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Artist Matlock
Album Moonshine
Label Gravel Records
Year 2007

     For years now Matlock has been a fixture in the Chicago underground Hip-Hop world, grinding away as an indie artist, performing at open mics, showcases, and battles. It seems that here in the Windy City, you have to hustle ten times as hard in order to get the same amount of respect and exposure as artists in L.A. and NYC, who are putting in less work. After releasing his debut LP Crazy Type Artist in 1999, his long road to securing a decent label deal ended with this, his first LP as a Gravel Records artist, Moonshine. But even then, this album has been in the works for a hot minute. Matlock signed with Gravel in 2003, and Moonshine’s first 12inch dropped last year.

     Fans can breathe a collective sigh of relief though, as the wait was most definitely worth it. The boom-bap, courtesy of Gravel in-house producer Kaz1, is gritty and bluesy, while Matlock’s flow has been shaped into a fine, diamond tipped dagger, which I’m guessing is all he could do to keep himself from going stir crazy since signing with Gravel. Stating that he “[writes] because he has something to say, not because [he] has to say something,” Matlock (aka Morty Goldstein) touches on topics for the everyman but manages to temper mundanity with behind the scenes details which add weight to the routine. On the title track, which sports an ill scratched hook of OBD hollering ‘Moonshine,’ he declares “I’m unknown and broke but I’m gold in the gutter.” In a nod to the double time raps that put Chicago on the map, Morty spits with a vengeance on “Bury My Body.” While “Pignose” (featuring RA the Rugged Man) is a vulgar groupie anthem peppered with hilarious punchlines and wordplay like “Bitches stand in line asking me to sign to my single, then go down under and eat my babies like dingos.” RA wins the nasty man crown though, but that’s to be expected. “Get Lit” ups the ante tempo-wise, sounding like a throwback to mid 90s fast rap bangers by Double XX Posse. I like to imagine the live performance of this cut inciting fools to mosh and throw bricks through windows.

     Speaking of which, Matlock addresses his banning from local Hip-Hop venue, The Abbey Pub, on “Dear Abbey.” Just to give some background, it’s getting more and more difficult to do shows in Chicago, as aldermen and venues have become shook at the sight of dudes in hoodies, whether or not violence breaks out. “Dear Abby” speaks to the venue directly, tongue firmly planted in cheek, with Matlock apologizing for every instance that led to his blacklisting, ending with the line “Hit me up when you get this. Love, Matlock.” I nearly did a spit take.

     Production-wise, Kaz1 brings his A-game, flexing different styles like he’s ADD afflicted. From the fast rap bangers “Get Lit” and the album opener “Liven Em Up,” to the psych organ-led “Bury My Body” it’s apparent that Kaz isn’t a one trick pony. But despite the sonic variations, the overall vibe of Moonshine is cohesive and well thought out. Eschewing catchy hooks, battle punchlines, and cerebral nerd rap, Matlock has created an emotive, structured album that speaks to the average joe Hip-Hopper riding the Blue Line, waiting for the 1st and 15th.

- DJ Trew

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