How Matt Citron Turned Heartbreak and Change into Triumph

Atlanta is known for turning out hip hop heavy weights and serves as training grounds for up and coming rappers. Couple that with New York sensibilities and you get the sounds of Matt Citron. The Atlanta based rapper just released his latest project Final Moments of Forever, a deeply personal look at all the heartbreak and triumph the 22-year-old rapper has experienced up until now.

Story | Zara Hurtado

 – The Lunch Table Exclusive Interview with Matt Citron

Raised in Atlanta, Citron picked up heavy influences from his parents who were from New York, the busy travel basketball scene in Atlanta and the southern small town charm of South Carolina, giving his sound what has often been credited as “East Coast meets South.” He eventually spent a year and a half in New York as an acting major at Adelphi where he coexisted in the worlds of acting and collegiate basketball.

Even though he had played basketball his whole life, it wasn’t until college that Citron realized he was starting to fall out of love with the game. During his time at school in South Carolina, he took an intro to acting course and found his potential as an artist. Already in the process of leaving to a new school in New York, Citron decided to drop his business major and made sure to find a school with both a Division II basketball and acting program. “That one year up at Adelphi was the most transformative, that’s where I realized that I’m really an artist,” he explained. “Artist first, musician or actor second but bottom line before I’m a rapper or musician I’m an artist. Discovering that was probably the most liberating thing in my life.”

Citron’s dedication as an artist translates through his music, where he allows himself to be completely honest and vulnerable as a songwriter. For him, the songwriting process isn’t about hitting a key market or spelling out his experiences word for word. It’s about being transparent with his listeners. “The more I focus on not necessarily telling my story in the most detailed fashion but focus on the emotions and relationships in my life, that’s what people connect to the most,” he said. “I’m not trying to cater to anyone, but get deeply into myself.”

Drawn to the ideas of love and passion as well as the bonds that strengthen them and the strains that dissolve them, deep human connections are something that play a huge role in Citron’s music. “Romantic relationships are always going to be a heavy theme in my music because of how much I put into them,” he said. “I tweeted out a couple weeks ago, ‘How long it takes me to write a song: two years to build and ruin a relationship, 30 minutes to write about it.’ That’s the perfect summing up of how my relationships and music interact.” Citron romanticizes past relationships in his music and speaks on the realities of living without the person you love. It’s this kind of honesty about changing relationships that makes his music so raw.

Before Final Moments of Forever even dropped, Citron had been working on an unreleased album, A Sudden Falling in Transit. This was during a time when the rapper had to use his school’s gym for wifi, saw some of his personal relationships fall apart and eventually dropped out of college. The transitions he made during this time were a huge force to keep moving Citron forward until he eventually signed to Brooklyn Knights, an independent record label owned by Sony.

As he became more recognized as an artist, he noticed people around him started treating him differently. Friends overstepped boundaries, relationships fell apart and the dynamic between Citron and people in his inner circle changed. “You have to be careful how you move and who you move with. The stakes get higher and if someone acts badly it’s going to reflect badly on your name,” he said. “Especially in the music industry. If you burn one bridge, you burn 100.”

Matt Citron Interview | The Lunch Table Exclusive
Courtesy of Matt Citron

2016 was a big year for Citron, with the release of a new album and a feature on Spotify’s Most Necessary playlist. Getting featured on the playlist was great for exposure, but to him it was one step in the creative process. Citron never doubted he could get himself to this point. “I have always been the kind of person who believed in what I was doing, I never think of a plan B,” Citron explained. “I have this mindset where, if you don’t let me in through the door, I’m gonna bust in through the wall.”

Backed by a major label and with a tour under his belt, people realized that Citron was onto something big. He wasn’t just a local rapper anymore who spent nights watching Netflix with a box of Cheez-It’s. That 17-year-old confidently stood by his dream, and now at 23 he’s seeing it grow into something larger than anyone might have thought. Even though he deals with people who want to question him as an artist, Citron is over that and remains true to his priorities. “I’m not worried about the pettiness of Tom from high school who didn’t fuck with me back then and is now all over my shit. That’s just petty,” he said. “I’m focused on myself, my family and my closest friends so the petty things that you think matter actually don’t.”

Citron is currently taking a step back and giving himself some downtime in between projects. Always in a creative mode, he’s already working on music videos for his latest project. “I appreciate visual art so it’s cool to express myself that way too. Now that I already have the songs out, I’m excited to do shit that people aren’t really doing.”

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