Album of the Day: Matt Muse, “Love & Nappyness”

On Love & Nappyness, the Chicago rapper and poet Matt Muse offers a series of heartfelt meditations on, well, love. The theme is clear from the outset: the album opens with “St. Matthew (AGAPE),” invoking the Greek word for the love between God and humanity. Over a gorgeous, piano-driven backdrop, Muse delivers sharp, autobiographical bars: “Me at 16 swearing I’m gonna be a preacher / Me at 21, writing raps and ignoring teachers.” The song culminates in a simple, plaintive mantra declaring “St. Matthew” a song sung “for the love of God.”

Muse explores the multi-faceted nature of love throughout Love & Nappyness. The project’s first single, “Ain’t No (Philautia),” is an ice-cool, swaggering jam, with Muse flexing and shining brightly over a dark, mournful instrumental. The hook is vulnerable and self-affirming at the same time: “They say it ain’t no n***a like a Chi-town n***a / They say it ain’t no king like a South Side king.”

Muse is part of the revolutionary tide of contemporary Black music (Jamila Woods, noname, Chance, Mick Jenkins, and many more) that has been blossoming in the city of Chicago, and Love & Nappyness is both powerful and deeply spiritual. The music throughout is rich and colorful; the elegant production, coupled with Muse’s vocals, serves to amplify each song’s central theme. From the joyous self-love jam “Myself (Philautia ll)” to the anthemic ode to friendship “Shotgun (Phila),” Love & Nappyness tackles questions that are as old as time itself: What is love? Why do we love? And how should it exist in the world?

-John Morrison

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