Matty Owens, a once-homeless and troubled teenager, was given a laptop by WWE superstar Austin Creed AKA Xavier Woods to make hip-hop beats on.
Then he stumbled upon the Hip-Hop Discord and freestyled live for Pusha T. Outside, in the snow.
The rest is history.
Hailing from Framingham, Massachusetts, a small town to the west of Boston, Matty had a rough upbringing. He’s had to travel upstream with a broken paddle since he was young. Things are looking better for Matty, though.
In 2016, he joined my Hip-Hop Discord, Discord’s largest hip-hop community. After joining in on a freestyle session, he made it clear that he had two intentions: to have fun, but more importantly, to make a name for himself.
Sounds like a pipe dream. Right?…
It’s been 3 years since Matty first freestyled off the hood of a car in the middle of the night in our first ever freestyle contest. His story is as unique as it gets, and it felt like something that should be out there. I conducted this interview in February of ’19. We hit the ground running.
Start from the beginning, take us way back. How does it all start out?
My mom’s been suffering from bipolar disorder the majority of her adult life, and because of this, we would fight often. Clash with each other. With depression on top of that, mood swings were common. Our relationship was never that well-off, and since my parents went through a divorce when I was a toddler, it’s only been the two of us, so things were always a bit shaky. `` I never was good in school, but I took interest in subjects as an escape. It always struck me as something strange at the time, because like I said, my grades were never good due to the situation at home and just being demotivated constantly. Teachers would give praise for comprehending course material several years ahead of what was expected, concepts that went beyond what other kids were comprehending.
My mom wouldn’t brush it off, but due to our relationship, she didn’t appreciate it as much as I would have liked her to at that age. She claimed that it was because I had some sort of mental disorder, or was crazy, and eventually I actually underwent a full psychiatric evaluation when I was 8. The results came out fine, the only outlier being that my working memory index was quite high, in fact, higher than almost any other kids my age which had been tested.
I’m not sure if that holds true today, a decade and a half later, but I like to think that’s why I can freestyle very well without much effort. It’s really helpful; full song lyrics take just a few minutes to memorize on first glance, which is beneficial to freestyle on the fly (or off the top).
How did it go down?
Throughout middle school, I did terrible. It was rough. With my mother’s mental disorder on the edge at times, it was a difficult balance. During one altercation with her, she ended up calling the police to claim that I was about to kill myself.
Just as an aside, I have never thought such, nor have I ever been suicidal. Depressed, sure, but never to that sort of degree. Especially not at that age.
So once my mom said that, it resulted in me being put up in a mental hospital for 3 months. That meant I fell behind 3 months in school, because I wasn’t able to do any school work for the duration of my stay. When I finally went back to school, the school announced where I had been. As you can imagine, this didn’t sit as something normal with classmates, and everyone came to hate me. The weird kid, that was me.
Weight was also a struggle; during my stay in the mental hospital, due to the meals they served you on-demand, I ended up gaining nearly 100lbs. I was very obese as a child. So now I wasn’t just the fat kid at school, I was the crazy fat kid.
There was no escape; there were kids in the hospital which you could tell by seeing them, interacting with them, were in a troubled state of mind or had legitimate issues. Then there I was, no issues whatsoever except a high memory index, sort of just coasting. No one understood it.
Once I was discharged, I read the initial report as to why I was admitted. I had to access to such information, but it came to light that my mom had spread the misinformation of a failed suicide attempt.
School was fucked. Life was fucked. Video games were an escape for me, and that’s when I started playing video games, every day, all day, at any chance possible.
This place called Game Underground was my spot.
My personality, sense of humor, it was developed there. Friends from a young age were people in their 20’s with similar interests in video games. I owe my life to them.
You want to throw out a quick shout to that store specifically? They still in business or?
For sure, for sure. That store will come up later in the story. They play a big part.
Got it, so by this time you’re entering high school?
The high school stuff. Yes. So I’m going to a private high school for a year, hate it. Don’t vibe with it at all, not my sort of scene. My mom is hospitalized twice for her mental issues during that year, and things spin out of control, so I end up having to move in with my grandmother, then back with my mom, then with my grandmother, then back with my mom.
Shit grades, leave the private school, then go to a public high school in Framingham. Ended up falling in love with the music and theater program they had going on.
As many high school kids do these days, they turn to weed to mellow things out when chaos seems to be happening all around. I did the same, and shit hit the fan when my mom found out. She threatened to get me kicked out of the theater program and all extracurricular activities I was attending at the time; I couldn’t let this happen, because I needed those as sort of guidelines to stay on the right path, and stay away from my house as much as possible during each day.
Every single day after school, my backpack and other belongings would be searched through by my mom, to see if I was carrying weed or something related. This caused a lot of stress, and because there was a lack of trust, simple things like doing homework which some may take for granted as just another task to do after school, became nearly impossible for me.
How old were you at the time?
I was 16. My mom would kick me out if she suspected weed was around, then she would contact the cops and say I ran away. It was pretty weird. Literally, would kick me out and force me to couch surf, then call authorities to claim that I had gone on the run.
It wasn’t something I could contain or handle, balancing this drama and school, so I asked a friend if I could stay with him some days. Of course, I wasn’t able to stay with him every single night, so this is when I became homeless. At 16 years of age, in high school.
Living with my friend, he would let me live in his car during the night. I was living at my best friend Eli’s house, my other friend Jackson’s house. Each school day, I would not care about the actual material being taught; it was not a place where I was looking to excel or prove myself. Between the time I stepped foot in the school to the second my feet left the door to go home, my sole purpose was to find out where my home was that day. During theater rehearsal I would ask people if I could catch a night at their house, or ask friends during lunch if they could let me sleep at their crib.
That must have been tough. They must have caught on eventually?
They did know, yeah. Everyone in the school was aware of the situation, and I would regularly consult with the school administration about options. However, administration would always side with my mom and her claims, as she was an adult. I was a troubled 16-year-old kid. As a kid, you don’t have clout to sway adults’ opinions in those type of situations.
On my 17th birthday, the school called a meeting collectively among the administration, to get me to go back to my mom’s house. They said in short, if I did not return to my actual home with my mom, I would not be allowed to attend school any further. Talks of CPS and classification of me being an “at-risk youth” were discussed.
After that day, my trust for the school’s system was broken. I remember one of the higher-ups came up to me one morning when I walked in, and he leaned over and whispered softly into my ear “Hey, Matt… you know you looked nicer when you were living at home, right?” and I had to tell him “Yeah, that tends to happen when I have access to my clothes,” just straight up.
I was mentally checked out. They were barring me from theater, extra curricular activities, the whole nine yards. I dropped out, and got my GED. After that, I found work at a bakery.
You were making music for about two years at this point, lets backtrack a bit and talk about how that’s happening during this, up until you got your GED.
Right, so this is where we can swing back to Game Underground in Moody, Massachussetts. I started going here when I was 12, and this is my favorite place of all-time. It made me who I am today.
The first time I went there was because I went to GameStop, there was a WWE game coming out. WWE 2k9. I’ve watched wrestling my whole life, and it’s a passion of mine, I love it so much.
I was there to get the game, day of release, saved up forever to get this game. There was this big guy with a ponytail, with a fake championship belt and flyers he was handing out. Being the ostentatious kid I was at the time, I of course went right up to him and asked what the hype was all about.
“My name is Jamie, I work for a video game store called Game Universe. We’re having a tournament for WWE 2k9 at Game Universe, today at 6PM. These are some flyers; if you win, you get to be the ‘champion’ and you can wear this belt.”
Game Universe is what it was called at the time. I was geeking out as a kid at the news of this. It’s 6PM and I’m there, and there are some independent wrestlers there playing the game with kids there. Most of the people who showed up were younger, but there was a mix. Too scared to enter the tournament, I just spectated, but the place was like a whole new world to me, and I became a regular after that night.
Speed up a bit and it’s 2012 now. I was there daily, it was my escape. Talked about wrestling, listen to music on my terrible laptop, and play video games with other regulars. That WWE game that I sucked at before, I was a master at it by now, and I used to flex on people by playing one-handed, with one hand tied behind my back, and beat them.
WWE 2k12 was the one I was the best at. I was the ‘champion’ for 2 years straight, and we started making a little show out of this, you can actually look this up on YouTube. In retrospect it’s cringey, but it was all I had at the time going for me in my life.
Jamie had become the owner of the store by this point, and they started branching out to more well-known wrestling people. Among them was an up-and-comer named Austin Creed, passing through. So Jamie calls up while I’m in the store, and he goes, verbatim:
“Hey, my name is Jamie and I own Game Underground, I’d love to have you come through since you’ll be nearby for the taping of SmackDown,”
So he came through the store.
Austin’s very with it when it comes to video games, do I have that right? He seems genuinely into the scene and very up-to-date on stuff.
He’s very much into video games; he has the most-subscribed video games channel on YouTube.
That’s my dad, that’s my father, my inspirational figure. He pushed me further and harder than anyone in my life to strive for what I wanted to achieve.
So about him coming through the store; my mentality for anyone famous or with notoriety, if I had the opportunity to meet them, I wouldn’t ever take pictures and I just wanted to connect with them. I was just a kid, but I wanted to make that special impression that it wasn’t about a selfie, or a post on Facebook.
From the rip, when I met Austin, I was talkin’ smack. It was non-stop smack talk about the WWE game, I wanted to play him and win. I was confident.
“You wanna play this game? There is no way you’ll win. I will zip-tie one hand behind my back.”
He laughed and said he liked that character I was putting on.
We played the game, and I put the championship on the line. That was the first day I met him, he was there with Big E [Langston]. The whole time we were playing, I struck conversation with Big E about TV shows, something we both loved. I put a big chunk of the extra money I had into Netflix, and Bojack Horseman had just come out the previous August.
Big E said he didn’t have Netflix at the time, so I lent him my own Netflix account. I gave him Netflix, which was insane to me. A WWE wrestler on my Netflix!
After that we were friends, me and Austin and Big E.
How do you guys stay in touch? Was this over text messages or Skype or?
Twitter. They would also come back every 3 or 4 months when the event was in town. One day I made a song in 2014. Still homeless, and still struggling to make music in any way that I could with my terrible laptop that was falling apart. The song itself was horrible, it wasn’t mixed or engineered, and I didn’t have the necessary means to learn or create music in the fashion desired.
I sent the song to Austin, and he replied within 3 hours, to the effect of:
“Yo, this sounds cool, I like the part where you say the beat is shitty,”
He said that in jest, because on the song, I rhymed that the beat was shitty, as I made everything myself, beat included. [laughs]
He was really supportive of it, and he wanted me to send him some more music. It was strange since the song was so bad, but he was mad [very] supportive. The laptop eventually died out, and I had to message him that I’d like to send more music, but my laptop died.
Right away, he asked for my email. I sent it. He told me to check my phone, and he sent me $1,300 via PayPal. I used every cent of that right away to buy a MacBook. I’m using that same MacBook right now, while we talk.
The exact same one?
Yes. He also sent me a Native Instruments machine. He told me:
“Make some more music with this, son,”
We had kind of a fun relationship like that. He would always hook me up with seats very close to the front at local shows, even bringing me backstage to a WWE Raw once. I met Ric Flair.
Ric Flair introduced himself to me, he shook my hand, and asked me my name. It blew my mind.
“I see you’re with Austin, that means you’re a good person!”
I’ll never forget Ric Flair telling me that, it was surreal, like a fever dream. There’s footage backstage of me with Austin at that very WWE event, on his UpUpDownDown channel.
You’ll see me with Byron Saxton. Austin kept calling me Cheerio, I told him I was Matty-O!
There you are in the background, I see you!
Byron is a great guy, Austin, Kofi, Big E, everyone. Austin was still on the come up.
I remember Austin telling me the idea of the New Day before the New Day was a thing, a group.
What’s crazy is I have an autograph from him that I’ve had since 2006. It’s was destiny. [laughs]
Now at this point, does Austin or any of the guys have any idea about the situation at the house? About you being homeless?
Not at all, he’s doing this all out of goodwill. He believes in me, some way or somehow.
Austin was always helping me out, even if he didn’t know it, so much. I started getting better at hip-hop and making music. I used to go on this subreddit called /r/makinghiphop. I built up my skills, then I made a song with ADP and this producer named Let’s Run or something, and it blew up on the subreddit.
That’s when I thought, to myself, “Oh, I can actually make music…”
Just spitting what I was feeling at the time. I had just gotten kicked out of my house. The lyrics reflect my emotions.
That was the first song I tried singing on. I just was a self-learner, in the car or shower. Austin actually re-posted the song on his Twitter. He put it on his Twitter, then commented like “This is my favorite track of the day,” or something. It was unreal, it gave me a ton of fuel to go into music headfirst.
I was so hungry, I wanted to freestyle so bad. Just looking anywhere I could, so I typed in “places to freestyle reddit” on Google. That’s when I joined the Hip-Hop Discord.
Wow, so that’s how it all started. Go more into that and of course, the famous pic of you freestyling off a car hood.
Yeah. I needed to let some emotions out through rhymes, and wanted to freestyle. At this point I had been back in my mom’s house for a bit, but she goes to bed really early, so she was freaking out that I was freestyling at what, 7-8PM? I had to improvise.
I took my whole interface and my mic outside. That’s the first night I was ever in the server, during the freestyle contest. Discord actually tweeted that out back when they were smaller.
Yeah I remember Zac [Citron] throwing out a tweet when he used to run the Twitter.
Right, and I DM’d them and they said they were playing some of my music in the office. They big-timed me later, but still. Respect to them for that. [laughs]
So, I was just feelin’ myself. Heavy. I was still out of school, not doing anything really, not capitalizing stuff. I went to PAX East, met my friend Eric there.
I was at PAX East working for Jamie, for Game Underground. I walk by this booth, called “NERDS” and I’m not sure what it is at the time. Most music you hear at PAX is 8-bit chiptune shit, but they were playing really dope music, old school hip-hop at this booth. Some Biggie Smalls.
I go in there, start looking at clothes, then I go back to my booth, but I wanted to go back to that NERDS booth. I had saved up about $300 to my name at that point, and I wanted to buy some shirts.
Right as I’m going in, Eric, who I didn’t know at all at the time, says:
“Wait a second, you seem familiar. Weren’t you on UpUpDownDown with Xavier Woods?”
I was like “Yeah, bro!” and he says:
“Yeah, I know Austin, I know Xavier. Text him right now, tell him you’re with ‘Eric’ from NERDS.”
So I obliged, and lo and behold, I get a text instantly back from Austin exclaiming how cool that was.
“Eric?! I just did shirts with him! He works with us at the WWE!”
Eric gave me a ton of discounts on his clothes, I think I dropped $180 at his booth that day. From that day on, he gave me a jacket for free, I went on stage with him and MegaRan, I believe in destiny.
The world talks too much for me not to listen to it.
Things are starting to click, finally.
That’s what it seems like at that point, but I fall into depression. I found myself in a slump for a good 6 months, not making music, totally demotivated, living day-to-day. In a rut.
That’s when I met this producer named Mateus through another local artist I know. Me and Mateus click immediately. He’s a very talented producer, very efficient, high quality and beautiful technique.
We made that song, Rebolar, in early 2017. So, I joined the server, I met Mateus, I make Rebolar, I’m getting out of this funk.
All of this great stuff’s happening, and it’s on the up.
That’s what it sounds like. From there, it’s basically just a constant process of you preparing and making music, up until present.
Right. That’s basically my story up until now, between 2017 and present, I’ve been non-stop in the studio, making music, making connections, networking, and becoming healthy. I’ve lost over 150lbs, and am feeling the happiest I’ve ever felt.
So, what’s the goal here? What do you want to become?
I don’t want to be boxed into a hip-hop/rapper type image. I don’t want to me just another name that makes songs or music. I want to be a multi-faceted artist. Clothes, film, music.
I want to change the world, I’m not stoppin’. People always ask me what want to do, and I want to do everything. I know I can’t do that, but changing the world can be enough.
The world talks to me, so I’ve gotta talk back.
It’s this type of confidence that very well might make a name for Matty Owens in the hip-hop landscape.
Three days after this interview took place, Pusha T came into our Hip-Hop Discord, and listened to the energy we had culminating within our freestyle channel. Freestylers from around the world, spitting rhymes.
Pusha T and the Heir FM team aren’t guests, they’re family to us. This was Pusha’s second time dropping in to check out what we were up to.
Matty’s on his feet now, but he just can’t seem to shake the issue of freestyling in peace. As Pusha rolled through our server, Matty found himself yet again in a pickle. He had to make the most of this opportunity, but it was snowing out, his roommate was asleep, and he was yelling at Matty that he had to sleep for work and was getting up in a few hours.
So what was Matty to do but walk half a mile in the snow and plug in that very MacBook Austin gave him, so that he could tell people he freestyled for Pusha T at 3AM on a snowy night, right? A testament to Matty’s hunger and drive.
Where will he be in 5 years’ time?
The world speaks to Matty; how can he not talk back?