From Polaroid to Mansionz: The musical evolution of Blackbear

Blackbear's rise was not an overnight success story.

Before Soundcloud sensation and alternative hip-hop artist Blackbear started buzzing on everyone’s radar, he put in several years of industry work.

Blackbear has done it all, from performing in indie bands, creating solo acoustic music, and producing for Justin Bieber, Nick Jonas, G-Eazy, and Linkin Park.

The Florida native nearly lost his life last year, but instead of disappearing, his uploads have been steady as ever and he’s in the midst of a summer tour to promote his third studio album, Digital Druglord. We took a deep dive into the his genre exploration and production credits that have allowed him flourish artistically.


Blackbear, born Matthew Tyler Musto (Mat Musto), used to play in the indie rock band called Polaroid. If you aren’t familiar with Polaroid, think Forever the Sickest Kids, All Time Low, the Maine, and all the other late-aughts pop-punk. Their Myspace is still up. 

Blackbear frequently references drugs in his songwriting now, but Polaroid's “Drugs” is different. In it, Musto sings, “All my friends are doing drugs. And I’m just sitting in the back of the room with my head pointed to my shoes, and I’m feeling fine.”

By the end he admits, “I’m a mess and I’m just like the rest of them.” Musto knew who he was even when he was feeling lost. He sounds like he made decisions for himself, so going solo was a natural next step in his career.

Mat Musto

Mat Musto's solo career had a new, acoustic sound featuring his raspy vocals. He explains his background in the opening lyrics of his soulful song "50 years." He sings, "It started out when I was six, I played a string for every year I lived."

In "Maria" Mat convinces a girl that he can't be her savior, but if they stick together everything will be all right. Then, in "September" he sings "I got some money and some clothes laying on my bed, but I'd rather have you laying there instead." All three tracks come off of his Year of the Blackbearproject, which was released the summer of 2011.

He eventually released some songs that gave hints of the new direction he was sonically moving toward. This includes the collaborative bop "Over Being Sober," where Mat sings a chorus that carries the track as rap verses by Nate Walka, Kyle Lucas and Machine Gun Kelly are stacked in between a steady, electronic beat. "She" and "Homewrecker" are two solo tracks that have bass-infused production and mark the beginning of his alternative hip-hop sound.


Musto's strength in production was recognized and led to collaborating with Mike Posner to craft "Boyfriend" for Justin Bieber. The triple-platinum single off of Believe, provided momentum for Blackbear's career to soar. In 2012 alone, he released two projects, Sex, the Mixtape and Foreplay, which both carried a consistent vibe. His new music borrowed all the elements from his previous repertoire, including his sultry singing voice, clean production, and a mix of easy listening music as well as party anthems.

His first mixtape included 22 tracks and more than a handful of features. Experimenting with indie rock and alternative genres attracted a diverse lineup of guest artists, including Lil Richid, Matt Thiessen, T. Mills, Jame Blake, Mike Posner, and Minnesota native Mod Sun. Linking up with an array of other rising musicians, rappers, singers and producers was a thoughtful way to set up future collaborative efforts.


Connecting with Posner early on gave way to their recent, successful side project Mansionz. Mansionz's most-played Spotify upload, "STFU," has 15 million plays and counting. Also, consistently collaborating and touring with Mod Sun made for catchy jams like "Shoot 'Em Down" and "Different Hoes," as well as an ever-growing fanbase in the Twin Cities.

Another local tie Blackbear holds is with the multi-talented Bobby Raps. Together they released the dark, reverberated "Heartbroken" in 2014, which is the same year Blackbear became one of the first indie artists to monetize off SoundCloud streams.

His artistic stamina is still evident, as Blackbear has already released three projects this year. Bear will be hitting the stage at Myth on Wednesday to perform tracks off his latest album Digital Druglord.

Blackbear. Wednesday, June 7 at Myth. Tickets.

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