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Rapper Matt Muse digs deep for intimate new album and ‘different’ concert experience

Latest set from the Hyde Park native gives listeners a deep dive into love and all of its emotional complexities. 

On “Love and Nappyness” Matt Muse takes a humanistic turn from his razor-sharp, aggressive debut as he gives listeners a deep dive into love and all of its emotional complexities.
Leslie Adkins/For the Sun-Times

After Hyde Park’s own Matt Muse released his debut offering, “NappyTalk” in 2018, the rapper returns with his heart on his sleeve on his brand new, emotional follow up, “Love and Nappyness.” The Young Chicago Authors teaching artist will give an intimate performance of the new project Aug. 17 at Schubas.

Performing the album and opening with Loona Dae, Ausar, and DJ Cash Era, the alum of Art of Culture (f.k.a. Donda’s House) will give fans “a different experience” than any performance he’s ever done thus far, creating an intimate show driven by warm, loving vibes.

“It’s a different experience. Different set up, different live set up, and a whole lot of love,” Muse said, without dropping any spoilers. “Loona Dae and Ausar are going to be opening up and they’re going to be great. Also for me, I’ve always performed with a band, and I won’t be doing that. It’ll be a different set up so I think that’s kind of cool, too, and I think I’m just going to try to make the room loving.”

“Love and Nappyness” is a humanistic turn from Muse’s razor-sharp, aggressive debut, as he gives listeners a deep dive into love and all of its emotional complexities. Each of the songs, such as the lead single, “Myself” with PIVOT Gang member Joseph Chilliams, draws inspiration from five of the 14 words of love addressed in Greek and biblical philosophy, and Muse’s own experiences.

“When I was in church, we had this festival called the Agape festival, which means ‘God loves.’ [It] was this thing where we would all go into the church basement and we would eat, we would talk, we would commune together. And I was thinking about love. I don’t remember what I was doing that day — it was sometime in November — but it [took me back] that [church] event and I just remembered that there were a whole lot of other words when we’d do the Agape festival, too. Once that happened, I Googled what those words were and I found them. Those five [Greek words] were the ones I related to the most,” said Muse.

“I didn’t want the whole project to just be about [intimate] love because I experience love in so many different ways in my life. That’s why there’s so many different songs. It stops it from being cheesy and it’s more true to who I am,” he added.

Local rapper Matt Muse is photographed at the Promontory in Hyde Park.
Leslie Adkins/For the Sun-Times

Unlike “NappyTalk,” Muse took a disciplined and introspective approach in crafting “Love and Nappyness” to present his full persona, detailing his diverse experiences with love at his most vulnerable points in life.

“I think I was a lot more focused on making sure that I stuck to the theme and never lost track of it. For this one, I kind of had to take a lot of steps back sometimes because in the past I found myself [unintentionally] ‘trying to get it done.’ With this one, I told myself that I had to be more meticulous and that every line matters,” Muse explained.

“I was also very vulnerable and stripped down. I tried to run away from the typical themes I lean on when I’m rapping. Wasn’t really focused on the punchlines and metaphors, [I was] trying to write songs. How can I write a good-ass song? For example, ‘Family Still’ — it’s not about metaphors and punchlines, it’s about me talking about what I’m talking about.

“[And] it’s been difficult for me to be vulnerable in rap in general. But in real life I’m a very vulnerable, honest, emotional person. That’s always been me. What’s been difficult was learning what I thought hip-hop was supposed to be, which is the very braggy, s- - - talking stuff [and] not leaning on those punchlines or those ways of speaking,” he added.

At YCA, Muse said he can’t recall explicitly telling students to prioritize their self worth. He builds his high school-aged poets to never doubt themselves and believe in the value of their own stories.

“Working with [high school] students doing poetry, for example, that’s the main thing, and them doubting their abilities and not thinking they can perform well on stage or have their stories come across as good as they want them to. Confiding in you not only with that, but with these poems that are about their lives and a lot of what they’ve been through,” he said.

“What I love about teaching is that it’s really seeing students overcoming that hill of not believing that they can do it. ... Just getting students to believe that they can do it and hearing their authentic voices.”

Mark Braboy is a local freelance writer.