For Black people, hair is more than just something that grows from the scalp. There’s a deep rich history connected to hair and the African diaspora. For example, African people used intricate braided styles to care for their hair. According to an Essence Magazine news report, those braided styles were sometimes used as a means of survival during the Middle Passage and as a way to identify what tribe a person belonged to. 

Black hair is also a source of pride and personal expression, and depending on where people step foot in the world, they are bound to see several different hairstyles on Black people: afros, box braids, Bantu knots, twist-outs, fades, close cuts, natural updos, locs, relaxed hair and so much more.

When South Side rapper, producer and visual director Matt Muse dropped his third EP, Love & Nappyness, in 2019 a follow-up to his first EP, Nappy Talk (2018), he was in the midst of his natural hair care journey. Both projects centered on his pride in his natural hair, and the projects represented him finding self-love through his hair growth plus embracing his authentic self outside of European beauty standards. 

“I can be dope and also be my most natural self, and y’all should take it seriously regardless of how my hair looks,” Muse told The TRiiBE in a phone interview on Dec. 1. 

In the fall of 2019, on the heels of the release of Love & Nappyness, Muse said he started thinking of ways to give back to the Chicago community. Instead of a holiday toy drive, he decided on a natural hair care drive, naming the community service initiative after his EP. The third annual “Love & Nappyness Hair Care Drive” is back again this year. 

In its first year, the hair care drive collected 500 products; 1,500 items were collected last year. 

The Love & Nappyness Hair Care Drive collects sealed and unused natural hair care, skincare, and personal hygiene products. The items will be donated to Ignite Promise, a Chicago-based organization providing housing for youth experiencing houselessness, and to the West Side-based Saint Leonard’s Ministries, a transition home for formerly incarcerated people. 

There are six drop-off sites city-wide that will collect donations until Dec. 17, including The Silver Room, Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery, Build Coffee and more.

Muse will also be hosting a benefit concert on Dec. 17 at the Metro, marking the end of the drive, and it will feature performances from Muse, plus singer-songwriter Jamila Woods and hip-hop artist theMIND. A portion of the show’s proceeds will also be donated to Ignite Promise and Saint Leonard’s Ministries. 

The TRiiBE caught up with Muse two weeks into the third annual “Love & Nappyness Hair Care Drive,” which started on Nov. 16, to discuss the hair care drive and what it means for Black people to love and be their authentic selves. 

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity).

Typically, when people donate things during the holiday season, they donate food and clothing, but you decided to include haircare, skincare and personal hygiene items. Why did you choose those items specifically for the drive?

Matt Muse: It’s just kind of like a self-love and self-care drive. Like, what are the products that we need to take care of our physical selves? Hopefully, taking care of our physical selves will then, in turn, help with our mental [health]. I think that folks in positions of privilege are able to just go out and buy these expensive products, these masks for our hair and for our face, and other things like that. Folks who are less privileged may have difficulty accessing those products and so the goal is to give people who look just like us, and may not be in the same position of privilege, the same access to the products that we have.

Why is it important for you to do this and give back to the community?

MM:  I’m a strong proponent of mutual aid. So to me, as long as everybody’s working on something to benefit the community, the community will, in turn, not want for anything. I’m happy to be in community with Delacreme Scholars, who do their dope scholarship every winter. For me, it’s just important because I’m just a small piece of the bigger puzzle of mutual aid and giving back to the community in Chicago.

Can you give me some examples of donation ideas for people interested in supporting the haircare drive?

MM: We just want all paraben-free natural hair care products. You can donate shampoos, any type of lotions, conditioners and razors. We need razors for both men and women, aftershave, feminine hygiene products and shea butter.

Tell me more about the organizations you'll be donating to: Ignite Promise and Saint Leonard’s Ministry. What led you to choose these specific organizations?

MM: I had never heard of either organization prior to my team member putting me on, but I kind of just gave her [my team member] the guidelines. I was like, ‘I want to donate to shelters, and I want to donate to folks transitioning from incarceration.’ My idea was if I’m transitioning out of incarceration, trying to get back into the real world, I might be trying to get a job and present myself. [So], it’s for people in that position to have access to these products, take care of themselves and present themselves the best way they see fit for the things they’re trying to gain. Saint Leonards [Ministries] and Ignite [Promise] were a couple of the ones that came about, and they’re just both so perfect to me.

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.