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#039;Gyfted#039; local youth competing at Apollo rap competition

The sun god Apollo may be looking down on a local artist, but it is the Chicago theater of the same name that is letting him shine.

Matt Johnson, aka "Gyfted," is going to the "windy city" to compete in an underground hip-hop competition at the Apollo Theatre today.

The 2002 Ironton High School graduate was one of eight chosen from hundreds to compete in the amateur night.

Johnson said he is the only competitor who does not do traditional hip-hop.

"I do positive hip-hop music," he said. "I don't do negative music."

Johnson said he does not curse or degrade women in his lyrics like most hip-hop artists do.

"He wants people to know you can have clean rap without the cussing, sex and drugs," said Bridget Johnson, his mother who describes her son's music as hip-hop with a gospel tone.

Matt Johnson describes his music as feel-good, soulful hip-hop.

"I encourage my fans to reach for their dreams," he said.

About 5 years ago he received a keyboard for Christmas. His mother said he played all day and by that night had written a song, which he performed for family.

"We were all sitting there with our mouths open," Bridget Johnson said.

She said they were amazed first he had written a song then that he sang so well.

"We knew then that he had a God-given talent," Bridget Johnson said.

Even the Hebrew translation of his name is "Gift of God," which is where he got his stage name "Gyfted."

Matt Johnson said his first influence was Will Smith. He said he would go around singing to Smith's songs.

He said he began writing songs with a 12-key keyboard and recording them with his brother's toy recorder.

"I've come a long way," Matt Johnson said.

Now he has a soundroom in his apartment. He has even signed with Kismet Productions and has a debut album ,"Soul Music," coming out Aug. 1.

Matt said right now he is doing concerts in Columbus, in addition to the competition.

"I'm trying to build a fan-base and get my name out there," he said.

He also attends Columbus State University for business and marketing and works full-time.

For more information about Matt Johnson, his music or his upcoming album visit www.gyfted.com.