Sacramento rapper Penny talks music, messages and marketing
The hip-hop artist says music saved his life
Matt Panasiti is all business.
The local rapper goes by Penny, and he’s quick to discuss markets, networks and capital. He started his first company when he was 20—just two years after entering a recording studio for the first time. Nearly a decade later, he launched a clothing company as well.
He finished his fourth album The Resistance months ago, but won’t actually release it until spring because it’s lacking a marketable single—something mainstream-friendly, radio-ready, with a popular nightclub-appropriate beat. He’s turned to collaborators in the Bay Area for help.
Not that he doesn’t care about the music. He absolutely cares about the music.
“I’m going to have my own twist to it, stay true to my roots as a storyteller,” he says. “I’m not just gonna sell out.”
Panasiti needs this hit to build his fanbase, so he can earn the dough required to continue producing albums. And he needs to keep making albums.
“Music has literally saved my life,” he says. “I grew up—you know, streets, various addiction issues, making a lot of bad decisions—and music literally captivated me.”
Instead of hustling on the streets, Panasiti could hustle in the music business.
“I just focus my time on touring, my company—I’m trying to better myself as a human being, and I do that through music,” he says.
Hence the name of his clothing company, Music Saved My Life. Currently he sells T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats emblazoned with the mantra on www.musicsavedmylife.bigcartel.com.
“I think Music Saved My Life is a brand a lot of people can identify with,” he says. “And hopefully a lot of people who are in the streets, in the struggle, can look at it as a light.”
It’s also a way for Panasiti to market himself beyond hip-hop and as part of the greater creative community. His tastes are varied, after all. He’s a huge Deftones fan, for example, and grew up influenced by the likes of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails. And while area rockers may not know who he is—yet—Panasiti is well-connected in the hip-hop realm. The Resistance features a slew of other local artists and producers, including Task1ne, California Bear Gang, DJ Epik and the Drumaddictz.
A few songs are already available online. A music video for “The Champion,” one of Panasiti’s faves on the record, was actually released a year ago—back when he first thought he’d complete The Resistance and before his self-inflicted pressure to produce another single. Although Panasiti says many of the album’s songs are political and potentially controversial, “The Champion” is clearly autobiographical.
“It’s a very positive and uplifting song about going through life, and how all you see is negativity and things pulling you down,” he says. “And how to crawl out of that with hope.”
Still, Panasiti wants to give his fans some sort of physical album after this year-long wait. On Friday, January 30, he’ll release Another Chapter Closed, an overflow album with 14 tracks he originally recorded for The Resistance that didn’t make the final cut. The party takes place at the Blue Lamp (1400 Alhambra Boulevard) during Grind, a hip-hop showcase of 10 local rappers, including Task1ne, California Bear Gang, the Gatlin and Flossalini.
Once he wraps up The Resistance, Panasiti will tour the West Coast—from Washington to New Mexico. It’ll include a stop in Sacramento for the record release party, and of course, excellent networking opportunities.