Murs on the stage at Saturday's Paid Dues (Photo: BallerStatus.com / Dave Goodson)
Murs on the stage at Saturday's Paid Dues (Photo: BallerStatus.com / Dave Goodson)

“I almost lost my ass on the first Paid Dues,” said a concerned Murs, looking back on 2006’s first Paid Dues music festival.

To fans who attended the event at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, it might not have seemed that way, but little did they know, the days leading up to the event, Murs and Guerilla Union (the event’s promoters) were scrambling, behind the scenes, trying to figure out how the event would actually happen after a few setbacks.

One snag came two days before when they were denied permits to hold the event at their usual location at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, California (the location of 2007’s festival), forcing Murs to switch venues last minute to the Shrine. The second obstacle came when rain hit Los Angeles during the day of the event, but fortunately the rain clouds missed the Shrine.

Must have been the rapper’s lucky day because the event was a success, selling out and packing the Shrine Auditorium to its capacity.

“I hit a point where I emptied out my savings. I had 15 grand in cash in my backpack, that’s all the money I had in the world,” Murs admitted to BallerStatus.com. “They changed our venue last year. I had to give that up, and if nobody showed up, I was f***ed. Because I was gonna pay all my friends, I was gonna pay for the flights, the venue, the insurance … I had to pay for everything. I would of been f***ed, but sometimes you gotta put your balls out. It looked really bad, but I was gonna go down swinging. I ain’t no punk.”

Luckily, this wasn’t the case at Saturday’s (March 24) Paid Dues festival. This year, it was very different situation and went down without incident.

The event attracted a slightly larger crowd of mixed fans (backpackers, college kids and gangsters) this time around, selling out the venue with more than 5,500 attendees.

Opening acts such as Pigeon John, Hangar 18 and the Los Nativos kept an early crowd entertained as other concertgoers settled into the dark indoor arena with only standing room.

Outside, fans browsed booths with merch from several of the acts on the line-up, while others congregated in front one of the many booths and freestyle battled with each other with spectators looking on.

But later inside, Evidence took the stage, bringing along Alchemist, who traded back and forth banter, while performing tracks from Evidence’s long catalog, as well as new music from his solo debut, The Weatherman.

Following Ev, was Devin The Dude, fresh in from Houston, Texas, then your local superhero Jean Grae (the only female on the bill), before fans enjoyed memorable performances by Visionaries, Cage, Mr. Lif, Brother Ali and Sage Francis, before festival header, Felt hit the stage.

Felt — consisting of Murs and Slug of Atmosphere — came before the crowd, with Murs making the announcement that he has signed to Warner Bros. Records, where he will release his next album, titled Murs For President, expected for release later this year.

Murs is definitely living up to the name of his show and paying dues. While the event wasn’t a huge growth from last year’s event, it’s growing steadily, and for Murs, that’s all he wants.

“It grew a little bit, but it can’t grow until our genre grows. I’m not just focused on growing Paid Dues, I’m focused on growing independent hip-hop throughout, so that we can make this thing be bigger,” Murs explained of the future.

For fans that missed or couldn’t make it to Cali’s Paid Dues, Murs and Guerilla Union are prepping for a summer tour, hitting various cities across the nation.

For future dates and more information, stay tuned at PaidDuesFestival.com.