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  • Meet the Artist: Matthew “Hazel” Worku

    Photo: Ian Brown

    Matthew “Hazel” Worku is an 18 year-old emerging spoken word artist and rapper from Jungle (Lawrence Heights). He has performed at Soho House, collaborated with Unity Charity and recently graduated from the Ada Slaight Youth Arts Mentorship Program. We chatted with Hazel about his artistic practice.

    How would you describe Hazel the Artist?

    I would describe Hazel as introspective and aware.

    Why Hazel?

    In grade 8 I misspelled the word “hashtag” on Twitter and wrote hazel. Since then it has become a part of me.

    How long have you practiced rap and poetry? How did you get started?

    I wrote my first piece in grade 8; I experienced hard times with my family and expressed it through poetry. In grade 11 I started rapping.

    Who has influenced you?

    My mom has been the strongest influence in my life. Witnessing my mom work three jobs has inspired me to hold myself to a higher standard. Musically, my first influence was Andre 3000. I heard a verse of his music and I knew I wanted to sound like he did.

    What artist are you currently listening to? And is there anyone you would like to collaborate with?

    I’m currently listening to 112, an R&B group from the 90s, and a lot of Common. I really relate to Kendrick Lamar; he has become part of my day-to-day life. I’d love to work with Mustafa the Poet, do a photo shoot with Don Charleone and collaborate with Davey Jazz, the visual artist.

    Why have you chosen spoken word & rap?   

    I didn’t choose it; it chose me. I’ve always had something to say and I’ve always been fascinated by words. Writing is a way for me to express myself.

    Why did you take a chance on the Ada Slaight Youth Arts Mentorship Program?  

    My friend Zacky Zeko recommended the program to me. I also felt like I had nothing to lose. I chose to stay because I realized what this program was about very quickly. I realized the staff people [at Daniels Spectrum] are serious and passionate about what they do.

    Being in Regent Park [for the program] actually changed my perspective on my own neighbourhood. Regent Park is already well into its revitalization and Jungle is going through the same process. So I feel like being in Regent for the past half year has made me see into the future of my own community. Regent has Daniels Spectrum; what’s my community going to have? Where can the kids in my community go to be themselves?

    “Like My Art” – By Matthew “Hazel” Worku

     

    Where do you see yourself in five years?  

    I’ll be graduating from university and working on my debut hip hop/rap album. I want to combine rap and spoken word instead of separating them.

    What are your thoughts on the current state of the Toronto arts and rap scene?

    I think Toronto is undergoing an artistic renaissance. OVO and XO are powerhouses that have opened doors for my genre. Online, people are posting about art…it’s beautiful to witness. Right now is Toronto’s time. We’re going to create something that the world has never seen.

    Where do you see yourself in five years?  

    I’ll be graduating from university and working on my debut hip hop/rap album. I want to combine rap and spoken word instead of separating them.

    Find Hazel on Twitter https://twitter.com/mw_hazel  and Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mw_hazel.

     

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