Born Torhi Harper, Murphy Lee came up a young, scrappy teenager in the fractured streets of St. Louis, Missouri, whose guardianship came by way of his grandfather, Big Murphy Lee, and his rapper brother KyJuan.
Under the tutelage of former manager and local wordsmith Ali of early 2000s hip-hop group St. Lunatics – alongside childhood friends City Spud and Nelly – Murphy Lee went from a kid who followed his brother all around the underground rap scene of his hometown, to a bonafide MC with all the nuts and bolts of a celebrity recording artist.
“Ali is another father figure that came into our life,” Murphy says in the premiere episode of BET’s Finding, season two. “Ali was the first person I saw that could rap on a professional level—how we dressed, how we carried ourselves, the whole look of a rapper, period. He started off as the manager, and then eventually he ended up being in the group.”
In a first-time, in-depth look at the inner workings of the rise of St. Lunatics in an era where the East and West coasts stood as the authoritative voices for hip-hop culture (even the South had primed itself as the future of rap music), Murphy recounts the highs and lows of a music career dictated by industry gatekeepers that were largely foreign to the Midwest swing.
Up close and personal, BET helps peel back the layers and unpack some of Murphy Lee’s tender nostalgia, biggest triumphs, legal setbacks, Nelly’s defining influence, and a brotherhood marred with industry rumors and speculations.
“The biggest influence to me was my group, St. Lunatics. I grabbed something from Ali, I grabbed something from KyJuan, I grabbed something from Nelly, I grabbed something from City Spud, and [in turn] created a Murphy Lee.”
Watch the full episode below.