Bursting on the hip hop worldwide map this summer with the release of his debut solo album, The Abstract Convention, US-born rapper Mattic has a story to tell. From his upbringing, hip hop has played a major factor in his life, and now, Mattic is unleashing his all on the eclectically produced soundscapes that make up The Abstract Convention. Both humble and proud, Mattic agreed to sit down and kick it with me to talk about his life and his music. He’s a very interesting musician who has some insightful perspectives on hip hop. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you check out his album on his Bandcamp. Read on to learn about the man behind this music as HHSE interviews rapper, Mattic.
Q: Feel free to introduce yourself. Tell us where you’re reppin’ out of.
A: “I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina. I go by the name of Mattic and I just do this
Q: Could you tell us where the name Mattic came from?
A: “Back in the days, names used to have a substance and a little definition push to ‘em, even to the so-called saying of breaking down each [letter] in the name. So maybe back in 1992-’93, I just decided to call myself Mattic. Not in reference of Illmatic or nothing like that, but I just broke it down: ‘Mental Attack Taking Tolls In Cities.’ That was back when it was cool to – well, to me it’s still cool, but you know, cats don’t put substance in their names anymore. That’s all, that’s where mine came from.”
Q: You’ve been doing this for a while. You said ’92, is that when you just came up with your name or is that when you started [rapping]?
A: “That’s when I just came up with my name. I wouldn’t say I started; I didn’t start until about the late-90’s… early 2000s. I think I was just really getting into myself; I was still in school and stuff back then, basically freestyling a lot. I think I was even more into basketball and dancing than music. But nah, I didn’t really start doing shows and actually performing songs and stuff until the late-90s.”
Q: And that was in Charlotte, right?
A: “Yeah [laughs], I was in Charlotte all my life until about 2006, man.”
Q: And you’re in France now right?
A: “Yeah, I live in France.”
Q: Was [moving to France] for music or was that just because you moved to France [laughs]?
A: “Music [laughs]! It was the music.”
Q: What caused you to move? Was it the label, was it Phonosaurus, or what was that?
A: “No, I didn’t know the guys in Phonosaurus ‘til around 2008, I wanna’ say… yeah about 2008. Nah, I was actually in a group called The Others with Johnny Madwreck and the mighty D.R. and we did an album called Past Futuristic and we were on a small label called Third Earth Music. The label folded, but before it did, our album got out – not really pushed as well as it should have been, but it got out the best that it could. Then this French producer/DJ named Wax Tailor heard us and he sent Madwreck an email saying that he wanted us to be on the album [Tales of the Forgotten Melodies]. We did the song and it came out really cool. After that, he started asking us… well first he asked us to fly out to California and do a little four-day tour with RJD2 and Aceyalone and then he flew us out to France and we spent maybe about half a month out here touring with him. To make a long story short, he called us back out in about 2007 to perform with Aloe Blacc and it was a wrap from there. He wanted me to join the group and everything fell in place for me to come over here and move.”
Q: You mentioned Wax Tailor; he has a very abstract sound… what’s it like working with him?
A: “Well you know Wax, he’s built an empire here for his project. I’m lucky to be a part of it, or blessed – I don’t really believe in luck – but blessed to be a part of it and it’s cool, you know? I see everything I think a lot of musicians would like to see and also get to keep a very low-key about myself and work my own projects. It’s cool, it’s really cool.”
Q: Yeah, working along that, working with Wax Tailor and on your own, what is your goal musically with your projects? Like what sets you apart from other rappers out, I mean, you’re all the way out in France. I don’t know what the hip hop scene is like out there, but are they any advantages/disadvantages you think you have that sets you apart from other guys out now?
A: “Well, I’m definitely on my own road and on my own path. Just being out here is like being in a big classroom; it’s just like you’re reprogramming yourself, relearning. France itself is only about the size of Texas [laughs], you know, so it’s small, but it’s very preserved in its history, and that also goes for the arts and culture. So when you get into the form of hip hop, you can find that golden [age] feel around here. As a matter of fact, probably there’s a lot of old rappers that probably wouldn’t even still have a career if they didn’t have the European network to travel, because they still have a respect and a love for old hip hop, whereas you play in some places in the States, you might get viewed as that’s ‘old’ or whatever. I mean, I’m sure that you got your spot that you can still be in the golden age of hip hop, but it’s just that the feel and stuff, you know? With what I wanna’ do and everything, I just wanna’ do good music, man. I see the world in the Wax Tailor project, probably I’m gonna’ say maybe 80, 85-86-87% of the world touring this. So, for my project, I’m getting old in this game [laughs] and it’s nice to be old, I guess, like MF DOOM would say. For me, I just wanna’ put something good out and nobody change how I was raised in hip hop with it… I don’t care about carrying nothing really big on my shoulder, nothing like that. I just let the music work itself. I never planned on coming here to France. I’ll say it like this: I never planned on coming here or my path to be what it is now, so how you aim it sometimes is not directly where it hits. So I just do the music and let it work itself and I don’t stress it. It’s just been a blessing in itself in a magical way.”
Q: So going back on what you said about the scene being out there, you’re saying they got a higher respect…for the older stuff, you think? Out there is it a better opportunity verses being in America?
A: “Well, depending on the person. I think to get out of your habitat and to see the world, it changes your perspective on life and stuff. It’s almost like your mind opens up more and stuff. Here in France with Wax Tailor, I’ve been able to rock some of the most historic crowds and venues over here. It’s a love everywhere, but it’s more different to me here because it’s just a different environment. Yeah, for me myself, I get that old feel that I used to have when hip hop was just on a consistent level of putting out stuff. It’s like breaking new grounds; you come over here, man and it’s like [laughs], sometimes I wake up and I feel like I’m in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the first one with Gene Wilder. It’s really cool on the imagination, the inspiration and just funneling something out with some substance, being in your own world.”
Q: So, would you say that you’re happy with your spot in hip hop right now?
A: “Yeah, well I’m half and half. I always got that competitive part in me that is always saying ‘you owe it to yourself’ or ‘push it as far as you can go’ or ‘ride until the wheels fall off,’ but I also have that humble side of me. Bill Withers said, “once you’re climbing up the mountains, stop for a second and take a look around and appreciate how far you’ve gotten.” Like I said, man, I care about my name in this game, but I don’t care about it like other people care about it. For me, just being so low-key and still seeing what probably anybody would wanna’ see, especially with making music or whatever your God-given talent is. I’m not one to [go in a] competition or nothing, because I got enough competition with myself, but if I had to say so, competition is not just being able to ride it. I’m in my own world with my own path and I don’t have to follow nobody else, I don’t need any examples, it’s cool, I have enough examples in the past and enough examples in just life to appreciate the path that I’m on and where I’m at. There’s nothing else to see, Stone, you know what I mean [laughs]?”
Q: Yeah [laughs] yeah.
A: “I can’t really think of anything else to see. This thing has taken me around the world and just gave me the freedom to make the music the way I want it to sound and the way I wanna’ present it with no stress, except the stress of creating it. It’s a blessing.”
Q: That competitive spirit you were talking about, I’m sure you had your share of artists growing up that inspired you and were the ones that you looked up to. What were a few of those guys, the ones that you were listening to constantly?
A: “Aw man [laughs], there’s so many to choose from. Of course I was a Tribe-head; man I listened to… I ain’t going to say everything, but I would say the regular rundown: Tribe, Public Enemy, Run-DMC, Pharcyde, The Roots, De La Soul, even LL when LL was raw and Big Daddy Kane, I grew up on all of that. My motto was always ‘if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it, just advance it.’ Sometimes when we get off of the path of what inspires us, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work when we go too far off that path. This is how I was raised; I remember there was a time when you would be inspired so you would go to shows and you couldn’t be wack, you just couldn’t be wack. It was so thorough to see an army of musicians come out to just show the originality and illness and differentness of themselves and it was a code, it was a pride that you lived by of transforming yourself and maintaining what you could grow, but now it ain’t like that. If it is, it’s like knowledge, you gotta’ go dig for spots like that, you know, ain’t nobody gonna’ give it to you [laughs].”
Q: Yeah… Moving on a little bit, I saw looking on the Phonosaurus website, it said that you were apart of a group called ZKPRZ that was started with Dirty Art Club and Engberg?
A: “Astrid Engberg, yeah ZKPRZ (pron. “Zookeepers”).”
Q: Ah, “Zookeepers.”
A: “If you can find that album, it was an album we did in 2009. Like I said, it was composed of me, Matt Cagle, Madwreck, who are the Dirty Art Club, and Astrid Engberg. It was very funny how it happened because it was actually an album that was started by them… because Madwreck used to rap, [now he’s a producer]. I don’t know if he stopped now but, you know, he’s unpredictable, he can just come out of nowhere with something. But he was doing this album with Cagle and I came back home to Charlotte, and I was teaching for a little while and I was listening to these tracks and it was my first time meeting Matt Cagle and I was amazed! I was blown away, and by that time I had already met Astrid also from doing shows with Wax Tailor and we did a couple of shows with Berry Weight, who are the owners of Phonosaurus Records, and that’s how I met Astrid (we promised to work with each other). To make a long story short, I was invited to work on a few tracks with them on ZKPRZ and I invited Astrid and we just formed a group and we made it a free download. We made a very quick album and made it a free download. It was very marvelous material, as a matter of fact, I think Phonosaurus is thinking about reissuing this album. Just a ten-track banger; Cagle and Dirty Art Club did the production, me and Madwreck took turns rhyming separately on tracks and maybe rhyming on one track together, and Astrid showed up on a couple of tracks. It was an unplanned, beautiful project. I hope that it sees the light that it should see.”
Q: So we can expect to see some music from that group.
A: “Um… right now, we’re spreaded because I’m working on various projects and so is Astrid and so is Dirty Art Club, but we also keep a connection of working together. We’ve talked about it, as a matter of fact, me and Astrid did do a ZKPRZ 2 album and we shelved it.”
A: “[Laughs] So if it comes out, it just depends on if that’s the next thing we wanna’ do. I know Nico would love to see it, from Phonosaurus, it’s just a matter of if our brains are all connected.”
Q: That would definitely be cool to hear something like that.
A: “Yeah, yeah I’m proud of that stuff.”
Q: So I also saw, it said you were actively a part of something called “Crimes of Mind.” You want to talk about what that is?
A: “It’s actually an art organization ran by Liliwenn, my personal painter, and she’s a part of my… I got an all-girl crew with one DJ because I get along better with women that with guys, I’m enough man to handle myself [laughs]. But they’re really dope, and one of them is an artist, her name is Liliwenn and we have a really tight relationship of working together and just about with life. She started this organization of graffiti artists and painters and stuff with projects all around the world displaying their arts. We did the video “Crimes of Mind” for her and her organization. That’s how that video came about. I’m not really active in it as far as like putting a hand in what goes on and stuff, but I help Liliwenn out with the name and as far as the inspiration and stuff. Well, I wouldn’t say inspiration, but as far as brainstorming to come up with a name for it. I gave her a suggestion and she broke it down and put it into that form. So that’s just an organization of artists. I try to connect with as many artists as I can, not just musically because there’s something you can learn from people that can go into themselves and create a vision or a sound that is for displaying who they are and how they see the world.”
Q: Speaking of the artists, is that where your album cover for The Abstract Convention came from? Was that her or somebody who was associated with that?
A: “That’s Liliwenn, yeah. That’s all her; we made a pact to always try to connect. It’s really cool because I do the music, I work on various projects in my studio here and I have my close peers that I give stuff music to or I sing to them and sometimes I send stuff to her, and she’s already got it pictured, she’s working on, it’s already in association with what I’m [doing]. It’s like The Shining; you can talk to a person without even talking to them, you’re on the same page with them. So we have that connection and we try to work that together like on all projects that are associated with my sound. Hopefully we’ll do something together in the future.”
A: “That’s Dirty Art Club.”
Q: Ohh ohh, ok ok.
A: “Yeah, Dirty Art Club did all that production.”
Q: Oh alright. So since we’re on Abstract Convention, you just released that, it came out in June, how does it feel to finally get your music [out]? How are the receptions so far?
A: “First of all, I feel blessed about it. It feels good to have your stuff out into the world and to have an album and to put it out. Yeah it’s getting received… I would say well. I really don’t like to pay attention and get into all that stuff. You know, they always come to me and I told them I really don’t want to be a part of all that, like what’s going or this and that. I trust [Phonosaurus] and they respect my wishes on that. But they do send me blog write-ups and as far as the write-ups come, I can’t complain. I’m very happy with what I see. Surprised/not surprised with myself, but just more of like ‘that’s cool.’ I like the reception; it’s like a flower, I’d rather see everything instead of go fast food speed, I rather just see it grow at a flower speed, you know? I don’t even see it growing and next thing I turn around and it’s a damn sunflower seed growing, you know [laughs] stretching into the skies.”
Q: Would you care to talk about the recording and production and all that? How was it making [The Abstract Convention], how long have you been doing it and how has it been working on the whole thing?
A: “Well, me and Madwreck got a really cool connection as far as friendship and music-wise. We started working on one album called Around a Day in 80 Worlds and it took me maybe about two and a half years to make this album… and it got shelved, because the path that I was thinking of going at first, it just didn’t pan out with certain labels and stuff, it just didn’t pan out. So we shelved the album and by the time I had a chance, when I started talking with Phonosaurus, it all sounded like old material to me. My mind was somewhere else so I wanted to do something new, you know, more up-to-date with where my mind was. So I started talking with John, I went back to the States and spent some time in Charlotte, North Carolina… Well, right before that I went on tour and did a huge tour in Australia and Tunisia and Greece with Wax Tailor. I come back and I did this album in my studio. I started it and wanted to center it around the “Crimes of the Mind” video, and I made this album two times. I don’t even have the demo versions of the albums because I stripped it down, but Nico does, from Phonosaurus, he keeps everything that I send to him. Sometimes I just strip it down because I don’t wanna’ do it anymore. But I stripped it down twice and I went back to the States and I had a long pow-wow with Madwreck and he talked about the Dirty Art Club doing the production. I started writing it in the States and I came back and as soon as I hit the ground, I really started re-working on it, constructing it. It took maybe about two months for the final version to be put together and it just came out nice. It was written in Charlotte, North Carolina after the experiences in Europe and then I came back and put the finishing touches on it here in Normandy. Yeah, it was really cool to put together, it was really nice putting it together when I think back on it.”
Q: You mentioned before with the labels and how that album got shelved and they weren’t fitting, you seem to have found a good fit with Phonosaurus. Are you planning on sticking with them for good or if there was a major label opportunity would you grab that?
A: “As far as I can speak for now, I think I’ll always work with Phonosaurus because they gave me that opening and they give me the freedom to be ME. That’s the KEY and main important thing, man, you know everything that glitters ain’t gold and I found that out the hard way. I done been in this game too long for somebody to turn around and try to feed me their recipe for success or for somebody to try to tell me – and I’m not saying that in an arrogant way, I’m not saying that I can’t learn anything from anybody, but if I’ve gotten this far with what I do, then I wanna’ see how far I can take it. The worst thing you can do with an artist is take away their freedom of who they are and dress them up to something that you think they should be. If you think they should be that, then you just do what you need to do, but it’s how you lose your soul. I’m very, very big on being who I am and Nico and Maël from Phonosaurus, they give me the complete freedom to be who I am and they trust in my music and I trust in them so yeah, I roll with Phonosaurus.”
Q: Yeah, that’s definitely good to be able to have creative control, because I know that a lot of people complain when you get those major labels, they just control you. It’s cool that you’re sticking with Phonosaurus, I think that’s probably the best move because [The Abstract Convention] was definitely top-notch.
A: “Yeah, you know, you can be in a situation where people can see exactly what it is you bring to the table and how good you can be. Somewhere when you get into that forest… Stone, man, the worst thing about music to me and why I appreciate Phonosaurus, why it’s like my pasture to roam in, is because it’s really cool and really beautiful when you’re in the lab and creating this stuff, but once it leaves the studio, once it leaves your lab, no matter what way you send it, that’s when it gets into the world. Your blood, sweat and tears can become a pocket for somebody else to take your money or somebody else to take your art, your hard work, change it around, take credit for it, make you look like something that you’re not… Phonosaurus respects the artist; how you come is how they want to present you. They let you be who you are and that’s huge for me, man. It should be huge for every artist if they got a brain, I would think.”
Q: Yeah [laughs]. With the release of The Abstract Convention, do you have any shows or venues that are planned out?
A: “That’s another thing about me, I’ve turned down a lot of shows. A LOT of shows [laughs]. Like from London, to Spain, to shows around here in France, to Germany, to Poland… I’ve turned down a lot of shows because I tour a lot with The Wax Tailor Project and it’s the machine that got me here. I’m big on live shows, but not as big as I used to be on ‘em. The way that I like my stuff to be presented with what I do, unless you just saw me where I was just hurting for money and hurting to be on the stage, you’re not gonna’ see me jump on some big, huge circuit and run out here and tour, man. I toured a year and half to two years with Wax Tailor and getting ready to start another tour.”
A: “I get enough seeing the world and touring with that. I like to do my own thing, but I like for it to be a little more “yo, this dude doesn’t do too many shows, but when you see it, it’s a good show,” and “I wanna’ see this guy.”
Q: Just to wrap it up, just a few more. What is it that you want your listeners to get from your music?
A: “…Hmm… This is me. This is how I see it, this is how I was brought up in it and this is how I present it. It’s just me talking in a fly way describing what I’ve been through, what I do in my own way. I would like a person to walk away, if they have the chance witness my album or view it or hear it, listen to it and say, “This dude is good. This dude is good.” I’m not one to sit and say I’m trying to break grounds or I’m trying to bring hip hop back, because hip hop never left. If you got a mind to know about really good hip hop and you know where it came from, it’s always there for you. I mean, this is just my realm of hip hop. I always thought one of the biggest and wrongest things for a lot of musicians, especially emcees, you know, “We’re gonna’ rule the world! We’re gonna’ show the world with this!” Well instead of me, my motto is instead of trying to rule the world, I just build my own world. So this is my world right here and if people catch onto it, cool, if they don’t catch onto it, then cool, it’s nothing personal it’s just if you want to hear some good hip hop or some just good music, period, then check it out. Listen to it.”
Q: Definitely. Now…why should our readers give you a shot and listen to you from here on out?
A: “Man [laughs]… I mean… I don’t know, I can’t say why someone should listen to it. I can say why, if I was somebody else, why… Ok, I don’t know, damn [laughs].”
A: “Maybe more because… It’s different, everybody out here’s always hollerin’ about “we’re tired of what we’re listening to,” “we’re tired of this” or “we’re tired of that” and if ain’t nobody doing nothing about it, then who is “we”? I do what I would love to hear. What I’m making, I’m not making this for people, to bring in people. I’m making it because this is the way I wanted to hear music; this is what I felt like I lost, this is how I wanted to present it. I’m not trying to bring back the past and I’m certainly not trying to slow down the future, I’m just trying to make the past futuristic – you can’t go nowhere unless you know about the past. A lot of cats think that with Wu-Tang Clan, Stone! This is real talk. I just grab all the elements. If you just want that real hip hop or something different, then check it out because it’s a world within itself and plenty more offsprings will be coming.”
Q: Do you have any shout outs or last words you wanna’ give before we close it out?
A: “Big up to where I come from, QC 704, all my people that they know who they are. Big up to being over here in Europe and France, I mean the whole world. I don’t say no particular people because you never say everybody that feel like they should be heard [laughs], or you feel like you should’ve said. So I just say big up to the people that know me and they know who they are, big up to them and much love. I definitely want to say big up to Phonosaurus Records for giving me the trust and having the runway and outlet to do things. And big up to Wax Tailor, because without these two things, this wouldn’t be happening.”
Q: Definitely. Alright, thank you very much for taking the time to do this we us, we really appreciate it.
A: “Yeah, man thanks for having me! And thanks for really giving the album a chance and listening to it. That’s huge, I really appreciate it, Stone.”
Q: Oh, thanks for putting out that music. That album I keep on playing that everyday, I love that album.
A: “[Laughs] One of my friends, I never looked at it like this, but when I made that album, I tried to take the most… I got a friend named Kam Moye, used to go by the name of Supastition and when I sent it to him, he said to me “Damn, man! You took the beats that I would not mess with,” he says, “you seem to bring them to life even just a little bit more! That’s dope!” I mean, that’s cool, it’s a lot of symbolic things about that album. Maybe one day when we talk I can give you insight about ‘em. There’s a lot of symbolic things about that album and it came out pretty right. But thanks a lot, man.”
Q: Yeah definitely! That’d be dope, that’d be awesome. Aight have a good night, man. Peace.
A: “You too, Stone, peace.”