Learn more about the South Sider in our exclusive interview.
Matt Muse is a true Chicago South Sider, and he’s doing things his way. Whether it’s waking up at 2am and writing songs on tour or performing in Texas at SXSW, the 25-year-old is on a never ending chase to catch his passion; hip-hop.
I know you’re from the South Side, but what exact area did you grow up in?
I was born in Hyde Park but I say I’m from the Kenwood-Chatham area. I grew up there.
How has being from Chicago influenced your sound?
I’m trying to create a new age South Side sound, because a lot of artists in Chicago have a very similar style. And it sounds great, I love it, but naturally that’s just not the sound of music that I like to make.
I loved growing up and being able to hear artists that were from the parts of the city I’m from, talk about those same streets. I grew up listening to a lot of Common, Kanye West and Twista; but only Common and Kanye were from the South Side. I used to live right off of Cottage Grove, so to hear them mention Stony and Cottage in their songs made me realize those were black men who grew up in the same neighborhood as me. Hearing my neighborhood in those songs has made me comfortable enough to put the name of streets in my songs.
Also, the neighborhood that I grew up in had a lot of impact on the stuff that I was writing and the creation I was doing. Just seeing it change from being a quiet neighborhood with older people to a lot more rough over time. That transformation impacted me a lot.
All of those things kind of culminate in me trying to create a sound in my music that, specifically with my beats and the way that I rap, embodies what it was like for me to grow up on the South Side of Chicago.
How would you describe your sound?
Audible wise I try to blend different sounds. The project I put out last year was very sample heavy. Every song had some type of vocal sample mixed into the beat, but the music I’m working on now is a lot more energetic. There are no samples in my new tracks, but it’s also not trap. It’s some different shit. It describes me.
I like speaking on my experiences, first and foremost. I want people to hear my stuff and be encouraged. I want to make positive music because I’m a positive person, but I definitely wouldn’t classify myself as a conscious rapper. It’s more like, “Yo, smile about some shit.”
I know you were a Donda House fellow. Can you talk about how being apart of Donda House affected your relationship with music?
I joined Donda’s House while I was in college. I was a junior, and that was Spring of 2015. They opened up a lot of doors and opportunities for me to be seen. I opened for Big KRIT through Donda’s House. I performed at the AHH Fest with J.Cole and all of them. That shit was amazing. Literally we had our own area back there with the famous muhfuckas. I also got to bring my whole band with me, and they got to meet their idols, The Roots. Plus I met Common, one of my personal idols, all because of Donda’s house.
In your Ted Talk you start off by personifying hip-hop, and I thought it was ironic that you did that because in “I Use to Love H.E.R.” by Common, he personified hip-hop. Do you ever feel like hip-hop is a concrete object?
Definitely. I’ve been chasing music for a long time, and I do feel like I’m chasing something physical. It’s almost like a cat race.
During your presentation you also talked about rap as a culture. If you can narrow it down, what’s your favorite part of the hip-hop culture?
I have two. Obviously MC’ing is number one, and then DJ’ing. I just love being an MC. Not just a rapper, but being able to control the room; that’s what being an MC is all about. It’s a skill that I’ve put a lot of work toward for about 7 years. Being able to walk into a room and capture somebody’s attention feels good, and it also makes it way easier to rap.
MC’s control the energy, and DJ’s control the wave. A DJ’s job is to make music crack. I think being a DJ has become sort of outsourced, because anyone can buy some turntables and say they are a DJ. But real DJ’s know how to scratch and mix music well. They make waves. A DJ will hear a song and be like, “Imma play this cause I know y’all gone like it,” and they’ll keep playing it until people catch on. That’s the beauty of a DJ.
You mentioned how music influenced your suicidal thoughts. Were there any lyrics or verses that really impacted this?
There’s not a specific line in this song, but “Dehydration” by Mick Jenkins is just a song that really touches my soul, so thats one.
I love the line in Humble when he says, “I stay modest bout aye, she elaborate it aye.” I don’t think people catch how dope that line is. He’s literally saying I’m so cold, I don’t have to talk shit about myself cause my girl got it. I think that’s what you should aspire towards. I don’t have to flex, cause everybody gone flex for me.
Saba also has a couple of songs that I vibe with. On “Westside Bound 3,” it’s a lot of stuff that he talks about that’s just dope. I teach that song a lot in my classes.
Speaking of Saba, how do you feel about this new renaissance of the modern day Chicago music?
I’m in the middle of it and I love it. It just sort of sucks that there’s no industry here. There are waves where it’s like, “Yo we’re sick of hearing the same shit,” and then Chicago always offers a breath of fresh air.
My hope is that modern music in Chicago is the building blocks for some type of industry coming here. But honestly, I’m just blessed to be apart of it. I’ve been wanting this for a long time, to just be in community with artists that actually give a fuck.
Why do you think there isn’t an industry in Chicago?
Because it’s not a necessity. New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta do it just right. I think it’ll take somebody really feeling like it’s needed for a big industry to develop here.
It goes back to what I was saying about the sample shit earlier. I don’t think at the time I knew. I was in my own world, so I didn’t really realize how much hip-hop was shifting at the time. Also, a couple of them were written a few years before the project actually dropped.
The world is moving really fast. It wasn’t intentional to sound old-school, but I’m heavily influenced by Kanye’s old music so that’s why you get the samples.
Can you talk about the process of writing “Getting To It”?
I wrote that song at my ex’s house. I woke up at like 6:30/7 in the morning, and the words just started coming. I was like, “This is dope but if I get up right now, she gone think I’m on bullshit.” So, I woke her up and told her I was gonna go downstairs to write.
I went in the basement and wrote the first part of the song and the hook, and then I wrote the 2nd verse a week or two later.
Do you usually wake up with ideas like that?
Oh my god, I write in my sleep. It’s like a phenomena that’s happened in like the last year, but I literally will write whole bars and hooks in my sleep. I got like hella voice notes of me in my phone sounding all groggy and dead, but singing and shit.
Is it overwhelming to have all that in your in head and then have to spit it all out before you forget it?
It’s scary because sometimes I’ll forget the words. That can be whack, but the cool thing is when you’re able to just lay that shit down.
What’s next for you?
There’s a project coming, and it’ll be my first album. The goal is to drop it in May, so “Getting To It” will be the lead single. After that, I plan on touring again.