"City's steel, concrete, hard like my music" - Matic Mouth talks music and home
“My music career would be so different if I moved to Manchester 10 years ago, or London, so different.” And so begins my conversation with Matic Mouth aka Marcus Smith, a long and winding discussion that veers in a multitude of differing directions over the course of the next three hours.
We talk about Sheffield, comparing it to other cities and even countries, yet still Matic is firmly of the opinion that “Sheffield is up there, it’s alongside those places”, and when you listen to the words that come from within whether in conversation or those that are delivered with an emotive veracity on Hear Comes the Pain - written in the shadow of the city and the world’s BLM protests - you can’t help but be intrigued.
“I was happy being… I don’t want to say conscious rapper, conscious rapper seems so… when I think of a conscious rapper, I think of these brilliant MCs who are a lot more politically minded than I am”, words that are spoken in stark contrast to some of the lyrics that are peppered with passion and wit throughout Hear Comes the Pain. He’s distinctly not a political rapper, a notion he previously emphasised in an interview back in 2018 with Exposed, where he said that he hates politics. But a lot has changed for Matic in the intervening time period, from seeing the growth of younger family members to expecting one of his own (a girl, born just as this interview was being written), his perspective has undoubtedly changed… irrevocably so.
He may not plan to focus on politics but regardless of his intent, it seems that such a mindset is something he can’t avoid. The album cover features an image of a police riot shield alongside a Masai shield, not political, but emblematic of the lingering stain of being a bi-racial person trying to navigate a supposed post-colonial era in a world that veers between feelings of being ‘woke’ or simply, aware.
What is clear from his music and throughout in our conversation, Matic loves Sheffield, he loves the city, particularly the decaying industrial areas, “it’s steel, concrete, hard, that’s how I want my music to sound”, walking through the city directly inspires him, invigorates him even. And you can’t deny his love is represented throughout.
“It’s only as you get older that different things interest you, different things… matter”, and what is most at forefront of his mind is the future, “that makes you think like, right. What are things going to be like in 10, 20 years?” He briefly ponders what to say next, a momentary pause, “It was the first time I wrote something, I wrote it just after the first lockdown… and that just came out. That’s the first time I realised that music is therapeutic. I don’t mean the listening to it, I mean the making of it, I always thought that was some cliché thing. But it wasn’t, it was really severe that whole lockdown.” This time last year was a time of change for many people, whether it was furlough, pandemic confusion, denial of the virus that would soon ravage the nation and the world, societal and cultural injustices or everything combined — whatever you felt over the last 12 months, it’s impacted us all somehow.
“I didn’t mind the isolation, I could deal with that… there’s a tiny bit of my personality that is that. But the injustices, I couldn’t deal with them… it was the first time I wondered if this is how the elder people felt when Rodney King was beaten up? I was infuriated… and I’ve been infuriated before but this was different.”
There’s no doubt that we’re been living in a time where society has become less ‘woke’, but more aware… of the injustices in the world and this was the moment where Matic set about processing his thoughts. And so an album was born, an unapologetic journey of truth over eight songs in 24 minutes, an unfurling of feelings questioning our increasingly overt focus on our digital appearance, musings on the now and next, anger and questioning society, the dreaded politics and even poignant use of Lonnie Liston Smith’s A Garden of Peace. It’s an interesting, insightful and often uncomfortable listen, notably in Elijah McClain where the lyrics are actually the last words of the 23-year-old, transposed over an ethereal rhythm… no wonder some of the content has upset some listeners, it resonates, it’s evocative.
I ask what is it about Sheffield that keeps him here? “I think it’s the hills, it feels like we’re in a city without a boundary, we’re not trapped, like a new opportunity lies just over the next hill, there’s always hope.”
Hear Comes the Pain is out now on Amazon, Apple Music, Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify and YouTube.
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