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The Daily Tar Heel

Student Michael Thornburg uses hip-hop to tell his story

Michael Thornburg is a senior majoring in political science.  He started rapping after graduating high school; he often finds motivation in emotional struggle.
Michael Thornburg is a senior majoring in political science. He started rapping after graduating high school; he often finds motivation in emotional struggle.

After more than a year’s work of writing and recording the tracks at his home in Carrboro, the Shelby native has finally completed his first album, Plastic Lenses .

Plastic Lenses is a name that encapsulates how I look at the world,” Thornburg said. “The name comes from the idea that everything isn’t always as it seems.”

While the album was officially released as a free online download Sunday, Thornburg gave listeners a preview of Plastic Lenses in a release show Friday at Local 506 with guest performers The Koolest, SkyBlew and DJ DCM.

Thornburg said he tries to bring an authentic and eclectic style to hip-hop, but he also uses lyrics that recount his personal experience with depression to connect with listeners who have dealt with similar struggles.

“My end goal with music is to help other people feel connected by me being as real and personal as I can be, without it being too emotional,” he said.

Thornburg said he hopes to achieve his goal by fusing his musical talent with his other passion — education — in order to enlighten others about mental health issues.

“His contributions that he is making as an artist are not only musical, but they are also social,” Thornburg’s former academic adviser Carolyn Covalt said.

Thornburg said he loves performing live because it’s where he feels most comfortable.

“What Michael did on Friday — being honest about a lot of stuff in front of a room full of people that he knows he will encounter again — to me, was a bigger risk than performing in front of a room full of strangers,” Covalt said.

Covalt said Thornburg will take these skills with him next year to Teach For America.

“The whole reason I started with music is because it gave me a voice that I always knew I had, but I could never express,” Thornburg said.

By strategically ordering the tracks listed on Plastic Lenses , Thornburg used his album as a narrative, introducing different aspects of his own personal life that are tied together.

“His overall image is pretty awesome,” said N.C. Central University senior Demetri McClain, a close friend and musical partner that has helped build Thornburg’s brand. “Everything he talks about is helping someone.”

Thornburg said the album is about being connected to both himself and to others. He wants to make sure he stays true to himself and his music reflects his own personal style.

“This is only the beginning,” said McClain, who performed Friday as DJ DCM. “Thornbro is here to stay.”

arts@dailytarheel.com

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