To say up-and-coming rapper Matchstik had a rough childhood is an understatement.
Matchstik, born Allen Forrest in Fort Camble, Ky., grew up in the run down, drug-infested Martin homes of Dothan, Ala. When he was nine-years-old, his father tried to commit suicide and then walked out on the family, leaving Matchstik, his mother and his siblings with nothing but the trail of blood from his failed attempt.
That's when 28-year-old Matchstik turned to the streets. By the time he was 14, he was making a considerable amount of money by illegally transporting drugs to and from Florida and his hometown. But it wasn't long before he started to run into problems with the police.
After getting arrested a few times -- including once when the feds kicked his mother's door in and cuffed him in front of his family -- Matchstik vowed to leave the streets alone. He had seen a lack of support from his "street family" ("I'm locked up in a cell and I'm asking my 'friends' for Low Rider magazines, and they wouldn't even send it to me," he recalls) and watched an uncle die from a drug overdose. "I watched my uncle die because he was on drugs, and I realized I was helping him die," he says. "That's when I felt like I didn't want to do this anymore. That was the moment I decided I was out."
Consequently, Matchstik refocused his efforts and energy. He got his GED, attended college for almost two years and then headed off to the Navy for four years at the age of 20. Always a music lover, Matchstik started putting pen to paper and writing his lyrics down while in the military. "I'd always been writing, but it wasn't till I got to the Navy that I was actually like, 'I can do this'. I was listening and paying attention and going to home studios, and it really made me feel like I could do this," he says.
After his four-year contract with the Navy was up, Matchstik took a leap of faith, packed his bags and headed to Los Angeles in 2005 in hopes of officially launching his music career. It was at a party that Matchstik met a pair of corporate gentlemen who dabbled in music and would ultimately help get him his first big break.
"The guys were Kai and Peter Nygard, these big time retailers that own Nygard International out of Winnipeg [Canada]," he says. "They said Sean Paul was doing a concert in Winnipeg, and after I told them I was an aspiring rapper, they offered to have me open up for him. Then I ended up opening up for Joe Budden at another event. And the rest is history."
Now, encouraged by the opportunities presented to him and the reception he's received on stage, Matchstik will be releasing his debut album, "The Concept," on Sept. 1st via his own independent label, M. Republik Music Group. Believe Digital will distribute. "It's the epitome of my kind of swag -- I'm chill, laid back, not a thug. It's just some real folk, everyday music by a cool kid," he says of the album. "It's very musical, it has a real positive vibe and is very uplifting."
His first official single, which he wrote, produced and recorded himself, is based on a true story "about a girl who has everything but is still unhappy," Entitled "Surina's Song," the track first premiered in London, when renowned DJ MasterStepz broke the record on his Choice FM Radio show. The track was also featured on Yahoo.com, iTunes, Myspace, Rhapsody and Aol.com, and has sold over 100 thousand ringtones to date according to myxer.com.
"I use the internet as my portal," Matchstik says about achieving such an accomplishment. "I am the king of Facebook -- I pretty much launched my whole career off of it."
Other songs like "It's Ok" and "I'm So Fly" were featured on two separate episodes of the Fox reality show "Amazing Adventure of a Nobody," while the follow-up single "Give Back" and the club track "City Life" are slated to appear on the album as well. Matchstik also released a video for another track titled "Never Can Say Goodbye," which will be screened at the 2009 New York International Independent Film and Video Festival on August 1st in Los Angeles.
In addition, Matchstik recently launched the charity showcase "The Good Music And A Good Cause," through which he is able to partner up with a charity of choice every month and give them 10% of his proceeds. Details about the foundation can be found on http://Matchstik.net.
Needless to say, things are definitely looking up for Matchstik these days. "I feel so lucky to be able to have turned my life around and to be able to show what I'm about," he says. "I'm so happy to be alive and be a rapper that actually has the platform to make it. Not everybody can be where I'm at right now. I am so blessed."