I finally got around to writing something about Matthew Africa that I sent off to his sister for a book of memories she is compiling. I figured I might as well post it here too.
I don’t know when I met first met him. I know it was around the time I first moved to San Francisco out in some poorly lit bar hanging around having barely heard conversations with people I had just been introduced to because I was a stranger in this city. What I remember is getting tapped on the shoulder by my wife, who at that time was just my girlfriend, yelling in my ear she wanted me to meet her friend Matthew Africa. I turned to be greeted by a short man in a bright yellow trucker hat that said DRUNK on it. This was not what I was expecting, but Matthew was friendly enough and actually had more than just a ridiculously overly complicated handshake and small talk that usually came with being introduced to a stranger in a nightclub.
What I didn’t know at the time was that I would still be friends with Matthew some 9 years later. Over the course of those years I would see Matthew all over the city at parties and music events. As we became better friends we began to hangout more outside of just clubs and bars. He came to gatherings that I set up like Tall Can Marathon and Tamale Day. The latter of which he was actually able to bring his then girlfriend Ha Le too as I doubted she wanted anything to do with an event called Tall Can Marathon. He would always be offering a helping hand no matter what, even if I did turn down his offer to make carnitas for tamales. Sorry but I couldn’t trust a man with that last name to make decent carnitas no matter how nice he was. It didn’t bother him though he was just always happy to support his friends even if it was just showing up and being there. At one of the larger Tamale Days he djed while we cranked out some 500 tamales.
Matthew more than most always put in the effort to show up even at the smallest of events just because he cared and really wanted to support his friends. As time went on Matthew and our friend Stewart would usually make plans to grab a drink before a rap show we were both attending just to converse and hangout in a place we could actually hear each other talk. We usually discussed rap music we were excited about and what we thought of whatever was going on in the rap world. I particularly enjoyed those conversations and after a while I got an idea to do a podcast based on those conversations with Matthew.
I pitched the idea to Matthew and Stewart about the possibility of recording a podcast based on those conversations and playing music during a one hour show that we would put on the Internet just to see if anyone cared. Matthew instantly wanted to do it as we both shared a love for some really ignorant rap music. He felt like there was a lot of music he wanted to share and that it would keep him on his toes in regard to new raps. he even had access to a studio we could record at.
A year and a half later I was sitting at my desk picking songs for episode 33 of Stay Hatin’. As I listened to music I was also writing an email to Matthew and Stewart about confirming our recording for that Friday. I believe this was the first time I had ever emailed them about recording times. Matthew had always been the one keeping us all on schedule for recording sessions. I had no idea why he hadn’t emailed me I knew he had gone on vacation with his wife but I thought nothing of it.
I found out the next day why.
Over the course of doing the show Matthew and I had gotten to be better friends as we routinely saw each other we shared more than just what we thought about the latest Gunplay song. Sometimes if our schedules didn’t match up with the studio we would just record in my kitchen over a couple of beers. He had been to my home before but never with such frequency. Matthew became more than just my co-host that I relied on heavily to run the boards and keep my rambling in line. He was a constant in my life that I had become dependent on to share and learn things with. Even as I write this and listen to music I think of how I want to tell Matthew about a song titled “Time To Throw A Chair.” Not just because that was what I did every other Friday but because I loved when I could bring in a song to the show that just made him laugh. It didn’t even matter if the song was particularly good, it was just seeing Matthew smile made my day a little nicer.
While I did enjoy making him smile Matthew taught me more than just what new rap song I should listen too. I remember when we first started the show I was telling Matthew once that I wanted to discuss some music that I didn’t particularly care for just so that I could make fun of it. I thought it would be amusing and easy for me to do. Matthew disagreed and let me know that with all the music we listened to we we’re better off putting our energy into more constructive things like sharing and discussing music we actually liked. This wasn’t the first time we disagreed on something, he never did sell me on reggae, but with this it was a little different because it made my question how I approached things.
It’s was a simple idea but one that really stuck with me because all too often I find myself being an overly cynical person. What Matthew taught me was that rather than shaking my fist at the sky there was another approach. He impacted the way I viewed the world and interacted with people. I’m not going to lie, I am no Matthew, I still get caught up in negativity but he is always there tapping me on the shoulder asking me if it was really worth my energy. It never is. Matthew taught me to always look for a more constructive and positive approach even if it’s not something you agree with. Matthew made me a better person and for that I will always be grateful.
As I attempt to continue our show I have had to take on Matthews duties which was something I never even thought I would have to do. When I don’t know what to do or if I feel we are losing our focus I general think of how Matthew would handle it. I know I won’t be able to do the show the same without him but if as long as I follow the template he left us I’m sure we’ll be fine.
Thank you my friend, you made us all better.