Yes, that’s Eddie Murphy, former comedy legend, current reggae singer
The lyrics in Oh Jah Jah are pretty fiery (“Police in the street shooting down black babies”). What inspired them?
The headlines. Acts of terror, the Ferguson shooting. The second line is, “The devil’s on the move and the world’s gone crazy.” Originally the line was, “Ebola’s on the move.” I changed it to the devil so the song wouldn’t be dated. The devil’s always on the move – it’ll never get dated [laughs]. Ultimately, I’d like to have my own band and play live. If I ever get back on stage I’d do everything – music, comedy, a big stage show. That’s my fantasy. The urge to be on stage has never left me.
This isn’t your first reggae song; you also released a track with Snoop Dogg, Red Light, in 2013. How did that come about?
I knew Snoop through a friend, he came to my house and we went to the studio. Any musical collaboration I’ve done has been from being in their same social circle. I’ve been in the studio with Ernie Isley, Sly Stone, Paul McCartney, BB King. And I’ve just put the song on the shelf. I could put an album out in any genre – except for heavy metal. Even jazz. Hard rock, pop, R&B – all that stuff will come out one day, even if it’s 100 years from now. We live in a world where if the artist did anything while they were on the planet, when they’re gone, they go through everything they did. In 100 years from now they’ll hear Oh Jah Jah and go, “Wow, I didn’t even know this guy!”
Moving on, why did you stop doing stand-up?
It stopped being fun, I started making movies. Then it felt like too much work going back there. Comedy’s changed – when I started there were 100 comedians, now there’s 100,000. How do you have your own voice? That’s why I’ve always done music. I want to put it all together, to get all of me on stage – then I’d have fun every night.
Singing in Dreamgirls earned you a Golden Globe. Is it your favourite role?
Oh no, I was going through a bunch of stuff when I did that movie. I was at the beginning of a divorce. Whenever I think about that movie… super-emotional stuff was going on, I wasn’t eating. But it turned out great on the screen. I don’t know if I have a favourite role. It’s all part of the same body of work. Beverly Hills Cop is my most popular character. Everywhere I travel people call me Axel Foley.
Is it true you’re starring in Triplets, the sequel to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito’s Twins?
A couple of years ago I met with Arnold and Danny and some writer. We had a meeting but I didn’t hear anything. I tell you – I’m not doing anything unless the script’s incredible. I did some movies where they offer you a bunch of money and you go, “OK, I’ll do it!” I’ve done enough of those – I don’t have to do them any more. If Triplets comes together and it’s hysterically funny, I’ll do it. Same with Beverly Hills Cop 4 – the last couple of scripts weren’t quite there.
No Axel comeback just yet, then. Has anything caught your eye recently?
I just finished a movie. But it’s not a comedy. It’s called Cook, directed by Bruce Beresford [Driving Miss Daisy and Tender Mercies]. I hadn’t done a movie in five years; I’d been waiting for something really special. Then this thing came along. It got me off the couch. It’s about a man who’s hired to cook for a dying woman for six months and becomes part of the family. You’ll be hearing about it.
Finally, can you see yourself performing your music-comedy live in the UK?
I’ll play anywhere that people like it. No matter what movie you do, there’s nothing like looking at people’s faces and feeling that energy. That’s the ultimate.
Oh Jah Jah is out now, distributed by VPAL