In March, California rapper Murs (real name Nicholas Carter) headlined the final night of the Des Moines Embassy at South by Southwest in Austin. On Tuesday he's playing the real thing, opening for Tech N9ne's Special Effects tour at the Val Air Ballroom.
"It was amazing, man," Murs said during a phone interview. "It was a really, really great time. Everybody from Des Moines was super nice and welcoming. It was like a big love fest. I'll never forget it."
Murs grew up in the Lynwood area of Los Angeles, adjacent to Compton. His first desire to become a rapper came after hearing NWA's Eazy-E from neighboring Compton on the radio. It was the first time Murs had heard someone talking about the things he saw in his neighborhood every day.
While Murs and Easy-E were from the same area and shared a similar background, Murs ultimately took more inspiration from hip hop acts like Public Enemy than NWA. The rapper said honesty has always been his driving goal.
"When I was a kid and I would mess up, my mom would tell my brother and me that if we told her up front, we would be in less trouble," Murs said. "I wanted to continue that tradition."
At 18, Murs was touring in Europe when he had his eyes opened to how some of the more violent aspects of rap were being perceived worldwide.
"I had a kid come up to me in Germany and ask 'Can I see your gun?' I asked him what he was talking about and he said 'I know you have one, you're from LA.' This kid thought I had actually flown to Germany with my firearm for a show. That really opened my eyes to the fact that what we say really has an impact on the world. I felt I had to tell the truth and represent for the majority of my community that doesn't live that way."
Murs said he's inspired by the popularity of rappers like Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore as proof that there is an audience for his kind of hip hop. Murs' latest album, "Have a Nice Life," is out May 19 on Tech N9ne's Strange Music label. One of the album's first singles, "No More Control," plays heavily on the "Black Lives Matter" theme, but the lyrics focus on the shades of gray, not pure black and white.
"They had a rally for police brutality up at the park, but when we killing ourselves don't nobody want to march. We got to start to take a look in the mirror. If we don't respect ourselves, than they always gone fear us. If black lives matter, then black lives matter and the color of the killer shouldn't even be a factor." — "No More Control."
"Growing up I felt more threatened by black males, but I also didn't feel the white males in charge were doing their jobs," Murs said. "We grew up in fear. As I travel I see people in other countries don't have these problems; police don't have guns and neither do the criminals. But we're a country founded on violent revolution. That's our culture. But all lives matter and as much as we put on a pretty face, we haven't been living up to the standards we flaunt across the world."
When: Tuesday, doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.
Where: Val Air Ballroom, 301 Ashworth Road, West Des Moines
Cost: $32 in advance, $37 at the door