Matty Dee

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Lil Wayne performs at the MTV Video Music Awards. (Photo courtesy of Associated Press/Matt Sayles)

Hip-hop has never been associated with hundreds of kids in mob formation chanting a band’s name on the verge of a violent riot in the streets of a major metropolitan area. In contemporary music history, only variations of rock ‘n’ roll, particularly punk, have been able induce such vigorous enthusiasm from its fans. Regardless, Los Angeles rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, often shortened to Odd Future, was able to spur a crowd of 350 into a sort of miniature riot on the streets of Boston last May. Scores of acrimonious fans unable to get into an Odd Future promotional signing gathered in the streets. Members from Odd Future egged the crowd on inciting chants, blatantly disregarding the police trying to quell the mob.

That’s the kind of unrest The Circle Jerks or Black Flag would have been able to incite. At South By Southwest I was personally a part of a mob that tore down a fence and tipped porta-potties to see Odd Future. The only other large-scale violence at the festival was the result of dance-punk duo, Death from Above 1979. Odd Future isn’t the only rap group provoking such obscene action. They are merely on the forefront of something larger.

A growing punk-rock mentality has been proliferating within rap in recent years with self-professed rock-inspired Kid Cudi hitting the mainstream. The rapper’s forthcoming rock album has been the talk of the Internet for some time now. In 2007, British hardcore punk group, The Gallows, enlisted rapper Lethal Bizzle, to help them cover The Ruts’ “Staring at the Rude Boys.” The song garnered a fare amount of acclaim on the UK charts, peaking at No. 31.

Hip-hop and punk rock have never been that far apart. Both have, at least in part, been the result of social and economic inadequacies within the western world. Rap and rock have come together years before The Gallows or Lethal Bizzle were ever important; Anthrax and Public Enemy collaborated on a song in 1991 called “Bring The Noise.” Limp Bizkit graced the ’90s with an amazing fusion of the two genres. Even Run-DMC had huge punk tendencies with their DIY, in-your-face attitude. For the first time, the psychological and ideological similarities between hip-hop and punk may manifest in a form that spans across the entire genre.

“Hip-hop is in its hair metal, glam rock stage right now,” said local rapper Matty Dee. “Everyone’s flaunting money and this rockstar attitude like how guys in bands like Guns N’ Roses did.”

Dee went on to talk about his thoughts on hip-hop moving into a grunge phase, on a psychological level, just as rock did in the early ’90s after Guns N’ Roses. While Dee presents a useful contention on the current era of rappers being the equivalent of glam-rockers, he misses the mark a bit by anticipating grunge being next. Grunge was about simultaneously not caring and being self-conscious. While rappers like Cage and Kid Cudi represent elements of this, most up-and-comers are really just about not caring and being brutal. Self-consciousness doesn’t fit into the equation.

Two acts really exemplifying this are Houston’s B L A C K I E All Caps, With Spaces and Death Grips. Death Grips is so punk, where he’s based from is kind of a mystery. His ambiguously titled website, thirdworlds.net, gives no indication of his whereabouts and his Facebook profile lists his location as “the Tent City , CALIFORNIAX 916.” He’s probably from either Canada or the UK, as most of his listed shows are there. It doesn’t matter much anyway, because his style isn’t emblematic of any geographic location. Death Grips’ songs consist of heavily warped beats backed by ominous synths, meshed with vehement, caustic verses. His song “Guillotine” is compromised of him chanting, “It goes, it goes,” as synths gradually builds, culminating in a slicing sound, to which he yells, “Guillotine!”

B L A C K I E also represents this growing fringe of rap with punk undertones. A sizable portion of his catalog is about not giving a damn and he takes DIY to another level, performing almost exclusively with homemade speakers. His rap sets usually draw larger mosh-pits than the punk rock bands he plays with.

Hip-hop has another reason to change. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, rock music in its varying forms served as the normative genre for popular music, standing next to omnipresent pop. The turn of the decade didn’t only mark a change within the rock music from extravagant and excessive hair-metal to grunge but also from economic success to economic recession. Music, like all art, reflects the sentiment of its participants, the creators and the fans. The movement into grunge symbolized America’s rejection of wasteful excess that pervaded glam-rock, as consumers could no longer appreciate excess in their economic hard times.

Artists like Slim Thug and Lil Wayne are dinosaurs. Like Poison, Bon Jovi and so many others, current rappers are playing to a generation that doesn’t care anymore and wants something new that they can relate to in an era where luxury is sparse. Rapping about Gucci and Lamborghini’s are trite vestiges of a passing era.

Printed on September 13, 2011 as: Hip-hop exhibits punk, DIY attributes

Matty Dee, also known as MattyDeeTwo40s, is an Austin-based rapper whose music is shaped by punk rock and his past experiences.

Photo Credit: Mary Kang | Daily Texan Staff

“I don’t like you,” Matty Dee said, describing his mentality on life. “No, not you personally,” he clarifies with a sly chuckle. “We’re nasty-ass creatures. We eat horrible things. The human race sucks. Not every human sucks, but the race in general is pretty shitty.” Although bold for a 20-year-old, Matty Dee’s contentions are salient, given his history.

Austin-based rapper Matty Dee, known as MattyDeeTwo40s within music circles, moved to Austin after finishing high school in Odessa to study business and build a name for himself — the radical juxtaposition between conservative, rural Texas to its most liberal, urban environment proved an unique experience.

Even so, Dee’s dark worldviews are the result of experiences that happened long before his relocation: “I started taking a lot of pills when I was in high school,” he said. According to Dee, Odessa was riddled with drugs. “In Odessa, it’s just so plentiful. Everywhere you turn, it’s there.”

Despite his affinity for drugs at the time, the main reason why he decided to leaving was to escape from Odessa’s intense narcotics culture.

The rapper used drugs to quell dark parts of his past. “My parents split when I was five and my dad was really never around. I just grew up without a dad. I was always looking for a father figure and I guess drugs ended up being my father figure. I was raised by the computer and drugs,” he said. Dee had no qualms about his past drug history though. “I write my best stuff on pills,” he said.

Dee isn’t exaggerating. His mellow, nasally flow is reminiscent of rising artist Mac Miller and New York’s socially conscious rapper, Cage. Like Cage, who Matty Dee cites as an influence, his raps cross into a compelling realm in an extremely twisted way. His song, “The Lion and The Bull Part 2,” tells a story in which he has an affair with someone in a relationship, leavened with occasional commentary on the immorality of the ordeal. The ethics of the situation is contrasted with lyrics on the attractiveness of the girl. The hook of one of his most recent songs, “I Get High,” is simply Dee ominously stating, “We’re all dead already. Why cry?”

Outside of girls and dark observations on life, like Cage, Dee cites punk rock acts as some of his biggest influences.

“I love The Dead Kennedy’s and Cerebal Ballzy,” Dee said, after arriving clad in a Bad Religion T-shirt. Dee, like many of hip-hop’s up-and-comers (like Odd Future and Kid Cudi), is amongst a new generation of rappers that look to punk rock for inspiration, instead of artists solely within their own genre. That likeness may help his ascent, especially within the Austin scene, already riddled with artists who operate within archetypal rap paradigms.

Despite Dee’s obvious foreboding, aggressive side, he’s actually carries a jovial swagger in step and his face rests in a natural, goofy smile.

“Everyone needs a person like Matty Dee in their clique,” said Elles Infanite, a fellow Austin rapper and friend. “He’s always making everyone laugh.”

“He’s playing with a lot of better rappers on the scene,” Infanite said. “It’s to the point where I can listen to his music without skipping a track.”

After his arrival in Austin more than a year ago, Dee has hit the ground running, moving far past his history of rural drug abuse. He’s established connections with the city’s most prominent rappers, DJs and venue owners. He’s even branched out on the business end of things; Dee and Infanite are starting a music blog and merchandise website called Lot B, slated to launch by November.

Despite Dee pursuing a degree in business and pursuing entrepreneurial ventures, the rapper has no intention of doing anything in his life that isn’t centered around his music. “There is no plan B,” he said. “I’m gonna rap.”

Printed on Friday, August 26, 2011 as: Drugs, dark themes influence rapper.