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Cola Boyy, Oxnard's funk innovator and disabled activist, dies at 34

Matthew Urango, the Oxnard-raised singer, multi-instrumentalist and activist who performed as Cola Boyy, has died. He was 34.

Cola Boyy’s management confirmed the death in a statement to The Times. Urango died at home in Oxnard on Sunday, though no cause of death was given.

In a public statement, Cola Boyy’s label, Record Makers, said, “The one and only Cola Boyy a.k.a. Matthew Urango passed peacefully last Sunday. He was quite a soul, a man with no age, a childlike spirit with the musicality of an old legend. His lyrics, his melodies, the sound of his voice: every side of his music was unique and timeless.”

Urango, who was of Chumash, African American and Mexican ancestry and self identified as a Afro-Latino, was born with spina bifida, kyphosis and scoliosis, which informed his activism and outspokenness as a disabled musician playing some of the world’s most coveted stages.

“Society wants us to stay inside and to be timid and docile, and to not feel confident, or cool, or sexy. They just don’t want us to feel any of that, you know?” he told tmrw magazine in an interview. “So, in my life, that often weighed me down, but it didn’t ever stop me.”

“Anyone who knew Matthew knows he had a larger than life personality,” manager Jack Sills wrote on Instagram. “He was always the life of the party and could chop it up with anyone. He was also one of the most talented and down to earth people I’ve ever met.”

Urango got his start in music in Oxnard’s punk scene and played bass in the indie-pop group Sea Lions. He soon gravitated toward disco and funk-infused pop music and signed a deal with Record Makers, the label founded by members of the French duo Air. His 2018 debut EP, “Black Boogie Neon,” yielded the reputation-making hits “Penny Girl” and “Buggy Tip,” and created enough buzz for him to perform at Coachella in 2019.

Read more: Socialism lessons from Cola Boyy's funky, Vocoder-driven plot to overthrow the ruling class

His 2021 debut album, “Prosthetic Boombox,” celebrated his visible disability over deeply grooving synth funk inspired by Zapp and the Gap Band.

Urango was a beloved collaborator who performed and recorded alongside major acts including the Avalanches, the Clash’s Mick Jones and MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our friend and collaborator Matthew Urango ” the Avalanches wrote on social media. “Matthew was the most effervescent hilarious talented &passionate guy you could ever meet. He was a man of his convictions and of his word. He will be greatly missed by so many and we send all our love today to his friends and family.”

Read more: Cola Boyy - All Power to the People (Official Video)

Urango paired his deeply danceable music with heartfelt socialism and community activism. The video for his single “All Power to the People” found him teaching socialist history lessons about Che Guevara and Karl Marx to schoolkids, and he was active within leftist and worker organizing. Sills described him as "a community organizer who advocates for local immigrants & agricultural workers."

Sills said that Cola Boyy had “just finished his next album and was excited to start releasing new music this summer. I will continue to work with his family and Record Makers to make sure this happens.”

Urango is survived by his mother, Lisa; father, Joseph; younger brother, Noah; and fraternal twin brother, Marcus.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.