Artist Spotlight: Dana I.D. Matthews
Columns / March 30, 2017
The creative collision of spoken word and hip hop
Alyssa Laube, Associate Editor
It’s easy to draw parallels between hip-hop music and spoken word poetry. Both rely on rhythm, feeling, and the pleasure of listening, but are undeniably distinct genres in their own right. Dana I.D. Matthews, an artist and poet who performed at the Kwantlen Public Interest Research Group’s Annual General Meeting on Mar. 14, not only understands that, but has moulded his entire creative career around it.
“It’s not the difference in the two genres that I really worry about. It’s the similarities,” says Matthews. “You can take a rap and make it a spoken word poem and if the spoken word poem is rhyming, depending on the pattern and the flow and if you’re willing to change it, you can make it a rap as well.”
“I find the connections strong enough to the point where, if I want to make them individual things, I can,” he adds. “And people can see the clear differences, but if I feel like melding them together into one art that’s also a possibility. It’s that adaptiveness of the spoken art in general that really intrigues me.”
Since 2014, he has released six records and is currently in the process of putting out a seventh, one song at a time. Titled Piece of Pie (The Second Slice), the new record is a follow-up to 2016’s The First Slice and will be between 7 and 10 tracks long.
“I want to keep it consistent,” says Matthews. “If I keep putting out music every week at a time or month at a time, I feel like that will garner more attention. At least that’s the formula I’m working with this year.”
Listening to The First Slice, it’s nearly impossible not to pay attention to Matthews’ lyrics. They’re genuine, deeply emotional, and catchy, flowing gracefully through whichever sounds he chooses to accompany them. The record revolves around hard-hitting beats on one track and ambient noise the next, showing the many facets of Matthews’ creativity. Still, lyrical intelligence is a constant throughout his entire discography.
Dreaming and “chasing after your goals and not quitting even if they seem unachievable” are two important themes in his writing, and if listeners take a message from his music, Matthews hopes that it’s “honesty and development.”
“I feel like everybody has this hope and something they want to do that’s great. You can believe but there’s always that bitter doubt where you don’t believe it at the same time. I think that struggle and that chase is very important in life, at least to me,” he says. “The thing I want people to take the most from my music is that people are different and that’s to be celebrated, not hated on.”
“I think a lot of people, in their minds, think they’re weird and that they think so differently from everybody else, and they do, in a way,” he continues. “I want people to accept that part of themselves but also realize that at least some of the thoughts they think are really weird are not as weird as you think. There are other people out there who do like those things too and you don’t have to be alone. It’s good to spend some time with yourself, but you don’t have to be alone.”
At the moment, Matthews also has a review and talk show he’s running on Youtube, as well as an ongoing remix series called Dana Vs Everyone.
“I do everything. It’s ridiculous,” he laughs. “I’m just going to keep going. I don’t plan to stop. I’m not going to stop until the day that I die. I’m just going to keep making music until my lungs tell me, ‘No more.’”