A performance by Raven Matthews and DoNormaal presents a beautiful display of radical body-born talent, rendering a most remarkable response of bursting inspiration, with incredible raw delivery.
Raven Matthews and DoNormaal (Christy Karefa-Johnson) — who you may have seen at this year’s Bumbershoot festival or Capitol Hill Block Party, also founders of their own artist collective, 69/50 — are bringing a new and powerful style to the Seattle rap scene and to the experience of music as a whole. I sat down with the artists at their Seattle studio on a quiet Sunday morning, and we discussed their music, message and projects. The two met through a mutual artist and friend in the spring of 2011 while studying at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York.
Raven Matthews, an artist true to his craft, brings a rare, introspective but brilliantly energetic style to music, writing on topics ranging from self-acceptance, freedom, forgiveness, the process to meaning and love. Raven Matthews seamlessly creates sounds diverse to the ear and local to authenticity, fusing genres of hip-hop, experimental, alternative and grunge. He “wants people to feel empowered to be themselves” and wants to “challenge people’s idea of what music can be.” Matthews is an artist whose stage performance and every-day-identity aura breathes freedom from every angle. He occupies a specific realm of humanity that makes you identify with story, with life and storming question. He finds a way to speak to the voice we so often mute that is now, finding memory of all the dreams we have.
DoNormaal’s music is a perfectly comprised dual balance of rhythm and trance, with words that rival the best analogies ever read and packs strikingly clever punch lines with refreshingly witty self-declarations, preaching the preservation of our sacred existence. Her music, always stemming from her home base of hip-hop, is smooth, heavy, mysterious rap, as found on her latest album, “Jump or Die.” Her themes, often spiritual, effortlessly blend topics of family provision, minority oppressions, unheard intentions and unwavering self-determination. DoNormaal is in a sphere all her own. In performance, she is powerful and says that’s when she feels most so. In person, she is an incredibly gracious and humble spirit, speaking truth to the hearts of a heavy society. On message, she states that she “hopes to inspire people to find their own might and power.”
DoNormaal and Raven Matthews are relighting individuality and speak to accepting those things we typically keep silent and instead cherish them with adoration’s embrace.
For DoNormaal, a new project may come out in the “next couple months,” she said, with an exclaimed, “God willing.” Meanwhile, Raven Matthews’ third project, “Disco Christ,” came out Sept. 14. You can catch DoNormaal and Matthews at their 69/50 Seattle Residency Show every third Sunday at The Upstairs in Belltown at 8 p.m.