This week’s guest of the Soulquest lab is New Jersey native rapper and singer MoRuf. With an ability to spread positivity through his music and message, MoRuf always manages to inspire his listeners with his reflective, jazz infused and thoughtful music.
We talked about creating with intention, dealing with fear as an artist, self-acceptance and the art of being a student of life.
Hey man, thank you so much for doing this. We’re very excited to have you. How you been lately ?
Lately I've been pretty good. I can't complain, man. Obviously, you know, last year was a mess as far as covid, but it was a blessing at the same time. 2020 was a big blessing. Number one, my daughter was born. And number two, it kind of forced me to, you know, just stay in the house.
Thank God, right before covid, I bought my mic. I used to always go to the studio. I never recorded myself unless it was memos on my phone. It kind of forced me to just learn engineering, recording myself and just fall in love with that process. I basically recording my next project that will be dropping this year all upstairs in the attic in my Long Island home. I really can't complain.
How did you start writing your own music and when was the first time you actually recorded yourself ?
I started writing probably around middle school. I started out with poetry. I won this contest for 9/11. Then I started taking it more seriously in high school and I recorded my first song senior year. There is a song called « Ruf Getting cake ». Goes like: « Ruf getting cake. Naughty shawties on my face, man. Paper strech longer than Mike’s arm in Spacejam ». That was my first song haha. It was on MySpace. It's not there anymore unfortunately.
Senior year of high school was the first time I recorded myself and freshman year of college is when I started to fall in love with the process of making music. Not just spitting raps but I actually started to fall in love with, you know, the process of making music.
Listening to your music, the listener can really tell that you radiate positivity. Your message seems to be about self-acceptance, transcending fear and staying true to yourself. What would you attribute this to ?
I would just say my lifestyle just growing up. I grew up in a loving home. I'm blessed to say, you know, I had a great childhood. My mom’s, my father (rest in peace to my pop’s), three older sisters. I'm the youngest. We weren't the richest but we never wanted to. The love felt like richness. I was definitely raised off of just spreading love and sharing. With three siblings you have to share. So I just try to spread that energy within my music as much as possible. I think that's the best thing you can do as an artist. It’s dope to spit some dope lines and have cats like ‘oh and ah’ but how can I be a reflection within my music? I want people to be able to listen to my music and be like, I know MoRuf or at least feel like they know me. That's always my ultimate goal.
Have you ever had to deal with fear holding you back when it comes to music?
Oh, of course. Hell yeah. Even till this day, certain moments. But when I feel like that, that's when I know a breakthrough's on the way. When I feel scared that's when I know that ‘Ok that now I really have to put this out.’
‘On the other side of fear is victory’ you know. I'm a firm believer in this.
Anytime I feel like that, I feel as though I should really tap in to share this. If I'm not scared then I don't feel motivated. That's how I used to feel about my shows, like when I was nervous before a show, I knew I was going to kill it. And if I wasn't nervous, I just didn't take it as serious. In certain instances that fear pushes me to go even harder. So I think, when it comes to fear in general as an artist, the goal is to not run away from it. Look fear in the eye and you know, body that shit. Just keep on going.
I wouldn’t say anyone really introduced me to jazz growing up. It was just something that naturally kind of happened. Growing up I listened to a lot of 90s r&b, SWV and shit like that, and then getting deeper to like the Anita Bakers etc.. Actually when I was making my first project Ready to live my cousin and I used to listen to mad old jazz shit. Wether is Donald Byrd or Roy Ayers. We used to just listen to this sh*t and just try to find parts I could rap on then also just being a fan of, you know, being a student of this music and Hip Hop. From, A Tribe to Dilla. Just digging and, you know, realizing that Dilla was a student of the Roy Ayers, a student of the Lateefs and Coltrane. So I was just always the type of person that wanted to know what the people who inspired me were listening to. It was just something that I naturally became attracted to, especially in recent times. You know, jazz is always a genre I go back to. It's like my gospel. It’s something to which I listen to when I want to feel cleansed. And more recently, you know, I've been, you know, creating these little videos, throwing jazz music in the back. It's brought me back to just fall in love with jazz and just form an even deeper love for it. I hope I answered that.
What’s your writing process like ? Do you start with a theme or an idea and try to find the right beat or do you just go with the flow and write around beats ?
It varies. Sometimes I might just be driving and just think of some shit and, you know, take a mental note or write that down to my phone. But it varies. I used to have a rap book but now I don’t.
I also just kind of go with the feelings so I might just hear a beat and just start freestyling and just catch the flow. Then I try to fill it in. Sometimes I'm just like, nah, I want to write to this and just really dial in. So it varies depending on the feeling, depending on the beat. And sometimes I might have a beat for a year or two and be like, ‘I do not know what I want to put on this, but I know I want to be a part of this beats life’ haha. So sometimes I might just think of a song and just write it in a ten, five minutes and sometimes I could take a year or two. It all depends on the process. Sometimes it just flows, sometimes just by choice.
Can you tell us about ‘’Love Over Everything?’’
Love of everything was something that myself and my brother Ike started around 2012. It was a big time in which clicks and crews were very popular and we just wanted to create something for us. Love Over Everything is basically students and child of like the Native Tongues, The Tribes, De La Soul and just being students of this game and just spreading love. So it's was on some black hippy shit. Like, spreading love in a cool way. And that's basically when Love Over Everything really started. Something which I'm pushing more so with Love Over Everything is really giving back to the community. I'm a firm believer that, you know, love is an action where it's just not something to scream to make money off of. But really you got to be love. It’s continuing to evolve over the years. Created a nonprofit. Last year or the year before I actually did a show for the kids in my hometown of Jersey. I performed and we fed like 500 kids, backpacks, school supplies. It was beautiful. It's just beautiful to see.
You can rap and sing effortlessly on slow joints, very raw grimy beats as well as uptempo stuff. For example on your tracks 1takemookie or Canal Street you actually rap on a house type beat. What made you wanna experiment with house music? Are you inspired by old school Chicago Hip-House artists ?
When it comes with music in general, it wasn't like, OK, I want to experiment on house music. It was just like it was just a feeling like, you know. Wether it’s house music, gospel, bluegrass, jazz, hip hop, rock. If I feel it, I'm going to be a part of it. So it wasn't specifically like, ‘I got to get on this house music’. When I heard the Canal Street beat, I just made that up in like fifteen minutes. And I actually sat on that song for like a couple of years until I performed it once on one show. My wife was deejaying for me and I saw mad people in the crowd dance. And when I performed and I was like, ‘Hmm, I got to put this shit out’, you know. I'm just the type of creative that I don't want to be boxed in. I don't want to be like 'Oh, yeah this ni**a Moo just be on some lyrical spiritual sh*t or he only be on this type sh*t’’ Nah. I am the creative and I can hop on anything. That’s my ultimate goal as a creative. I don’t like to feel limited and I don’t believe in boundaries when it comes to this art sh*t. Personally.
But yeah for sure. Especially growing up in Jersey you know House music, club music is something to which I grew up listening to. It’s a part of my DNA. That BPM is just naturally a part of me. And it’s great to make songs people can dance to. Canal street is a joint you could play at the function and shawties are gonna go crazy, the homies might start voguing or whatever, you know. So it's definitely something that’s embedded in me at this point.
Speaking of production, can you tell us a little about the producers you’ve worked with over the years?
I worked with many producers man. From producer like Iman Omari, Jesse Boykins, Melo-X, Ahwlee. There’s a lot of other individuals that are coming to mind. Shoutouts to Knxwledge. I’m grateful to have a handful of individuals that are at my reach, in a sense. They inspire me to create and to tap into different realms of myself. All of them are different from one another.
To be honest the rapper that inspired me the most growing up was Jadakiss of the Lox. One of my favorite rappers. Just his ability to be so smooth but his bars were so heavy. You know, I'm saying like he didn't have to scream. He wasn't like an animated like Busta Rhymes or DMX. He was smooth as fuck. But his Bars were heavy. In one of my favorite joints, he goes like ‘’You don't gotta slap me five or give me a hug. And it hurts when you gotta kill a n*gga you love. But I'm gone deal wit my enemies sooner. Cause I got'em looking for my solo album like Kennedy Jr.’’ Simple bars but it hits heavy. I would say Jadakiss is definitely one of my favorite artists.
Seeing you with your beautiful family and daughter is truly heartwarming man. How is the music, work and family time balance going on?
It actually works. I think me and my wife, we kind of have a system that we set and it kind of naturally works. And also I do have a job as well. We definitely do make time and we're still adapting. And still, you know, my daughter's only six months, so we’re still figuring it out. But for the most part, we are making time. And it's actually been awesome. She's kind of inspired me to be more intentional with creating. Making sure that the art has a long lifespan, so the art can give me setback, wether it’s monetary or whatever. But she's definitely helped me become more focused and much more serious with this art sh*t.
We’re always looking for new and forward thinking artists here. Is there any underrated artists around you (or in general) that we might have not heard of and that you think people should listen to ?
Shoutout to my bro Brainorchestra, shoutout to the Pink Siifus, Noname, Quelle Chris, Dil Withers, Ayun Bassa, Billz Egypt, Jacob Rochester, Ovrkst, Lil Ugly Mane, lastnamedavid, keiyaA . That’s what I’ve been on recently. Shoutout to the homies.
What’s next for you? What have you been working on lately?
So right now I'm in the midst of mixing this album, Moolodic, which will be dropping this year. We're aiming for spring/summer. I'm excited to share a full body. It's been some time since I shared my full body of music. So, yeah, mixing that up right now. It sounds fucking beautiful.
And I'm just really excited to continue to share more art beyond music. I’m excited to grow as a creator. And it's going to be a lot of sharing. It’s definitely going to be more than one drop. Be ready for that. And that's the most I could say. And I'm truly excited to be able to continue to grow and create this art shit and also to be better with time. So definitely be on the lookout for that !
Thank you so much for doing this man. Truly a blessing to have you.
I appreciate this interview my brother. Much love. Soulquest, Moruf, bless up.