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Matt Muse hosting Love & Nappyness benefit drive, concert for Chicagoans

The Chicago hip hop artist is celebrating the third year of the drive with a benefit concert Dec. 17 featuring a lineup that includes fellow local staples Jamila Woods and theMIND.

Matt Muse, a local hip-hop artist, sits in Grant Park, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. Muse is celebrating the third year of his “Love & Nappyness” hair and skin care drive with a benefit concert at the Metro on Dec. 17.
Local hip-hop artist Matt Muse sits in Grant Park on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. Muse is celebrating the third year of his “Love & Nappyness” hair and skin care drive with a benefit concert at the Metro Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Community empowerment is the engine that drives the work and activism of local artist Matt Muse, whether it’s through promoting self-love and self-care or advocating for organizations aiding people in pivotal moments in their lives.

The South Side-born and based rapper and educator has become a staple of the Chicago music scene throughout the past five years with a body of work that touches on themes like love, loss, the joys and struggles of Chicagoans, socioeconomic inequities and confronting anti-Blackness with radical self-love — all deftly expressed in fiercely personal and poetic bars.

After the release of his 2019 EP “Love & Nappyness,” Muse and his management team — including friend and collaborator Tara Carsner — launched a community service initiative bearing the same name, with a focus on collecting natural hair care and skin care products for Chicagoans in need.

Muse and a small band of volunteers place drive boxes in various locations throughout the city, before putting a call-out online for donations of sealed and unused natural hair care, skin care and personal hygiene products.

After a monthlong drive — this year’s started Nov. 16 — Muse and company pick up the donations and distribute them to Love & Nappyness Hair Cair Drive’s two beneficiaries. The first organization, St. Leonard’s Ministries, provides housing in addition to job and health resources for formerly incarcerated people re-entering society. The second, Ignite, works with youth experiencing homelessness and helps them on the path to stable housing.

The idea for the drive was born out of Muse’s own natural hair journey, as referenced on his “Love & Nappyness” EP as well as his 2018 release, “Nappy Talk.”

“All of this started — those two projects started — because I started growing my hair and I found self-love through the growth of my hair,” Muse said during a recent interview. “If embracing my natural self, learning about my hair, growing with my hair was the thing that taught me and helped me grow, I hope that highlighting it for these people and for others can do the same. Can you be — can you find — your fullest and your best self through embracing your natural self as well?”

Now in its third year, the drive has been collecting donations via six drop-off locations: The Silver Room (1506 E. 53rd St.), Christian Fields Style Bar (6550 S. Cottage Grove Ave.), YO:U (1026 N. Milwaukee Ave.), Semicolon Bookstore and Gallery (1714 W. Division St.), Groomology Barber and Beauty (18236 Kedzie Ave.), and Build Coffee (6100 S. Blackstone Ave).

When he reflects on the impact of St. Leonard’s Ministries and Ignite, Muse said he thinks of members of his family who have faced incarceration or been victim to gun violence and how their lives could have been different had they had more resources and support.

“What if he would have went to a place like St. Leonard’s? Or, if he had more hands-on care in his life when he was getting out of prison to steer him on the right path?” Muse asked in reference to one family member. “What would that have done for him? And would that have ultimately affected how his life ended?”

In addition to product donations, Muse wanted to raise money for St. Leonard’s and Ignite in hopes the two organizations can continue their holistic missions. On Dec. 17, the drive will be capped with a concert at Metro celebrating the Love & Nappyness efforts, with a portion of the proceeds going to St. Leonard’s and Ignite.

“Products are dope, but I also want to contribute to the work of these orgs,” said Muse, expressing his desire to have the show generate even more community involvement with St. Leonard’s and Ignite.

Dubbed “The Long Hair Don’t Care Show,” the benefit concert will include a performance from Muse in addition to his close friends Jamila Woods and theMIND, along with other local standouts senite and Hatesonny.

Jamila Woods performs at the Blue Stage at Pitchfork music festival at Union Park in 2021.
Jamila Woods performs at the Blue Stage at Pitchfork music festival at Union Park in 2021.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Calling Woods “one of my favorite artists in the world,” Muse said her work inspired him to embrace his natural hair journey and promote it.

With theMIND, Muse said the vocalist has released some of Muse’s favorite music throughout the last few years, including his collaboration with fellow Chicago emcee Mick Jenkins on “Dehydration,” which Muse dubbed “probably my favorite hip hop song ever.” TheMIND also appears on Muse’s latest single “Rapport,” released in October.

“I am excited about being able to be on stage and actually do a full set, have people there and push something that I’m passionate about,” Muse said of the Metro gig. “When you’re doing shows for other people — and opening for people — it’s cool, but when you’re able to plan your own thing and also perform at it, it’s a blessing.”