Those of you who frequent this blog will know that I don’t cover a whole lot of hip-hop. In fact, I think the only rap artists I’ve ever covered here have been John Forte and M.U.R.S.. It’s not that I’m racist, or even that I particularly dislike this style of music. The issue is that I’m a lyrics girl, and let’s face it, the vast majority of rap/hip-hop is incredibly misogynist and perhaps even worse than that, vacuous. This is why, when I hear someone doing something vital and interesting in this genre, I get really excited.
Greg Matthew, the mastermind behind N/A Hip Hop a.k.a. RNA the Messenger is originally from Dorchester, Massachusetts, though he’s now based in Austin, Texas (one of many Boston to Austin defectors). An English grad from Boston College, he delivers the message to teens that it’s possible to rap sincerely and honestly “without selling out and saying all the nonsense one hears on the radio.” He’s inspired by the emotion the music evokes, and expresses himself through the filter of his literary background. The result is something sophisticated yet visceral, poetic and predatory.
N/A Hip Hop (which stands for nucleic acid and/or not available) released their first 6-track EP, “The Code”, under the name DNAtheG. They’re currently recording with Robie Rowland at Echo Studios to release their second EP, “Here Cometh The Dreamer,” under the name RNAtheMessenger, later this year. In the meantime, they’re releasing singles from it, the first of which is “Marco Polo.” The music video (see below) was filmed by Steven Yee, a former classmate of Matthew’s at Boston Latin School and Boston College who now works as a Hollywood film director. It’s beautifully shot like a short film, and follows the story of an emcee who chooses a performance over a date with his girlfriend. What follows is a dreamlike series of events where he comes home to find evidence that she’s cheating on him (though it’s not clear if she is or not), they fight and he takes off into the woods to clear his mind. There’s a lot of symbolism with a dropped and then found yin-yang necklace, as he confronts his personal demons. As the artist himself explains, “What I was trying to say is that even though he just fought with his girl and she cheated, he knows he was the reason for her disloyalty because he didn’t put her first, so the real fight is not with her but with himself.” That’s certainly a far cry from “bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks.”
“I’m a mystery of Agatha Christie
Edgar Allan Poe yo I’m mad and sadistic
Noam Chomsky said I’m bad with linguistics
In battles I go ballistic
Y’all babble spitting sophistic
My talent’s simply statistics
Trial and error I’ll die by heuristics.
I think I might be a mystic, science fiction”
– Marco Polo
There will be more singles from the upcoming album. The other songs are “Mechanical Hounds,” “Janitorial Madness,” “If Only,” “Grammy and a Girl” and “Here Cometh The Dreamer.” Here are some excerpts:
“These stars are life’s scars, just a part of creation, we were only meant to be, not to solve the equation. The mystery of our history breeds misery, don’t miss the beat, see victory is sweet, we mask hegemony as liberty.” -Grammy and a Girl
“There’s no Clear Channel, our views warped, Now Everything We Slaves Consume Or Review Points to NEWSCORP” -Mechanical Hounds
“Edgar Allan Poe’s reincarnated soul, up at 3 AM copying “The Cask of Amontillado,” composing by the glow of a candle, with no handle on my sanity, one eye on the vanity mirror staring at my sorrow” -Janitorial Madness
Clearly this isn’t your typical rap music. The genre has been twisted and perverted, soaked in the stench of the mainstream music industry. What N/A Hip Hop is doing goes back to what I believe was the original intent, to report without a filter from the trenches of human experience. And besides, anyone who name drops Noam Chomsky in a song of any genre deserves a listen.
As for the title “Here Cometh the Dreamer,” it’s derived from a plaque outside the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis — “they said one to another, behold, here cometh the dreamer, let us slay him and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” Take that, Lil Wayne.
If you like what you see and hear, N/A Hip Hop will be returning home to open for Capone-N-Noreaga on July 19th at The Middle East Downstairs. His set is at 9:40 p.m. He’ll be performing with Colin Dwyer, who will be releasing his own EP on 9/11 at The Lizard Lounge.