Matt Muse Breaks Down “Love & Nappyness” Track by Track
The Chicago rapper defies cliché by addressing five different forms of love on his new EP.
Quite frankly, it’s amazing that with all the endless and diverse meanings the word can take on, we use the same term to casually profess our admiration for something as external as a pop song or a really good sandwich as we do to share our deepest, most life-altering feelings. “Love” is both the most powerful word in the English language and a word we heedlessly shout when we’re at Subway eating a meatball marinara footlong and “Now That I Found You” comes on the Top 40 station.
For a more poetic examination of this phenomenon, Chicago emcee Matt Muse dedicated his latest release to differentiating the many kinds of love he experiences in his own life, ranging from self-love, to familial love, to romantic love. Adopting each of the five Greek words for love as bracketed titles applied to each track, the corresponding lyrics explore his struggles with each, providing a sense of commendable vulnerability to the seven upbeat tracks.
“Love songs tend to be cliché and cookie-cutter, so I’ve kind of always hated them,” Muse explains. “I wanted to put my own spin on the love song by including my actual experiences with love in hopes of the songs being more real and genuine. I wanted to combat the various ways toxic masculinity has told rappers and men like myself that we can’t discuss our struggles in different areas of love and the insecurities that come with self-love and loving others.”
Nappyness’s sound fits well within the new wave of Chicago rappers, appropriately featuring Pivot Gang’s Joseph Chilliams on single “MYSELF.” “Sound-wise, I looked for production that felt like love,” Muse continues. “I wanted there to be a mix of live instrumentation and new age hip-hop vibes. The piano is the first instrument I learned how to play and it reminds me of the love that my family showed around the time I was learning it at thirteen, so I wanted as much piano on the project as possible.”
1. “ST. MATTHEW [AGAPE]”
I was raised a Christian, and God’s love was the first love I was taught by my parents, grandparents, and church family. I’m no longer an avid believer in God, and my belief began to spiral when my friend Tacarra lost her life in a car crash when I was fifteen years old. This song touches on that and stands as my first conversation with God since that incident. In it I am expressing my different insecurities with those who are “supposed” to show me love in my life and hoping that the “unconditional love” I was taught about is true and remains when I’m feeling loveless. Making this song was really fun because the producer, Ami, is extremely talented, and when I told her my idea for the song, she just started playing keys, and the first draft of the beat we created really guided my writing.
2. “LOVE WRONG [EROS]”
This song is a letter to the same woman who my song “Shea Butter Baby” from my previous album is written about. If “Shea Butter Baby” is the “puppy-love” phase, this song stands as the more in-depth and honest representation of our relationship after the puppy-love cleared. In it I acknowledge that neither of us were taught the proper way to go about a relationship, so we love wrong. And just like we make mistakes together, we’re gonna work on learning each other and getting it right together as well.
3. “AIN’T NO [PHILAUTIA]”
4. “MYSELF [PHILAUTIA II]”
Both of these songs address how I experience self-love, but in two distinct ways. “Ain’t No” is a call back to Nappy Talk where I used bragging about myself as a representation of self-love. In terms of straight rapping bar-for-bar, it is still my favorite track on the EP. It was also the first song fully finished on the project and it came about at a time where I feared I’d never be able to write another good rap again. Big love to the producer Ace da Vinci for sending me a beat that inspired me and pulled the raps out of me.
“Myself” acknowledges that I talk a lot of shit, but underneath it there is a lot of pessimism and self-doubt, and if I spend more time intentionally loving myself and acknowledge my flaws, I will be more equipped to love a partner and all others. While “Ain’t No” is calm and serious, “Myself” is upbeat and fun. The songs are a couplet and are intended to show the different ways self-love manifests within me as I grow and mature.
5. “SHOTGUN INTERLUDE”
6. “SHOTGUN [PHILIA]”
Shotgun is a reminiscence of my elementary and high school days to talk about how my different friendships from those times manifest in the love that I show to my friends today. In the song I discuss a few reasons why I bought a car and how buying it was to benefit my friends, as my friend Sarah Connor benefited me and gave me rides home in high school after I got jumped and robbed taking the bus. In it I also address how cat-calling and street harassment affects my women friends when they ride the bus and how my car can be a benefit to them so they don’t have to experience that turmoil any longer. I had been wanting to write a song with the lyrics “Bought a car so my niggas won’t have to walk again” for a very long time, and when my friend Scooter Brown released his beat tape earlier this year, one of the beats fit those lyrics perfectly. I begged him to let me rap over it and he did, and “Shotgun” was born.
The interlude is my two real life best friends and roommates Leo & Joe arguing over who called “shotgun” to sit in the front seat of my car first. They settle the argument with a game of rock, paper, scissors as we settle these shotgun disputes in real life.
7. “FAMILY, STILL [STORGE]”
This song is written as a letter to my grandmother, who my family calls “MaMa,” who passed of liver cancer in 2007. I’m using the song to update her on some of the things my immediate family has experienced since she left, and let her know that despite some struggles, we are still a family. The beat was produced by Timmy V who also produced “Myself.” To me this beat has a very unique sound to it compared to the rest of the songs, but it still fits into the vibe of the project. It was the last song I wrote on the project, but I’d been wanting to write a song to/for my grandma for five plus years. It came out perfectly to me, and my family loves it and that makes me feel good.