Blackbear Talks Ne-Yo, ANONYMOUS and Finding a Cure

With an album set to drop on April19th rapper Blackbear is expected to make massive waves on the R&B charts in 2019. Born Matthew Tyler Musto, Blackbear left high school in the ninth grade to focus on music. By 17, he’d left home to work on his solo career with Ne-Yo in Atlanta, and in a few short years, went on to collaborate with musicians such as Justin Bieber, G-Eazy, Mike Posner and Machine Gun Kelly. However, despite taking the industry by storm, Blackbear has dealt with some serious personal struggles along the way. In 2016, he was diagnosed with necrotizing chronic pancreatitis and underwent multiple surgeries. But, despite the threat that this condition put on his life, Blackbear showed no signs of slowing down—releasing two studio albums in 2017. Now he’s ready to share his latest project with the world and, in his own words, describes this album as his “best work to date.”

Photo by Tristan Edouard

Photo by Tristan Edouard

What did your family think when you dropped out of high school to pursue music full time? My family was very unsure and they told me to have a “plan B” until I did my publishing deal at 21 for over a million dollars. Then I tattooed my neck to prove I’ll never become a lawyer.

While you’re known as an R&B artist today, you initially began your music career in a rock band? What inspired you to switch genres? I feel like I just learned a whole new world when I was studying under Ne-Yo when I was about 17. I was living on Ne-Yo’s manager’s couch, making three songs a day. My music became more hip-hop influenced, based on the producers I was working with before I learned to produce my own music later on.

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In addition to recording your own music, you’ve also gained a reputation as a songwriter. What went into co-writing Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” and how did the success of this song push you to focus on your own music? I was born for the stage, so while I’m young I’m gonna give that to the world. Plus, with the songs I like to write, many A&Rs, labels, and artists would pass them on but they’d go gold or platinum when I put them out. I still write and produce for others, but it’s rare. I have to be a big fan, i.e.: Miguel, Relient K, Galantis, Marshmello, G-Eazy, Machine Gun Kelly, Stalking Gia, the list goes on and on.

In both 2015 and 2017, you released two full-length albums. What is your process for writing, recording and promoting two albums in just 12 months? It’s a process, to say the least. I like to be the captain of my ship and be involved with everything from stage production, merch, art, and rollouts.

Spencer Miller

Your third studio album, Digital Druglord, features what some might call a controversial cover art. What made you decide to choose this image and what does it personally mean to you? It’s of a friend of mine, Tara, who posted the picture on Instagram, I think it’s still there under @foxgravy. She went through a lot of what I went through having chronic pancreatitis and I wrote most of the album in the hospital.

In 2016, a visit to the hospital changed your life. Could you share what you were diagnosed with and how this disease affected you both personally and professionally? I was diagnosed with necrotizing chronic pancreatitis and it definitely put a pause on live performances for a while. But I haven’t drank in years, so hopefully, no more surgeries.

Tattoo by Alex Miller

Tattoo by Alex Miller

You’ve recently teamed up with PopSocket for their Poptivism project. What is Mission: Cure and do you have any other philanthropic projects in the works? Mission: Cure is finding a cure for pancreatitis, so it meant a lot to me to give half the sales. I think we’ve sold 5K units or something, so it’s awesome to see kids in the crowd with them on.

You’re currently preparing to release your fifth album, ANONYMOUS, which will be released in April. What went into creating this project and what can fans look forward to from it? It’s my best work to date, so do not sleep on this album. It’s 18 -plus songs and they’re all pretty damn good.

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Will you be going on tour following the release of your album and which cities do you plan on hitting up first? America and Canada are first, then South America, Australia, Asia, and Europe.

Both personally and professionally, where do you hope to be in one year, five years and ten years?

In one year, I hope to be fully moved into the house I just bought today. In five years, I’ll be running a record label full time and ten years, I’ll do a greatest hits album and my little label will be major.