Thursday, September 11, 2008

Review: Matt Black - Pitch Black

Back in the summer before my senior year of high school, I did a summer film program at Northwestern. I stayed there for five weeks learning some film theory, writing an original short film, and watching at least two movies a day. A lot of the kids from that program went on to film school, at USC, NYU, Northwestern, or a number of other places. The funniest thing that happened in the dorm were rap tracks that got made by different sections of my hall (East Side, West Side...yeah it was kind of lame). A couple of the kids were actually talented producers or MCs, and its one of those kids that I’m talking about today.

Matt Black (or Matt McFerrin if we’re going by birth names) made a sick film, and was an even better freestyle rapper, especially at 3am after ordering Papa John’s. He had music posted up on a MySpace
for a long time, but I assumed that like most amateur musicians he’d go do something else and those tracks would end up being the last real rapping he ever did. How surprised was I to find that he put out his own indie rap album just a few weeks ago?

Pitch Black is a crazy cacophony of instrumentation, beats, and samples. Matt doesn’t exactly have a heart-wrenching tale to tell with his rhymes, but he does pull out all the stops to make everything he does really fun to hear. It only takes a few plays for songs like “Track 9 From OutaSpace” and “Back From the Jungle” to be a very silly kind of entertainment due to the production values.. Matt careens through rhymes that seem nonsensical, but then I consider that it sounds pretty much like I do when I bounce from pop culture reference to reference in conversation.

I used to have this personal stigma against any rap that didn’t tell a story or have a social purpose like N.W.A., but the more I delve into the genre the more I can separate talented musicianship from the crap that is just shitty party music (Nelly, most if not all Crunk music). Pitch Black walks a fine line in my rap tastes, never being too senseless in its random pop culture and Mary Jane references and containing enough fantastic production to keep me listening if only for the beats. Matt’s flow isn’t deep or imposing, but it sounds like he loves what he does and is having a shitload of fun on every track.

Maybe I just have a soft spot for music that’s created by people I know, and if I was going into journalism that lack of differentiation would be a problem, but I’m not. I really like the album, I have a good time listening to it, and it helps that the production is pretty damn top notch. You may not like his voice, his flow, or his rhymes, but I do, and the beats are universally likeable enough to give it a shot.

Matt Black – “Chemically Enhanced”

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