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Hip Hop Thu Nov 18 2010

Matlock Raps (But It's Not Who You Think)

[This piece was submitted by freelance writer and creator of many mediocre YouTube videos Daniel Shar.]

Chicago-based rapper Matlock, like most of you, has a friend who seems to love nothing more than showing off YouTube videos he has incorrectly deemed worthwhile. Every now and then, as you know, that friend unwittingly manages to strike gold. If you're Matlock, this happy accident opens the door for a chance at wide-scale exposure and promotion unlike anything you've experienced in the first decade of your music career.

Though most people today hear "rap battles" and immediately think of 8 Mile, it is not unreasonable to expect future generations to associate the phrase with Grind Time Now. The league, which began humbly in Florida just two years ago, now has multiple divisions throughout the country, several copycat leagues around the world, and more than 35 million views on YouTube.


After his buddy turned him into part of that sizable audience, Matlock realized the opportunity available to get involved as a battler and expand his own following. Battling has long been viewed as a great way for rappers to earn respect, but Grind Time Now has truly transformed and heightened this reality.

By encouraging participants to write verses for their opponents, and by eliminating the presence of instrumentals, the league manages to put a fresh spin on one of the oldest traditions in hip-hop. This cultural tornado will touch down in Chicago for the sixth time since 2008 at The Windy City Takeover IV this Saturday, November 20, at Elastic Arts Foundation.


Other rappers in the league had already championed Matlock's involvement before he even contacted Sonny Bamboo, the District Manager of Grind Time Midwest and an independent artist himself. Matlock's debut against Minneapolis-based George Jetson is one of the most highly anticipated match-ups on the bill. Sonny says Jetson is "incredible in this format" and thinks Matlock is "going to be a huge star in this Grind Time shit."

While Matlock wants and intends to have a good showing at this event, his primary focus is promoting his upcoming fourth album, 2707. Named after "the one shady-looking building" where he grew up in the mostly middle-class Rolling Meadows, 2707 is due out in early December. The project has a number of guest appearances — including a track with MC JUICE (best known for beating Eminem in a freestyle battle in 1997) — and features production by Mr. Green (a frequent collaborator with PaceWon) and Prolyfic (a former hit-maker for Lupe Fiasco).

While such company is hard to knock, Jetson could very well give Matlock grief for calling himself "the Bob Dylan of rap." Matlock laughs and explains this by saying of Dylan, "He's such an interesting mind. He was capable of writing and performing almost any kind of song. He could make you think, make you laugh, make you cry. He was just extremely well-rounded, and that's what I want to be."


As proud as Matlock is of the product he has to offer, he and Sonny are even more confident in their ability to be successful without the backing of a record contract.

"The way everything is digital now, you see all these big labels dissolving," Matlock says. "They're kind of obsolete."

Sonny takes this sentiment even further, saying, "My record label is the internet. I don't need a fucking record label; I got an internet connection."

This winter, Sonny will release his first full-length solo album, Leprechaun Don, to compliment the three mixtapes and the Grind Time Now compilation album he already has out. Through his role as District Manager and the recognition that brings, Sonny is able to survive off rap alone.

"Grind Time has created a way for me to live off this shit," he says. "It's incredible when you're struggling to have that happen. And that's not to say that I'm ballin' now by any means, but to be able to live off what you love is paradise for me."

Even if there weren't exposure to be had or money to be made, this event would probably still happen this weekend. In addition to Jetson's trip from Minneapolis, rappers are traveling in from Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania to prove themselves as lyricists.

"These kids do the shit for such a pure reason," Sonny says. "So much of hip-hop these days is 'Let me get rich and famous.' Battling is down to the essence of rap — 'I'ma show you that I'm nice.'"

Obviously, this should be way more entertaining than when your friend says, "I'ma show you this YouTube video I found."


Matlock performs at The Windy City Takeover IV on Saturday, November 20th, at the Elastic Arts Foundation, 2830 N. Milwaukee, 2nd Floor (above Friendship Chinese Restaurant). The event starts at 7pm. Tickets are $10. All ages. BYOB.

-Daniel Shar

 
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