It’s only been a few seconds since Morray stepped foot in Complex’s Manhattan office and he’s already cracking jokes. Unfortunately, the office isn’t in full swing yet because of the pandemic, but he’s happy to be here, checking out photos of Zendaya and other former cover stars on the walls and greeting passersby. His upbeat, joyful energy is particularly striking considering how new he is to the industry. We’re used to up-and-coming artists being quiet during their first press runs, only speaking in muffled tones, but Morray says that just isn’t him.
“Everybody believes that they have to put on a character to become famous,” he tells me. “Man, at the end of the day, just being you may get you as far as anyone you’ve been trying to create. I just be me all the time. When you catch me doing my, ‘Hey, hey, hey! That’s really fucking me. I don’t want to be sad one day and all of a sudden I’m jumping around on couches the next. No, I’m always jumping around on couches.” If you’ve been following Morray on Instagram, you know this to be true. And if he isn’t jumping on couches, you can definitely expect him to be doing a two-step of some sort in his music videos.
Morray danced his way into the industry in the 2020 music video for his breakout record “Quicksand.” The track, which currently has more than 60 million views on YouTube, charted at No. 73 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned early co-signs from J. Cole and DaBaby. Earlier this month, it was announced Morray signed to Pick Six Records in partnership with Interscope. Looking back on his journey thus far, Morray laughs as he recalls how “Quicksand” came together through a challenge with his wife. “My wife gave me a challenge, basically telling me the music I was writing before was OK, but it could be better,” he says. “I could write more stuff that tells people who I am. And I kind of took that like her telling me my shit was wack. So I was like, let me go ahead and go back to the drawing board and show her that I’m like this.”
Now, Morray is gearing up for the release of his debut mixtape, Street Sermons, which officially arrives on April 28. The 13-track tape includes pre-released tracks like “Quicksand” and “Big Decisions,” but it will also feature new records that really drive his message home. He mentions the soulful single “Trenches” as one of his favorites, and explains that throughout this project, he’s challenging himself to reveal more of the man behind the mic.
The 28-year-old rapper is genuinely excited about making music and continuing to make connections within the industry, but he says his main goals are to be a good role model to his kids and to stay true to himself. “[I want] to go down in music history as one of the most genuine, solid niggas out there,” he claims. “Not even to be the best rapper. I don’t give a fuck about that.”
As our time together wears on, he becomes even more animated. One of the first things you notice if you spend any amount of time around Morray is his natural charisma and sense of humor. Spotting a throne in the corner of the office, he takes a seat and begins speaking with a British accent, acting for his cameraman who is shooting his every move. If his rap career wasn’t going so well, Morray might have found himself some work in Hollywood.
Before the release of Street Sermons, Morray sat down with Complex for a conversation about his background in the church, his upcoming mixtape, and his mission to spread positivity. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.
Congrats on your deal with Interscope. How are you feeling?
Actually, no cap, it was a great merge. [Pick Six Records’ Moe Shalizi], that’s my guru. I go to him whenever shit don’t make sense and he always makes everything make sense. Interscope just makes so much fucking sense. The artists they have, how they push their artists, it just makes so much sense.
How are you adjusting?
It’s not really an adjustment. I think Moe always told me what it was at the beginning. I still would be getting up for interviews. It’s the same thing. Now it’s more frequent. It’s exciting, though. This is crazy. How can you not be happy doing this shit?
What is something you’ve learned about the industry so far?
To really not let all the noise in. I learned that early on when I first came in, because I don’t want to be nobody but myself. So as long as I’m focused on my music, my craft, and my goals, it won’t fuck me over or change me. I have the same goals that I came here with. It just really taught me to focus.
Do you pay attention to social media or YouTube comments?
Yeah, I definitely try to keep up with it. People that leave comments on Instagram or YouTube, I try to write back.
That’s interesting. You don’t feel like that influences your music or anything?
Not at all. If I see a comment that says “Hey Morray, you’re doing good,” I’m going to respond. “Hey Morray I’m proud of you,” I’m going to respond. “You inspire me. I’m proud of you.” If someone says, “Morray, do this, do that,” then I just don’t respond.
“My biggest goal is to go down in music history as one of the most genuine, solid n****s out there. Not even to be the best rapper. I don’t give a fuck about that. I just want to be the best me and have people love me for me.”
How did you first get into rap?
Rap music came to me at like, 15 or 16. I was in Pennsylvania. I met with a group called SGS and they would rap. Then Drake had just dropped So Far Gone. So me getting used to all these records and then hearing how he rapped and sang, kind of made me say, “Yo, I don’t got to just be R&B, hip-hop vibes, gospel, or just sing. I can rap, too.” So, I can harmonize a little bit easier to rap, because I didn’t have to try that hard with crazy bars back in the day. It was just me trying to pick out a flow. Now, I’m more focused on what I’m saying.
When did you develop an ear for harmonies?
Church. Harmony, pitches, and keys are very important when you’re singing in the house of the Lord. If you’re off key, believe me, Sister Johnson is definitely going to tell you, “Baby, it ain’t your song.” So that really helped me understand: This is too high for me, this is too low for me, this is too much for me. I can’t do this. I know what I can do. I’m staying in my pocket until someone teaches me different.
Did you ever consider making strictly R&B music?
Yeah, of course. Before I listened to rap, I was just R&B. I didn’t know I could rap until I got a little older. I started to listen to more rap to understand how they put their words together, and I realized I could probably get my messages off a little better with doing both. If I just rap, they just focus on bars. If I just sing, they just focus on the notes. If I blend them, I can focus on both, so now it sounds that much better. Now, it’s double pressure, but I feel like I can do it because it’s the gift that God gave me.
You’ve mentioned that you once thought being a pastor was a possible career path for you.
Yeah. When you’re in church, people prophesize on your life, and it was prophesied to me around 4 or 5 that I would become a pastor or preacher or some kind of leader in the church. So I definitely tried to give it my all and do that at one point in time. It didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, at the end of the day. I’m still human. I figured I could still do it, but in my own way. I could still preach positivity and balance and love and peace, but still do my music and still be myself. And I believe God is pleased, because he’s not showing me anything else.
How has growing up in North Carolina influenced your music?
Honestly, North Carolina is a place where you have to get used to being alone or being separated, because it’s so far from everyone. But it’s also a place where, if you get used to your team, that’s who you’re with for the rest of your life. It really helped me build and work on my bonding and how to be nice people. The South, period, is a place where you can go and you will feel welcomed or you will feel rejected. So it taught me how to handle both scenarios.
Are there any artists that you get compared to right now?
Yeah, I get compared to a lot of artists. Of course, Rod Wave is everybody’s first person. Then, CeeLo Green. I’ve got a couple of T-Pain comparisons. That’s pretty much it. If they’re chubby, I get compared to them.
Do you agree with those comparisons?
At the end of the day, comparisons are with people who are already at their top level. So thank you for all of them. If you’re comparing me to someone who got a million views, a million this, a million that, I’m taking that. Appreciate it.
“Nobody gets 100,000 views in my city. I never thought nobody other than J. Cole would come out of Fayetteville, let alone it be f*****g me.”
“Quicksand” has more than 54 million views on YouTube. What’s the story behind that record?
Honestly, the record came together because my wife gave me a challenge, basically telling me the music I was writing before was OK, but it could be better. I could write more in-depth stuff and write more stuff that tells people who I am. And I kind of took that like her telling me my shit was wack. So I was like, let me go ahead and go back to the drawing board and show her that I’m like this. That’s what it started off as, like a puzzle challenge for my wife. So, I wrote “Big Decisions” first and then I wrote “Quicksand.” I let her hear “Quicksand” and she was like, “Yo, go try to record it and see what happens.” We both didn’t know what it was until we got it recorded. After that it was like, “Yo, we might have some shit here!” No cap.
Did you expect this type of response?
No, honestly all I expected was for my wife to be like, “This shit fire.” That’s all I expected. But the fact that it got 54 million views, it still feels like the first time I seen 100,000 views. Every time I see this I’m like, “Shit. The number changed.” Every time I do an interview I’m like, “Shit.” I can’t keep up with my own numbers. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing to just look at all the love and support I’m getting from people that I don’t even know who just write me and tell me, “Yo, I love you.” That shit fire.
When did you first notice the record taking off?
I think it was October or November when it hit 100,000 views. The first time it hit that, I was with my team and I cried. No bullshit. I don’t care if you say I’m sensitive. Nobody gets 100,000 views in my city. I never thought nobody other than J. Cole would come out of Fayetteville, let alone it be fucking me. I got three kids and a wife. I thought my life was already over. I’m 28. Now my family don’t have to worry about nothing. I got a team that’s straight, and I can really make moves and make opportunities for other people. I broke the fuck down because of what I might be able to do for other people. It was overwhelming and I just love that feeling.
You’re coming out with a new project. Is it an album or a mixtape?
Can you talk about the tape?
I really want it to show more of my story and for people to get to know me more. I want it to be like, “I listened to this and I understand why he does this.” This is supposed to be my reference to who I really am. So if I ever got out of pocket, all my fans can be like, “Nigga, stop playing games. This ain’t you. Be your motherfucking self.” That’s what that is for me. And I want it to be a stepping stone for everybody that’s been through my journey and are like, “Yo, we started with this nigga in the trenches. We’re street savvy but now we’re here.” I just want you to understand this is going to be who I am, regardless of the music. I’m giving you my truth, my sounds, my heart, and I’m going to go hard on this shit. For real.
What was your recording and writing process like?
I don’t really have a process. If I’m at the house and somebody sends me a beat, I write in the house and don’t record a song for two weeks. Or I go to the studio and sit down for 20 minutes and do a whole song. It just depends on what I’m doing, because I go according to the beats. Beats give me feelings. If I hear your beat and it sounds sad, I want to look in my mind and have a feeling of what I’ve done to feel this way and then I write a song about it. I want people who feel this way to be able to not feel that way no more. I base it strictly off of emotions. Whatever song you hear me on, I really thought about that beat. The beat touched my soul and I want it to touch yours as well.
You’re known for your vulnerable storytelling. Do you find it hard to access those emotions even if you like a particular beat?
I always wanted to express myself that way and not be afraid to tell people, “Yeah, I’m sad sometimes. Yeah, I’ve gone through this.” The only way you can heal is by really speaking your truth and getting it out. Whether you tell other people or you tell yourself in the mirror, if you can get it out, you feel better. I feel great now because I wrote songs like “Dreamland.” I wrote songs like “Quicksand” when I was really a bum and people don’t want to talk about those times. I want to talk about those times because I’m not him no more. I want to tell myself, “Yo, you really came from that person with ripped jeans and people made fun of you. You got into fights because you was a bum.” And look at me now that I’ve got Union 4s on my feet. I would never have thought I would have these shoes in my lifetime. And now I can get them when I want to. That’s what this means. It reminds me, “Nigga, you don’t have to do this shit at all anymore. You’ve suffered enough. It’s time for your blessings.”
Is there a track on the mixtape that you feel drives home this message?
I would say “Trenches” because that’s my vibe. We all go through crazy shit. No matter if you’re Black or live in the hood or not, we all go through shit. We all got to find a way to deal with this shit. We all got to find a way to get out of it. Every day can be a good day. I just want everybody to understand that we’re in the trenches together, whether you’ve got a million dollars or $0. We all go through money problems. Let’s all figure out how to get through that shit together. And that’s what my tape and my life is about. Get over the bad shit, get through the bad shit. Smile even when you shouldn’t, because who the fuck can take your joy besides yourself? That’s all it is. I just want people to understand being happy is not a choice. Just be fucking happy. Being angry is a choice. You can choose to waste a lot of fucking energy and be upset. Don’t choose nobody to take your fucking smile.
Is there anything else that you would like fans to take away from this mixtape?
That I really take into consideration that y’all want real music, that y’all really want to hear a real story. I’ll keep giving my story until there’s no story left. I’m an open book. At the end of the day, my life is my life. I live this, so whatever comes at me, comes at me. I’m willing to deal with that. I don’t think a lot of people are ready to face their demons. But in order to take care of my family, I’m willing to face them bitches on live TV.
Do you think that type of vulnerability and willingness to open up is missing from music right now?
Nah, I feel like everybody creates their art their own way. My songs are for certain people. Some people don’t go through what I go through, or they don’t want to acknowledge it. Some people just want to have a good time, and want to hear that type of music. So I can’t say what belongs and what doesn’t belong. We all have music that touches different people’s souls. I just think we need to have more music and less of the bullshit. All the politics, stop. Let’s just do the music. Let’s go back and do a feature for no reason. Let’s go back to just niggas sitting in the studio freestyling. Let’s just do the regular shit that niggas used to do so we can bring the fun back to hip-hop. It doesn’t look fun. I’m trying to make it fun because it is fucking fun.
Will this tape include any features?
No, ma’am. This tape, I really want people to understand who I am first. I want you to listen to this tape and know me before you say, “Oh, he did a song with this guy or he got a song with this guy.” I really want it to be where they’re like, “He gave us him. And now I’m ready to see what he can give on other people’s songs and vice versa.”
Who would be on your dream collaborations list?
Every last one of them. If you want to feature, please hit me up. I’ve never been a boujie nigga in my life. Don’t even matter. Hit my line. You can get to me.
Are there any artists who have reached out or showed love that surprised you?
Yeah, no cap, J. Cole, DaBaby, The Game, Moneybagg Yo, G Herbo, Marshmello, Juelz Santana. [Juelz] was crazy. I listened to this dude my whole life. He was like, “Congrats, good job. I’m fucking with you.” Hearing people like that talk to me… And J. Cole wrote “amazing” when nobody even heard me. That shit was a lot. DaBaby played my song during his Live. He was just chilling, playing my song. He ain’t have to do that shit. The Game shared my shit. So, thank y’all niggas, because y’all helped me get to where I’m at. I appreciate the love.
What was that interaction between you and J. Cole?
I talked to him. We would FaceTime and talk. He’s a dope ass dude and a solid character. When you talk to him, he really gives you good advice and puts a perspective on me being young and from the street and being a rapper and talking to a professional. He could put it in the greatest perspective. It takes one of us to tell one of us, like, “Yo, You should probably relax.”
You also mentioned Marshmello, who recently told us that you two were working on music together. Can you speak more on what you two have planned?
All I can say is Mello made it right.
How did you connect?
Moe Shalizi manages Marshmello. So you know the vibe. Once you are part of the family, you are part of the family.
Is there a chance we’ll be hearing whatever y’all created soon?
Right now, I’m generally just focused on the mixtape and pushing that. It’s coming out on the 28th, so I just really want to focus on that and producing these videos so everything could make sense.
You’re focused on the mixtape right now, but have you started thinking about your debut album yet?
Yeah, I was talking to one of my managers, trying to figure out what we want to do to make it come out the way it needs to. I really want to do something for my city, too. Because as somebody from there coming out with a mixtape, I want it to be big in my city. I want to throw some kind of cookout, parade, or some shit just to tell y’all thank you for supporting me. I’m going to figure it out, though. I want to do some shit where they look back 20 years from now and go, “Morray really showed us love.”
What are some of your biggest goals moving forward?
My biggest goal is to go down in music history as one of the most genuine, solid niggas out there. Not even to be the best rapper. I don’t give a fuck about that. I just want to be the best me and have people love me for me. I want people to be like, “He came in himself and he left himself and he’s still himself.” That’s very important to me because I see how shit could change in four years when they really got big money. I don’t want a million-dollar chain. I don’t want none of that shit. I really want to enjoy my life and be a good father, a good husband, a good artist, and a good person. That’s it.
What keeps your spirits high?
I got three kids watching me. At the end of the day, I don’t want my sons to be who I used to be. That would be my biggest regret, to see my sons grow up and have that hate in their heart or have the disrespect in their heart that I had. That would break me the fuck down. I want to show them what a good man looks like, so when they get old enough to be one, they understand it’s not easy but their dad did it. They won’t know what I did back in the day. I want them to understand I’ve been a good guy their whole life.
“I don’t want a million-dollar chain. I don’t want none of that shit. I really want to enjoy my life and be a good father, a good husband, a good artist, and a good person. That’s it.”
What makes you stand out amongst your peers?
First of all, I want to say, shoutout to all the new artists, because I know how hard it is to even get talked about and come up. But the only way that makes me different is I’m willing to be me. I’m not trying to change who I am. Everybody believes that they have to put on a character to become famous. At the end of the day, just being you may get you as far as anyone you’ve been trying to create.
What’s something that most people don’t know or that might surprise them about you?
I love accents. Cultures excite me—like really, really excite me. I want to travel the world so bad just to hear people talk. Not even to see no fucking cathedrals… I always watched TV and heard different accents and I just want to know, what do you do over there? What is over there? Why are you talking like that? There’s so much wonder in my eyes and I’m 28. I still have that 12-year-old wondering [spirit], and I don’t want to lose that. I like being excited.
Who are your top five rappers of all time?
Drizzy at No. 1, because that’s my favorite artist. Cole because of his lyricism. I ain’t going to lie, Logic [is third]. I fuck with Logic super hard. I like Chris Brown’s flow. I’ll probably have to say Fred The Godson at five. No cap. Fred The God and MO3. No cap, a lyricist and the soulfulness. It’s so perfect with it, too. It sucks that they’re both gone because Fred can go on a track and give you bars and similes and metaphors. And MO3 can give you some pain, some sorrow, some love.
What’s the most important thing your fans should know about you right now?
I really want my fans to understand and know that this mixtape is coming. These videos are coming. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for waiting for me to put this stuff out. I’ve been seeing your messages asking me what the fuck I’m doing, telling me to get the fuck off the couch. No cap, I put a video of me smiling and [one fan] said, “Why you cheesy as hell when you ain’t got no God damn album?” That shit’s crazy. I fucking love that shit.