Urbanolgy chops it up with one of the city’s nicest.
When Matthew Progress takes the stage, it’s not just about him, it’s about the gang.
Headlining one of Toronto’s monthly hip-hop shows, The Hustle, at the local Drake Hotel, Matthew Progress follows fellow local emcees F.E.L.N. and Prince Rose on the line-up. He jumps on stage in a white beanie and shirt that bleeds to red under the spotlight overhead.
Everyone in the room piles up at the edge of the stage. As he grips the mic, his rough voice cuts through the room in rapid fire verse, with DJ Bambii behind him handling the rhythm.
Progress calls out, “A lot of people I call family are in this room right now, and that’s the gang. Make some noise if you’re in the gang.”
The crowd knows exactly what to do.
The 29-year-old Toronto rapper has gone from freestyling in the corners of his high school and working with the city’s Freedom Writers collective, to landing mentions on popular American websites, but he’s still maintained a genuine connection with other local artists.
“He’s someone that we’ve gotten to know,” says Crossword, one of the organizers behind The Hustle. “He’s out at events; he supports.”
At least a third of the show-goers inside the venue are a familiar face to Matthew Progress.
Before the show, from his seat on a couch in the hall, he either smiles, tilts his chin or stands to greet everyone with a ‘hey, what’s up’ as they walk past; then he directs them downstairs where electro hip-hop beats reverberate.
“I guess it comes from just doing different things in different spaces,” he says, about his popularity.