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Local artist signed to record label
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Maurice Murray, who performs and records under the name "Alaze," thinks 2008 will be his year to shine.

In addition to opening and performing with well-known hip-hop artists and managing an Atlanta up-and-comer, Murray and his wife Rhonda have launched their business So Unique Music Inc.

"The artist can be a CEO and mogul as well," Murray said.

Raised in Chicago by his grandmother, Murray began to cultivate his musical abilities at an early age.

At the age of 9, a rap he made during a "Say No to Smoking" campaign at his school eventually became a Chicago-area public service announcement.

"Since then, I've said I can do this," Murray said.

In the mid-1990s his music career started to accelerate as he opened for performers such as Too Short, GoodieMob, Total, De La Soul, Jay-Z, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Lox and Eve.

"The music industry was not like it is now, in that you had to worry about what side you were from - East or West Coast," Murray said. "You can just make music now."

He also performed at Spring Break Jam '97 in San Diego.

"The biggest thing that threw me for a loop was in '98 when I did the half-time show at the Pro-Bowl in Hawaii," Murray said.

Because of his muscular stature, fans thought he was a football player and despite telling them he was a rapper, he still signed dozens of autographs.

Murray said he is not the average entertainer. Inspired by the extravagant live shows of bands such as Kiss and Warrant, he adopted a high energy stage presence.

"I saw how I wanted my entertainment to be," Murray said. "When you can jump off of a speaker with a guitar and walk around in the audience and they're in awe and not trying to hurt you - that's awesome."

 Murray has also opened at the after party for the 2000 Billboard Awards in Las Vegas, toured with Michael Henderson and Ray Parker Jr., and performed at the NOPI Races and the 2007 BET Hip Hop Awards pre-red carpet event.

Recently, he participated in a four-day commercial shoot for Chevrolet and NASCAR with T.I., Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon.

He said he likes to mix reggae, R&B and rock in his music to appeal to a broader audience and because he likes those genres as well.

Murray said his music is different from other hip-hop artists' because it does not include adult language or advocate violence.

"I do radio-ready hip-hop," Murray said.

His newest single "The Itsy Bitsy Spider Dance" has been picked up by ring tone provider Thumbplay and has been doing well in downloads. According to Murray, the single is garnering the attention of major distribution companies.

"Singles are important," Murray said. "Singles sell albums."

Currently he is looking for locations around Covington to shoot a video and has a few young people working on choreographing a dance for the song.

He said his ability to free style leads him to song subject matter most others would never dream of cutting a track about.

Miami-based record company Slip and Slide Records - who represent artists Plies, Rick Ross and Trina - has recently added Murray to their new artist label On the Grind.

In addition to his performing career, he and his wife - who is also his manager - have started So Unique Music Inc. and currently represent the up-and-coming Atlanta artist, A.K. the Razorman.

"What we do for me," Murray said, "I do for my artist."

Murray said he strives to be like music moguls Barry Gordy, Jay-Z and Russell Simmons.

"If you're not trying to be like those guys," Murray said, "you're going to get left in the dust."

Because of his ambition, Murray chooses not to drink alcohol or smoke.

"People trip about it, but you don't talk business in a club," Murray said. "I'm just so high on life and being able to do this."

He admits he researches the industry like it was his college major.

Murray added he feels constantly surrounded by blessings.

"God is good - he gave me the talent and the family to be successful," Murray said. "The family that prays together, stays together."