Murray Makes Up For Lost Time With Solo CD, Def Squad

Keith Murray's ready to make up for lost time.

Keith Murray's ready to make up for lost time.

The veteran New York rapper and Def Squad member -- who releases his fifth solo album, "Rapp-Murr-Phobia (Fear of Real Hip Hop), on July 31 -- has been off the boards since his 2003 release "He Is Keith Murray," after which he was accused of assaulting a Def Jam street team member and was fired from the label.

After that, Murray tells, "I was damaged goods. Everybody was afraid to touch me -- 'Ooh, he's got anger issues!' Sometimes it was frustrating, figuring it out, having the patience to get up to the point where I am now. It took a lot of patience ... trying to get back into the game."

With the help of Def Squad cohort Erick Sermon, who executive produced "Rapp-Murr-Phobia," Murray signed a new deal with Koch. The new album has been preceded by the first single "Nobody Do It Better," which features Tyrese and Junior. Redman, another Def Squader, and Method Man also appear on the album, and Murray proudly notes that he only used two samples on the tracks.

"Everything was hard," acknowledges Murray, who's also the subject of a civil lawsuit in Brooklyn claiming he stabbed a fan during a Christmas Eve concert in 2004. "Everything was raw dog; 'Yo, you want this shot? All right. Sit here and figure it out. Be a man and figure out your business.' The way I see it, even negative situations help me. I took all that and put it in the record to shut 'em all up. That's why people like me. They feel it. It's real."

Murray says he has "realistic goals" for the new album's sales but plans to tour in support of the album. He's also focused on a Def Squad reunion album called "Tsunami" that the group hopes to put out in the second quarter of 2008.

"Erick is already pulling beats, and we're listening to 'em and talking about it," Murray says. "Def Squad has always been a group of individuals who have transcended borders and boundaries and language barriers. We ain't just New York and New Jersey rappers; we're in every state and every country. They receive us and love us."