Matt Muse Credit: Jim McCarter

Chicago rapper Matt Muse first studied his craft through mentorship nonprofit Art of Culture (back when it was still called Donda’s House), but he didn’t begin performing in earnest until he started classes at Northern Illinois University in the early 2010s. “That played a huge role in helping me improve my performance skills,” Muse told Passion of the Weiss in September. “What college is supposed to be, a practice before you get to the real world, it was that for my music.” Muse says he played hundreds of shows while at NIU, and since graduating in 2016 he’s been making his career in Chicago. Over the past few years he’s served as a teaching artist at Young Chicago Authors, which has helped bring him deeper into the city’s overlapping hip-hop and literary scenes—and his new self-released EP, Love & Nappyness, which he celebrates with this concert, demonstrates his growth as a rapper and writer. With this second installation in his Nappy series (following last year’s Nappy Talk), Muse set out to explore five different types of love. That approach provided him with a way to focus his insightful lyricism and gave him room to show off his growth as a vocalist. His rapping takes a sensual turn on “Love Wrong [Eros],” where he holds on to syllables flirtatiously, edging toward outright singing. And on “Shotgun [Philia]” he rides a fine line, bringing the affable feel of the rest of the EP to his bellicose, borderline-staccato rapping. On the silky funk number “Myself (Philautia II),” Muse confidently sings a warmhearted hook before busting out flamboyant, rapid-fire verses about self-love—evidence that he’s committed to continuing to grow.   v