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Senior Matt Smith poses for a portrait on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, on the roof of the Virginia Avenue Parking Structure. Smith's latest album will be released on Wednesday.

Kevin Mathein/Senior Staff Photographer

MU senior will drop new album this month

Matt Smith, aka Gramattyk, will also go on tour this summer.

By Jordan McFarland | April 22, 2014

Tags: Music students

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He lives by the beat. He calls himself Gramattyk. The music does not simply flow through him — it begins with expressions in his mind. As Picasso found his niche on the canvas, senior hip-hop artist Matt Smith started by putting it all on paper.

“From there, it really put the passion behind (my music) when (I) got to record it,” he says. “A lot of people don’t know how much work it is. It’s not one of those things I do as more of a hobby.”

The 22-year-old from Bloomington, Ill. takes a two-facet approach to his music. Crafting lyrics is more of a job than a hobby, and more of a hobby than a job.

“It’s not like I’m doing it as a nine-to-five,” Smith says. “But it does become somewhat of a nine-to-five when you’re trying to make it a serious career.”

In 2006, he first took to the stage stepping in front of nearly 5,000 people with his friends, artist Jordan Benson (“Jay Bee,” to Smith), and senior Graham French. That was the first time Smith stepped beyond his neighborhood to perform. The show started with French just beat-boxing. After French set the stage and “killed it,” Smith said it was like being on autopilot.

“You could feel all the energy (the people in the crowd) were giving us,” he says. “That’s when I realized that being on stage in front of large crowds… it was just meant for me, because you feed off that energy and give it right back to them.”

Over the years, Benson has seen Smith’s evolution as a hip-hop artist firsthand; he was even in the room when Smith was born. As he matured, Benson says his “little bro” was never a “gangster or a hood.” He beat a different tune.

“I think his approach is being the best at telling you what he knows,” Benson says. “But he’s firm with it, confident.”

The pair has worked together since Smith took to his “first studio.” That is what Smith called the four-track cassette recorder his dad gave him in the fifth grade. Though it was nearly automatic to perform in front of an audience of 5,000, it was not as easy in front of one.

“I was, under my breath, trying to rap my little raps and (my Dad) said, ‘If you’re gonna do this, you’ve got to speak up, you’ve just got to get up there and do it,’” Smith says. “Ever since then, every time I get up there I have more and more confidence.”

With that push from his dad, Smith found confidence. Eight years later, Smith continues to advance his career. He is releasing his new album Efficiency on iTunes on April 30. He plans to have a summer tour with set dates in Arkansas and a possible show in Columbia. Fans can expect a “real-talk approach” to his new music.

“Matt has a vintage hip-hop flow, and his lyrics aren't fabricated with punch lines like some of the mainstream artists out now,” senior Joshua Teasley, aka Flexy the Artist, says. “They convey an emotion or something he's going through.”

Smith’s work won’t end with a summer tour, though. The meaning of his work is higher than emulating a particular artist or making money. He makes music for purpose of expression.

“As an art, hip-hop is kind of underappreciated,” Smith says. “It’s just as much as a literary art as Shakespeare was in his time. It’s just that we talk differently than they do… we don’t talk in old English anymore… It’s just a new medium.”

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