Bands on the Verge: A.Matix

Jenny Dwoskin

Recently, rapper A.Matix discovered something surprising while flipping through the tube: a Japanese rap video. Just like their counterparts, the Asian artists stomping around the stage had cornrows, donned leather jackets, and even crossed their arms over their chests in true rapper fashion. It was enough for A.Matix to comment: “That’s when you know hip-hop has become culturally universal.” Universal, indeed.

While A.Matix, or Michael Barron as friends and family know him, is thrilled that rap is no longer designated to urban America, he would like to disprove yet another stereotype.

Typically, rap music is associated with profanity-ridden lyrics about money, drugs and gun violence. Barron, on the contrary, writes about what he knows: family, everyday struggles – even a ride on the R5 train.

As a native of West Philadelphia (born and raised), Barron commuted to Villanova during his freshman year. While many find the train to be monotonous, Barron found his SEPTA experience to be rather stimulating. “I would look out the window, see all the graffiti, eavesdrop on people’s stories,” Barron explains. This is what life is really about – this is what I’ll write about, he realized.

According to Barron, writing a rap song is a process of constant re-editing; it can be more academic than listeners think. Every rapper, for example, should consult a thesaurus when writing lyrics. Barron even looks to fiction for inspiration; whenever he comes across an interesting word, he’ll look it up. “My biggest pet peeve,” he explains, “Is when someone scrambles something – anything – together and they think it can automatically become music.”

As a child, Barron’s parents exposed him various genres of music, including R&B, jazz, funk, rock and roll, etc. His influences became guys like Frank Sinatra and the Beatles and it wasn’t until the mid-90s, that Barron started his own record collection. Hip-hop had exploded onto the music scene with albums like Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt” and the Notorious B.I.G’s “Ready to Die” and Life “After Death.” Barron admits that he was awestruck and has been addicted to rap ever since.

The hip-hop world, however, changed after the deaths of Tupac and Biggie. Rap, like most genres, became an industry as the artists began to see their careers through the eyes of businessmen. As a result, Barron now admires Kanye West, Eminem, and even John Mayer because “they don’t write commercialized lyrics.”

Ultimately, Barron wishes to resurrect that rap music that he fell in love with. As of now, there is a demo in the works and he hopes to break into the open mic scene shortly. Still, he admits that school is his first priority. He knows that while he loves music, school takes first priority.

The term “starving artist” doesn’t appeal to him – only the “artist” part. “Eventually, I would love to become a professional rapper,” Barron says, “but I would like to have a ‘real’ job first.”

Next year, Barron will receive a degree in communications and hopefully pursue a career in either the field of television or radio. After all, he assures “I didn’t get into rap for the millions. I do it because I love music. Rap can cross so many barriers.” It’s already crossed the Pacific Ocean.