Thurz Explains Meaning Behind "Blood On The Canvas," Says It May Feature Elzhi
Exclusive: The Inglewood emcee also reflects on "LA Riot" and describes why he prefers being a solo artist.
Thurz is loving life as a solo artist. Formerly one-half of U-N-I, the Inglewood, Los Angeles emcee formerly known as Thurzday dropped his first critical darling, L.A. Riot in 2011 - using the spirit of the 1991 Rodney King beating as inspiration to comment on the ills of his generation. It was a dope depiction, and this time he did it for dolo. With 2013 on the horizon, Thurz is now finalizing his second solo full-length, Blood On The Canvas. In this interview with HipHopDX in Atlanta’s Criminal Records during A3C 2012, Thurz reflects on L.A. Riot and it’s critical reception. He also shares the meaning behind Blood On The Canvas, how it might include Elzhi, Los Angeles Hip Hop, and why he prefers life as a solo artist.
DX: How’s it going?
Thurz: Good, man. Just got out here yesterday. Zoomed by Stankonia [Studios] earlier. Just posted up for right now.
DX: Now, this is your second time at A3C.
Thurz: Second time as a solo artist.
DX: What’s it like touching these stages and being around a massive festival?
Thurz: It’s great, man. The crowd is real receptive to good music. It’s always dope to come out to Atlanta, rock, and be well received by a dope crowd. It’s always dope to be out here.
Thurz Discusses The Impact Of L.A. Riot
DX: This year you’re coming off the critically acclaimed status of L.A. Riot. Are you performing joints off of that project?
Thurz: Definitely. I’ve got a few joints that I’ve done that I pretty much always perform off of there. I’m gonna break out some new records, some records off of Ro Blvd’s album off the new mixtape, 517 W Queen Tape. And then maybe a record or two off of Blood On The Canvas.
DX: Were you surprised at all by the reception of L.A.Riot? Cats really feel that project.
Thurz: I’m glad. I’m glad. We put a lot of time into it. A lot of work, research, time went into making that project, so I’m definitely proud of the outcome. I didn’t know what to really expect. I just knew that people understand the artistry of Thurz, and that’s kind of like my first step outside of a being in a group - to really have a vision for a record and execute it. I didn’t really care what the reception was. It was just how I felt and what my mind state was at the time. That’s what I wanted to create. It was just like an expression.
DX: Did it feel like a loose concept record? Listening to it, it feels like a loose concept record.
Thurz: It is loose. It’s not historically based. It’s really just drawing a line from a historical event to our mindset at that time and kind of going against the grain and having this idea of riding for artistry or riding against what’s the norm for being cool.
DX: You were seven [years old] when the Rodney King riots [happened]. I have this picture of you [in my head] driving through [Los Angeles] and all hell is breaking loose.
Thurz: Yeah. We were in a red Honda XL, my mom's first car. We were driving west on Slauson [Avenue] past Normandie Avenue. I just remember seeing a lot of police in riot gear and a lot of leaders from the Black community on the other side of the street. That’s the first image that I have. There were cameras trying to capture footage of the turmoil outside on the streets. That was my first memory of the riots breaking out.
DX: Were schools cancelled? Did you miss class?
Thurz: Some schools were cancelled. I think I probably missed a day. It was crazy, man. There was a lot of ash falling down. Cars. It was a crazy time in L.A.
DX: What were the other second graders saying? What was class like when you went back? Was there a way to break it down to a second grader, the impact of what happened?
Thurz: I don’t think there’s a real strong way to break it down to a second grader. I didn’t really grasp all that was happening in the city. I wasn’t able to grasp it at [age] seven. All the elements that caused this event, I couldn’t break it down. You kind of have to live and experience things and kind of relate and have an idea of what’s all actually happening. So going back and doing research, then I’m like wowed by it. I wasn’t wowed as a second grader. I was just living, going to school; making sure I’m doing my spelling homework and all that. I went back and did some research and that was when I really saw the social impact that this event had for the city.
DX: Fast forward 20 years. You’re in the middle of creating L.A.Riot. When you were creating this project, did you have a hope or vision for this record to have some sort of social impact?
Thurz: Definitely. Definitely. Some of the spirit behind the songs, I was able to pull from social events that were happening. I kind of used that spirit and was able to connect different energies and kind of use it in my music and build different song concepts.
DX: What’s the most surprising response that you’ve heard from a fan or someone who you respect after they’ve heard L.A.Riot?
Thurz: The most impressive things someone told me was this [graffiti] writer who said [I] really captured the energy in the music of what 1992 was at the time. That meant a lot to me for someone who kind of participated in the riots. I’m not gonna say all of what he did but...
DX: He didn’t Reginald Denny nobody, did he?
Thurz: [Laughs] Nah. Nah. Nah. But for him to say that the emotion was there, that I did a good job of capturing it and still making it Thurz - personalizing it - that meant a lot for him to say that.
Thurz Discusses The New West
DX: When I think of Thurz, I think of Y.O., I think of U-N-I, I think of 2007-2008 New West Coast L.A. I think that’s probably two years off of Snoop Dogg’s Protect The West Conference and there’s a whole bunch of new blood. Blu & Exile came out. Fashawn was buzzed about. U-N-I is one of those primary groups. That was about five years ago now. How would you describe the West Coast scene in 2012?
Thurz: In 2012, the West Coast scene is dominating a lot of the underground; a lot of the blogs. There’s a big focus on L.A. Hip Hop music and it really all started with the U-N-I's, the Pac Div's, the J*Davey's, the Miguel's - everybody that was doing something in the scene at that time, is still doing stuff today. Aloe Blacc. There’s a lot of artists that contributed to it. That’s what really sparked the present L.A. scene. Now you have the [Top Dawg Entertainment's], your Casey Veggies, artists like that. We brought all these artists on stage. We brought Kendrick [Lamar] on stage. So it’s just a continuous thing. I’m glad I played a part of what L.A.music is today and that I’m still able to contribute solo-wise.
DX: Is it surprising how large; how noted the L.A.scene is now?
Thurz: It’s surprising, but it’s kind of expected because everyone goes so hard that it has to reap some type of acclaim; some type of notice. It is kind of surprising. It is.
DX: What transition did you have to make going from a duo to a solo artist?
Thurz: Not too much. The main thing that was different was the live show. Creation-wise, I was in the studio everyday - either with [Ro Blvd] or whoever - just creating different concepts and writing lyrics and all these ideas down. Only main thing about being solo is not having to compromise or cut off what your vision is. That is the main difference in being a solo artist. Now when I’ve got a vision to execute, it’s going to come out that way.
DX: Do you miss any aspect of U-N-I?
Thurz: People still hit me up like, “Yo, this means a lot to me, this song on A Love Supreme. I relate to this because I was going through this at that time. I was in school listening to this record.” So that means a lot. But I don’t miss it because I feel like I’m creating better music. I feel like I have no limits on my creativity right now. I just know that people are gonna love what I bring to them on Blood On The Canvas and the future projects. There’s nothing to miss. It’s just growth.
DX: That’s a surprising answer. The only way I can equate it is, the worst experiences that I had in college in comparison to the best experiences I had in college. I don’t know if I miss college, but there are things that I’m nostalgic for. You said the opposite. That’s surprising. That’s cool.
Thurz: Dope! [Laughs] Yeah. I’m just happy to be in the state of creation I’m in. I feel like as a solo artist I’ve found a bigger voice. Even with collaborating with new artists, I feel like I’m creating better music every time. I can’t go back. I never want to take a step backwards. I want to get better and constantly progress and constantly top myself. I can’t do that going backwards.
DX: What does Blood On The Canvas mean?
Thurz: My life. Basically I’m creating a project to kind of score the lifestyle I’ve lived in L.A. - that my kids have lived - to kind of tell different stories that everybody can relate to. It’s kind of like an album made specifically for my homies that I think everyone can relate to. It’s nothing too deep. It’s just a lot of great songs, great song writing - still rapping my ass off. It’s just a lot of good music scoring the lifestyle.
DX: You’ve worked with Johnny Polygon previously. How did that collaboration come about?
Thurz: Johnny Polygon is the homie, man. He’s really one of my favorite artists. Him and Dreamer - I tell people - him and Dreamer are two of my favorite artists that I’m always wowed by. And they don’t give a fuck. They just do music and not hold back and it just feels good. I’ve always been a fan of both of them. Me and Johnny have just been building for the past two years. We met through sourMILK and we’ve always stayed in contact. I caught a few shows with him rocking. Man, he tears shit down. He’s dope! Singing and rapping, live performance, incredible. We always planned a collaboration. We weren’t even supposed to do that song, “Are You Not.” We were supposed to do another song. He was like, “Yo, what else you got?” So we went through some more beats and DJ Dahi and J. LBS blessed me with that record. We made a dope record and nobody really expected it.
DX: Are you guys working again on Blood On The Canvas?
Thurz: Yeah. We’ve got this one record that we’re supposed to finish up when I get back. It’s pretty dope. It’s called “Hour Glasses.” It’s gonna be fresh, man.
DX: It sounds like a conceptual record.
Thurz: It’s a little concept behind it. Nothing too crazy, but I love it. It feels good.
DX: Who else are you working with? Any collaboration that your fans might not expect?
DX: He seems to be hard to pin down these days. I hear a lot of artists say, “I might have Elzhi.”
Thurz: [Laughs] Yeah, we might have Elzhi. He hit me up about working and I followed up and we’ve going back and forth. But we’ve got a dope record. It’s gonna hit people over the head. Other than that, man, it’s just a lot of work with the homies - people who I’m actually friends with, who I support, who I believe in their music. I never really work of trying to build my buzz up. It’s really just a respect thing.
DX: Where were you when Tupac died?
Thurz: I was driving on Manchester Blvd with my mom. We were passing [Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles] on Manchester and Main and I was listening to the radio. I think it was 92.3FM, if I’m not mistaken. That’s where I was.
DX: Did it hit you in way you didn’t expect?
Thurz: I didn’t expect him to die. I heard about it. I was like, “Damn.” He’s one of the greatest artists.
DX: When I think of songs like “Killers” for example. 'Pac had a way of taking things that seemed bigger than they are and made them really tangible. “Killers” is one of those songs. It breaks down everything in a way like, yo, you can die in a record store. If someone throws a CD at you the wrong way...Kill Bill 4! What’s one thing that surprises you about Hip Hop?
Thurz: [Laughs] The main thing that surprises me is that I can make something in L.A., put it out on the internet, then the next day somebody in Poland is posting about it. Hip Hop and the internet has made the world so much smaller. There’s so much influence that you can take note of that can happen over night. You can put out a record today and the next day, somebody’s gonna be singing your lyrics in a different country. That’s the main thing that wows me about Hip Hop today.
Another thing that kind of wows me on, not so much positive, but hype over quality. There’s a bigger influence put on the hype of an artist over the quality output that that artist actually putting out. You’ll see an artist that really pops off of different variables and that variable is not usually the music. That’s just the main thing that’s wowing me. Obviously, this being a business, there are a lot factors that are going to make an artist really pop. You’re really seeing a trend of that it not being music. That’s the main thing that surprises me. I’m not mad at it. I’m just learning how to cope with it and adjust.