By Cameron Lee
July 6, 2020
When speaking of Carolina music, we often overlook the outskirts of major cities like Charlotte and Raleigh, where the roots of Southern gospel, folk, and soul have influenced many artists in modern day hip-hop and R&B. While Jon Graham, a.k.a. Matrix P, grew up in the small town of Belmont, his family’s roots were deep-seated in gospel music at the Hood Memorial AME Zion Church.
“My family, we’re a big singing family, my uncle is a gospel artist, and my cousin, he’s a gospel artist. We’ve always just been around that,” said Graham.
While Graham’s been singing for as long as he can remember, he didn’t take it seriously until he signed up for chorus at South Point High School in Belmont, the same place where he honed his rap skills. “I was always writing and freestyling at school, that’s what we would do when we showed up early, because everybody has to go to the cafeteria from the buses, everybody is beatin’ on the table and freestyling,” he said.
Trying out a lot of his material at Charlotte’s underground hip-hop open-mic event, MFGD, where he first got started, Matrix P has built an impressive catalog since his debut. He released his first project, Kuntry Woodstock, in 2015 on Bandcamp, and followed up with 2016’s Creek Water Hymns, a seven-track album that flexes his Southern-fried rap artistry with a mix of Houston-screwed sounds and a Jodeci-like accent, especially on tracks like “Lawd Ha’mercy (Interlude).” He followed up with Southern Fryed in 2018, a more refined Charlotte-centric Southern rap album that features fellow Carolina hip-hop stalwarts Elevator Jay and Buddy Cuz on “Southern Comfort,” violinist Emmanuel Wynter on “Subwoofer Interlude,” and the melodic slap, “Da 4 Way.”
Laying fairy low– now residing in Concord since 2018’s Southern Fryed– Graham has released an impressive summertime song and video for “Shell.” The bouncy turn-up track produced by DJ Chopp-A-Lot showcases Matrix P’s vocal versatility with all of the classic Southern drums/synths and a valiant horn emerging as the song rides out. Although the timing of the melodic cookout track may not fit the mood of our current social distancing environment, “Shell” recently won a North Carolina song contest sponsored by Swisher Sweets Artist Project. With a cash prize and an interview with DaBaby, the project will be rolling out exclusive content towards the end of the year.
The clever music video for “Shell” starts off with Graham texting with some friends before he dozes off into a psychedelic dance party with The Simpsons home as a backdrop. An animated gold-laden Matrix P dances along while he recites the day’s concoctions that will get him “shelled.” The video is as entertaining and lighthearted as the song, “Yeah, I’m shelled, I’ve been drinking, I’ve been smoking can you tell / I’m just trying to keep from tripping cause I’m shelled.” Created by Graham, from the animation to the editing, the song and video will further lay the foundation for the Belmont rapper/singer whose small town sound seems to be getting a lot louder.
Listen to “Shell,” and watch the music video by Matrix P.
2018’s Southern Fryed by Matrix P