Music artist, Matty Rico, leaned over a second story balcony rapping to the audience where upon first glance he appeared to be a cross of John Legend and Miguel. He sported a chambray Aztec print shirt, a navy blue jacket and burgundy pants. He was rapping the lyrics to his new song, “Sweet Home Chicago.”
His lyrics described the issues that plague the city “I’m from the city of murder you ever heard of it?” The chorus described the love for his hometown with the imagery everyone thinks of when picturing Chicago, “Sky lights… street lights…I want to go to Chicago.” Rico performed over blaring speakers, strobe lights and smoke machines. Despite his jumping and hand motions he managed to sound exactly the same way he does on his recorded pieces, which was a pleasant surprise.
Downstairs there were 200 people who brought their own form of liquid courage for a night of music at “The Union Concert Series” on Chicago’s West Side in an art studio turned performance space. They bobbed their heads to the music and snapped pictures on their iPhones to post on Instagram.
Matty Rico, 24, fired up his audience that Saturday night with a performance of his debut album, “New American.”
“For me [the album] is really special because it’s been a really weird year,” said the music artist. Rico added the album was a way for him to reflect on what has taken place the past 365 days including finishing college, moving to Los Angeles, and dealing with being broke and single.
Rico was in a band, Audiodax, when he first moved to L.A. the band broke up for creative differences. Rico decided to stay on the West Coast and began the yearlong process of working on his solo project.
“It was either pack my bags and move back to Chicago or focus on a solo career and take the next step,” said Rico.
Rico didn’t let the group break-up deter him from his dreams which reiterates the determination he has in making music a career. He creates music about his struggles growing up and how he is still trying to find himself as a man.
One of his most intimate songs is about his race, entitled “Black Enough.” Rico comes from Black, Puerto Rican, and Filipino descent and in this song he says “I wasn’t black enough…I never rapped enough.”
“I was always this in between kid trying to figure out my identity and that messes with your head,” said Rico. “You start trying to compensate and say ‘I’ve got to be more black now’ or ‘I’ve got to be more Spanish.”
Rico’s mother, Lissette Acevedo, who is Puerto Rican and black, is his number one fan and she was shocked to hear the lyrics to a few of his songs.
“My mom’s supportive of everything. A lot of [the album] is about what I do with my life, how I feel as a man growing up and my coming of age,” said Rico. “I don’t talk to her about all that stuff so it’s kind of hard, but I think she respects the honesty.”
In addition to his mother Rico has the support of the rest of his family. Rico’s aunt, Lourdes Acevedo, stood by his side joking with him the night of his performance.
“I was there when you were born with your legs straight up in the air,” Acevedo said looking at her nephew with admiration. “Now you’re a grown man with a beard and stuff like Common rapping about Chicago, what’s up man?”
Rico’s father, Jose Luis Rivera, sums up his son’s work in a few words. “He’s got skills!”
Those skills are both natural and they were constructed during his college days where he majored in creative writing at DePauw University in Indiana.
“I had great teachers and they just challenged me. I took a bunch of poetry seminars and my writing has changed so much because I was challenged,” said Rico.
After the performance Rico was surrounded with the love of his family and friends that were excited to have him in town for the evening. Even though he didn’t appear to break a sweat during the performance he retreated to the back of the warehouse for a breather.
The performance left the audience a little more drunk, a little more hype and little more excited about Chicago’s music scene.