Under the moniker “Smurph,” Sean Murphy hopes to create a lucrative hip-hop career. A career that started in his USF St. Petersburg dorm during the summer of 2015.
Murphy, 20, didn’t start college with an interest in rap. The mass communications major found his calling after listening to beats made by Martin “Mak” Kelly, his dormmate.
“In high school, I didn’t think I was going to be a rapper, I just liked music,” Murphy said. After finding out that Kelly made music, which he posted to Soundcloud, Murphy decided to try rapping over them.
One song they recorded featured the instrumental to ‘Holy Water’ by The Game. Murphy said the success of that song made him reconsider his priorities.
“It got 15,000 plays total, and as soon as it hit 10,000 I wanted to take music seriously,” Murphy said. “Martin eventually dropped out, so I was here by myself with just a mic.”
Murphy, a Richlands, North Carolina native, moved to St. Petersburg in 2015. He became a peer coach and helped incoming freshman at the university. He said he wanted to focus on promoting his music to younger people across the Tampa Bay area through social media. St Petersburg, he said, is his community.
“… as soon as you have your city behind your back, they’re going to do anything to get you [to the top]. We want to get all 17 and 18-year-olds bumping our music and start doing shows downtown,” Murphy said. “After I have their support, that’s when I can start working on bigger things.”
The “SmurphTape,” released Dec. 10 on Spinrilla is Murphy’s first mixtape. It’s been downloaded 57 times and has 2,149 views. The eight tracks include the single “$hrek,” which has been played 969 times.
“My favorite songs off the tape are ‘$pazz’ and ‘All my.’ In ‘All my’ I’m paying homage to everybody in Tampa Bay and back home that likes my music. ‘$pazz’ is more like a Drill type of song so it’s more upbeat and fun to do. Every song I made I never struggled, as soon as I start struggling to write it I don’t do it because I’m going to go in the booth and mess up so every song I do has a freestyled hook.”
Drill music is a style of trap music that originates from young rappers in Chicago’s Southside in the early 2010s. Artists like Chief Keef and Fredo Santana helped it break into mainstream hip-hop around 2012.
In the future, Smurph wants to work with artists that have influenced the youth such as Lil Yachty or Kodak Black. The two were part of the 2016 XXL freshmen list and grew their fan base tremendously throughout the year. XXL is a hip-hop magazine that releases an annual list of young rising artists.
“I want to work with artists who have cult followings,” Murphy said. “I don’t want to go viral by DMing people a song after I make it, that’s when I started going to Executive Sound Studios and started meeting all the DJs and people I’m working with. After this next mixtape and when I get more of a following, I want to bring it back to St. Pete. I want to do it for youth here.”
Murphy was originally set to open for the popular rap group Migos at Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale. After a disagreement between him and the venue, his performance ended up being canceled.
Murphy is planning to release his next mixtape, “Smurphmode,” on Feb. 4th. One of the features is JBan$2Turnt, a member of Lil Yachty’s group, “Sailing Team.” The tape is also hosted by DJ Jon Wells who is the official DJ of Rae Sremmurd.
Smurph’s first performance will be at the Local 662 on Thursday, contact Sean Murphy for more information.