The hip-hop scene at U of I has been bumpin’ lately. From Snoop Dogg and Mac Miller to Wiz Khalifa and Talib Kweli, hip-hop artists old and new have made their way to the Champaign-Urbana area over the past year to perform at Assembly Hall and the Canopy Club. Summertime means even more hip-hop.
On June 17, music lovers can check out the Midwest Hip-hop Showcase at the Canopy Club, organized by rapper GraMatyk.
GraMatyk is the brainchild of Matt Smith, a 19-year-old biology student at the University of Missouri. Smith, originally from Bloomington, IL, has rapped for as long as he can remember.
“I always wanted to be a rapper,” Smith said in an interview. “One year, when I was in third or fourth grade, I had a bus driver that would rap when we all first got on, and one day, he let me rap. I can’t say I was ever more nervous in my life, but I guess you could consider that my first performance.”
When Smith got older, he kept up with rapping but also spent a lot of time playing sports. Just call him Troy Bolton — one night in high school, he had to choose between attending an important basketball practice or the school talent show, and he chose the talent show.
“Me and my buddy Jordan Benson ended up winning that,” Smith said, “and since then it has been music over everything.”
Halfway through high school, Smith and Benson formed the rap group “Sandbox Bulliez,” and once the two got to college, they founded the rap label “Frathouse Entertainment.”
“Right now, Frathouse Entertainment consists of myself, two other rappers and two producers,” Smith said. “Currently, I’m working on a mixtape which will be represented by the label.”
As far as inspiration goes, Smith says that he listens to “older rappers like Nas, Common, 2pac and Mos Def, and newer rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Wale, J. Cole and Big Sean.”
Smith draws a lot musically from all kinds of genres; one of his songs samples Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks.”
“Another thing that inspires me is the fact that so much bad rap music is getting thrown into the category of hip-hop,” Smith said. “That stuff isn’t hip-hop! I know there is a lot of room for me to improve, but sometimes, it seems like guys who have made it aren’t even trying. So one of my goals is to set the bar a little higher.”
Smith’s midwest hip-hop showcase is sure to do so. Featuring performances from GraMatyk, Mouth Wilder, Rev, Capitol, Youngs, King Shane and Gee Reed, the show will fall nothing short of high energy and fun.
“There will never be a dull moment on stage, not even in between songs,” Smith said. “By the end of the night, everyone in the crowd will have at least one new artist added to [his or her] iPod.”
As Smith put it, there’s no doubt that people won’t “dig it.”

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