Mathias Boyar ’20 succeeds with debut EP ‘Hangup’

February 9, 2018

Mathias Boyar ’20, who raps under the mononym Mathias, just released his debut EP, “Hangup,” last Friday, Feb 2 . When I approached him in the Slosberg lobby, he initially didn’t notice me, lost in the music from his headphones. He sat with a large black instrument case next to him, maybe a guitar or bass; I later learned he had brought it for a three-hour jam class after our meeting. As soon as I greeted him and sat down, we were off, discussing his origins in hip-hop, his unorthodox recording methods and possible plans for the future.

Mathias comes from a musical family, but none of his family members were ever particularly interested in hip-hop, instead favoring classic and glam rock such as Queen or David Bowie. He first discovered hip-hop through watching the music video for Eminem’s “My Name Is” on MTV when he was 10. Shortly after, he started talking about hip-hop with his friends, and one of them suggested he listen to a rapper who would soon become one of Mathias’ favorite: Aesop Rock.

Aesop Rock’s influence on Mathias is clear on “Hangup.” Like the seminal indie rapper, Mathias utilizes a tricky, serpentine flow that makes his words a challenge to follow but still pack a rewarding emotional punch. Although his beats tend to lean closer to simple rhythms he could easily glide over, Mathias instead chooses to craft circuitous rhymes that defy the production’s inviting cadences. This skill with twisted flows adds a layer of complexity to his style that is further compounded by the sound of his production.

A music composition major, Mathias produces his own beats using a program called Logic and uses live instrumentation to supplement the digital elements wherever necessary. His production style is unique, a varied mix of digitally programmed percussion, keyboards and live guitar flourishes and riffs to punctuate his melodies. In fact, on the final track, Scaffolding, Mathias even introduces live drums on the verses, which breathes natural life into the track that programmed drums can’t quite capture.

His production mixes bright, relaxed indie pop rock with elastic hip-hop rhythms to create a sound entirely his own. As Mathias described to me in the interview, he would often come up with the bare chords or melody on guitar and then begin translating these melodies into keyboard lines and adding percussion with Logic. His writing and recording process was largely individual, save for the couple of singing and rapping features in the EP’s second half and the mixing/mastering process. Most of “Hangup” was recorded on weekend trips home, and even occasionally under his bedsheets in his dorm. Laughing, he recalled to me a time when he had to record the chorus for a track under the covers while somebody was vacuuming down the hall, indicating that this first outing into hip-hop was far from a “professional” affair.

Lyrically, “Hangup” deals with social anxiety and insecurity and how Mathias deals with these issues. One of the EP’s most interesting features is the meta-narrative about Mathias stressing out over other people’s’ opinions of the songs on “Hangup,” which is woven throughout the record using a series of voicemails left by friends. Mathias told me this concept for the EP started when he showed the first track he recorded—a working version of the opener, Coy—to one of his friends and asked for feedback. The song deals with Mathias’ general insecurities, which his friend advised might not be the best way to hook listeners into the album and keep them interested. Intrigued by this opinion, Mathias sought to make “Hangup” revolve around the detrimental influence of other people’s’ opinions on his art and his struggle to maintain his individual style in the face of external doubt. It’s an interesting idea that is developed throughout the EP, making the 20-minute listen feel quite substantial considering its short runtime.

Looking toward the future, Mathias aims to refine and perfect his current mix of indie pop, jazz and hip-hop before looking to expand his sound palette. Since his first instrument was the drums, Mathias expressed great interest in searching for uncommon, challenging rhythms that would better fit his twisted flow and push him as an artist. He was also enthusiastic towards the idea of incorporating a live band into his beats beyond the snippets of guitar and drums heard throughout the EP. Considering the potential shown with live instrumentation on “Hangup,” I’d have to agree—although the EP has an interesting style, more complex, human-played rhythms and intricate melodies would elevate Mathias’ music to be even better than it is now.

Mathias presents a great amount of potential on “Hangup.” From his circuitous flow to his intricately emotional lyrics and fully formed production style, this project is clearly only just beginning for him. Equipped with the confidence of having completed his first recording, I can only imagine where Mathias’ pop prowess and adeptness with rhythm will take his music next. One can only hope Mathias’ next album will expand upon the ideas presented in “Hangup” and refine them to become even more complex and vast than before.

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