Once Upon a Time in Chattanooga is rap that’s real...and very powerful
The Chattanooga music scene is undergoing a hip hop renaissance as artist after artist keeps turning out bigger and better projects and generally displaying a level of skill and professionalism one wouldn’t expect to find outside of a major metropolitan market. The latest addition to this expanding talent pool is Matt Solo, a hungry young artist set to take the community by storm.
Born Matthew William Long, Matt Solo first started rapping at age 12. Within a year, he was writing his own material. Two more years would pass before the incident that convinced Matt to take his music, his life and his future seriously.
In September of 2003, Matt was struck by two bullets during an altercation at a party. The brush with death was a wake-up call. Solo plunged into his music with new purpose and determination, releasing his first album (Both $ides of Tha Dollar) a year later.
It was that album that established Solo in the local scene, leading to a string of other projects and a rap battle win/loss record of over 100 wins and, to date, ZERO losses. In 2014, Solo signed with Nino Villanova’s Whirl Records label. In September 2015, he released his ninth mixtape, the impeccable Once Upon a Time in Chattanooga.
There are 18 tracks on this album, and as of this writing it appears the first single will be “Im’a Need a Deal.” Structurally the tune is reminiscent of mid-to-late ’90s rap, which was a great era for the genre in terms of airplay and industry recognition. A simple, but effective beat and a bank of synth strings provide the backdrop for some ridiculously smooth rhymes.
Too often a young artist will compensate for a lack of experience (or anything relevant to say) by going hardcore lyrically, the idea being in their young and confused minds that crude and violent equals “real.” It is comparable to an amateur chef over-seasoning a meal “because that’s how the pros do it,” when in fact pros are well-versed in balance and restraint in order to evoke the best possible flavor in the kitchen—or on the microphone.
Here again, Solo demonstrates that, young man or not, he has clearly put the time and effort in to his craft. His lyrics are powerful; he uses imagery and language with a deft touch and in doing so, he is as real as it gets.
Although not specifically given to me for review, the track titled “Lost” is a personal favorite with its hypnotic instrumentation complementing the lyrical exploration of various kinds and levels of intoxication (which I suspect is a metaphor for the mind-numbing trials of life in general).
“Watery” is another outstanding track, showcasing Solo’s ability with the microphone. While not a “battle” tune, his delivery solidifies his reputation as an undefeated champion.
The take-away from the entire album is this: Matt Solo is a man with both the talent and the drive to achieve serious critical and commercial success. Whether that comes to pass next week, next month or next year, it will come to pass, and sooner rather than later.
For now, Once Upon a Time in Chattanooga can be found at Soundcloud. Solo can be found on Facebook as mattsolomusic, and on Twitter, Instagram and Soundcloud as therealmattsolo.