Teen titan

Matt Ox. Photo by Leon Laing.

With working on a new album, appearing at events and preparing for high school, Matt Ox stays busy.

He’s performing at Rolling Loud this weekend. And on May 9 at the University of Delaware, he opened up Playboi Carti. On April 13, the Warner Bros. signee did a meet and greet at the Art History 101 store in Philadelphia.

His fans range from teens to adults.

Ox, 14, has collaborated with credible rappers including Lil Uzi Vert, Valee, Lil Tracy, Chief Keef and the late XXXTentacion.  On the web, Matt freestyles in a video with Uzi. The XXXTentacion collab is called “$$$.” Ox’s oohs on the infectious hook helped to breathe air into the song. His mother Laurel Grau says the collabs are organic.

I attended the meet and greet in Philly to learn more about this teenage phenom. I drove from Harrisburg, but Grau says people came as far as Tennessee to meet her son.

The temperature climbed to 76 degrees that day. When I arrived, Ox was hanging outside with his cohorts/collaborators including Zeus and Flacko. His signature hair, which hung freely like dreads, veiled his young face. He did the woah dance and skateboarded, pastimes that are common for a person his age.  But after holding a convo with him, I discovered he’s wise beyond his years. A reporter asked why he supports the Art History 101 store.

“You can’t become rich without enriching others,” Ox replies.

Oogie Man, he killed it
Ox gained his 615K Instagram followers from his viral video for “Overwhelming.” The go-to producer Oogie Mane (of Working on Dying) produced the song. Ox told interviewers that he incorporated the fidget spinners to make the video more marketable — it garnered 26 million views. Grau credits “Overwhelming” for her son’s success, but she also says Ox is “not the fidget-spinner kid.” With his talent, he’s more than that.

The videographer shot “Overwhelming” in the Fountainville section of Philly, which is near their home in Lawncrest. Ox’s grandparents grew up in Fountainville, so the video has sentimental value.

“Everyone was excited about it,” Grau explains. “Flacko [still] lives on that block.”

Grau has connections in the rap industry. After I complimented Tierra Whack, another talented rapper from Philly, Ox’s mom says she attended high school with Whack’s manager. Grau also went to grade and high school with Lil Zubin from Working on Dying.

“It was kinda like the stars aligned,” Grau says about knowing Zubin. “And then we started working together. And then within four months, ‘Overwhelming’ goes viral.”

No Jumper
Matt did an hourlong interview with No Jumper two years ago. During the interview, he and Adam22 discussed the launching of No Jumper. I told Ox and Grau that my colleague, George Potter, helped to start No Jumper. The relationship between Adam22 and Potter turned sour, I add.

“Matt’s learning that, too,” Grau affirms about the ups and downs of the music industry. “You have to learn how to navigate it. And sometimes you have to make tough choices … it could determine your future.”

By Leon Laing
Additional reporting by Christian Laing

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