If there’s ever a person you don’t forget, it’s a kindred spirit. And if you happen to be an anomaly when it comes to music and the business that encompasses it, they come along once every five years – if you’re lucky. I only knew Matthew Africa for about a month and a half (and in person for about six hours), but he was an individual that immediately struck me as someone of that ilk.
While waiting to play my 45 set at Disco Volante in Oakland, DJ E Da Boss dropped a 45 that froze my brain. Funky, ass-kickin’ 45s I’ve never heard come a dime a dozen, but this one gave me the a go at the password to unlock a 20-plus year mystery. Audio Two’s “Undercover Hooker” isn’t a song title you can just throw out there and people know what the hell you’re talking about, so trying to pin down the source of its addictive horn sample is an exercise in futility. Even the song’s producer, King of Chill, refused to tell me with an accompanying giggle and jab: “Word! You’ll find it one day. Keep diggin!”
Before I could run over to E Da Boss to have one of my greatest hip-hop mysteries revealed, Matthew calmly told me the name of the record. “That Audio Two song, right? I could’ve told you that.”
Two hours earlier, I was on Matthew’s Stay Hatin’ podcast with he and partners Serg Dun and Soft Money, bantering in agreement about the brilliant ign’ance of two of my personal favorite rap groups, Too Much Trouble and The Convicts. Fifteen minutes prior, Matthew had given me a CD of two of his mixes – a Too $hort tribute and Hard As Fuck, he and Serg’s bow-throwin’, bitch-beatin’, trick-whoopin mix of thuggish party anthems that all probably missed the Hustle and Flow soundtrack cut by a hi-hat. Two hours later, he gave me props for my DJ set, then reeled off the names of a handful of the songs with the memory of an elephant and the knowledge of a funk librarian. And those exchanges in the five short hours I knew Matthew in the flesh embodied what I related to and respected so much about him – he loved, appreciated, understood, studied, and represented all types of music and all forms of media that encompass it (podcasts, DJing, blogging, collecting ,etc.) with a level of passion that has been elusive in my years in this business. Matthew embarked on that rare full journey of fan, to student; to participant; to scholar; to professor – that allowed him to see it, execute it, and embrace it in ways most can’t. From early ‘80s boogie music to bitch-whoopin’ Trick Trick records, simply put, Matthew just “got it.” And paramount to all of this? He was an even better person, a stand-up cat who was always smiling and on the good foot for the short time I knew him.
I won’t contemplate why a tragedy of this magnitude happened to a person of Matthew’s caliber. All I can say is hip-hop lost a great soldier and even greater person. But the gems and memories he left behind will continue to motivate, entertain, and inspire us to have passion for and master what we do. Thank you, Matthew, for supporting what I do and sharing your greatest attributes with us. A kindred spirit will continue to live on as long as those motivated by him continue doing what they’re doing. Rest in peace.