are going on on set, so it makes it that much more enjoyable. I know a lot of the people that I’m working with. That makes it cool. Dame’s a homie. He’s a mentor. He’s always dropping jewels. It’s always nice to be around somebody like that. We’re always having a blast on the set.
Crazy Hood: Is this a character you had to study for and change up your personal characteristics? Or is this a character you related to from the jump?
Murda Mook: I can’t say I related to him, but I knew about him. It made it easier to play him because I knew his story already because, I haven’t been directly a part of it, but somewhat, I’ve been involved in his story. I know people that told his story. So, to go into that, it wasn’t hard at all, for me.
Crazy Hood: You’re highly regarded in one aspect of your life and now you’re going into something you’re new at. Was there a scene or a moment where you felt humbled by the experience?
Murda Mook: You know what? Nah. To be honest with you, I’m trying to find one. The directors and producers, when they watch me, they say that my acting skill is an elite level acting skill. It’s just natural for me. They’re saying that there’s people that took classes for years upon years and some of the things that I’m able to convey on the screen, it’s remarkable to them that I was able to convey it like this. That, it was really my first time acting, but I used to act in the crib. You know what I mean? Just act in the crib. When I was younger, I used to write little movies. And battle rap is like acting, to be honest. You got your script, you round it out and now you’ve gotta memorize the script. So, it wasn’t really too bad for me. The only thing I was humbled by was the waiting process. I didn’t like that. As actors, the saying is, “Hurry up and wait.” There’s a lot of waiting to do.
Crazy Hood: We saw your work in the “6 God” video, which was seen as a diss to Drake. People are making a big deal about a potential battle with him. So, we have to ask. Where does that stand today?
Murda Mook: I don’t know. If it happens, it happens. If it don’t, it don’t. I don’t want people to think I’m trying to chase him around. Once it came out, it came out. People asked me about it and then it looked like, “You’re talking about it, but he’s not talking about it. He’s not. We had a conversation. He was supposed to acknowledge it. He didn’t. That was just that. “6 God” was honestly because I thought we in a competition now. We had this conversation, you told me something, I took your word for it. You didn’t follow through. Now, I’m going to be annoying to you. It’s not that I don’t like him. People misconstrue things real quick. “Oh, you doing this to Drake. Why you on his nut sack? Why you don’t like Drake?” It’s not that I don’t like Drake. I really listen to Drake. But let’s face it. If me and Drake battle, that’ll be a big move for me. So, why not try to annoy him a little bit? That’s the way I do. But it ain’t really too deep. I’ll leave him alone eventually.
Crazy Hood: You’ve gotten praise for your battling. But you’ve also been criticized for not battling as often as others. Do you see yourself battling more than once next year?
Murda Mook: I would do two in a year. That would be my limit. You could see me battling more than once next year. It depends on how it goes with the business, man. We’ve got Total Slaughter coming back up again. I’ve got a couple of other people that’s interested in getting me to battle some people. So, you might see me battling twice next year, maybe even three times. I’m not sure. I don’t want to go three, but we’ll see. If I can make $300,000 or $400,000 off of three battles, then it might be three. If that is the determining factor to have the third battle, then I’m gonna have the third battle.
Crazy Hood: Is it a money thing or is it about proving cats wrong now?
Murda Mook: It’s a money thing, strictly, at this point. I don’t have nothing else to prove. If I win, it’s like, “Okay, Mook won.” There’s nothing left to prove. It’s not gonna be like, “Oh, shit. Mook won?” I’m not gonna get props. But if I lose, it’ll be like, “Oh, that’s crazy.” So, if I can’t get any more respect from battling, I might as well get more money.
Crazy Hood: What music can we expect?
Murda Mook: Well, we’ve got the soundtrack to Too Honorable for 2015. I just dropped an EP. I’m gonna drop another EP in January. I’m just gonna go from there. I’m just trying to stay consistent with the music. I could be the same way with the music as I am with battling. I just have to stay consistent. I’m just trying to take over a different lane. I feel like I’m gonna do it in a hop, skip and a jump. You’ll hear it.
Andres Tardio is a writer, photographer and educator. He can be found on Twitter as @andreswrites.