interview, Interviews, rileysbest

Matt Citron: The Buzz Is Infectious

“I remember going to the studio with Big Boi, and going there, and meeting him. I was playing some of…

“I remember going to the studio with Big Boi, and going there, and meeting him. I was playing some of my music over the AUX and saw him in the back of the room with his eyes closed swaying in the back.” –Matt Citron

As a city, Atlanta has a certain lane that it has come to inhabit in hip-hop’s eco-system; rightfully so, superstars like Gucci and Future, as well as coverage like that on Noisey’s Atlanta series, it would be easy to [some degree] pigeon hole their sound. That’s part of the reason that an election-day email telling men to check out the next biggest thing from the city was met with a little cynicism. That it, until I pressed play. The artist in question, Matt Citron, has a certain energy about him. His latest single, “404” featuring the Yeezy affiliated XXL freshman alumni Cyhi The Prince–and Money Makin’ Nique–is getting some crazy traction, but his Facebook reveals some of the madness that will likely come to pass. One example is him spending a week working with Buckwild of the mighty D.I.T.C—or him getting love from artists like Busta And Outkast’s Big Boi.

In general, artists who have this much buzz, they pan out to special—especially when respected taste-makers are giving their seals of approval. I won’t make unduly comparisons to past examples, but as a writer it’s exciting to catch up with the rapper in the ‘calm’ before the storm. Check out the interview with Matt below, and see what you’ve been sleeping on!

Early!

One thing that stuck out is, you had a quote from DJ Greg Street that says you could be one of Atlanta’s next top artists. How does a co-sign like that feel?

I think I met Greg going a little under two years ago now, and when we got introduced to each other, he supported me from the jump. Greg’s kind of notoriously known in Atlanta for not wanting to get involved with a lot of rappers early on. Obviously with what he does, he deals with rappers every single day, and deals with different artists every single day, but when he met me, he just took to the music right away. He took to the energy of what I was doing, and the reasons I was doing it. I’ve been around him a lot where he’s talked about how much he believes in what I’m doing, and basically, really just believes in my ability, and my vision.Greg Street, growing up, that was someone that I looked up to, and I admired. I’ve been having a lot of things happen lately that feel like–over the past couple years really-dreams almost? Not even like dreams, but they don’t set in. It’s crazy, you know?

Having someone that big giving that high praise, I always think with the amount of work I put in, and how blessed I’ve been to be able to do what I can do, I feel as though, do I deserve those words? Yeah, I feel I do, just because of the amount of time I spend on it. But, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s mind blowing to have someone at that level, and that stature, to say that. I obviously have the belief in myself that I can take this as far as I set my mind to, but to have someone at that level confirm it, it’s amazing, and it does feel incredible.

How are you different than a lot of Atlanta artists? Because also, from Greg Street saying you’re one of the biggest artists in Atlanta, that’s huge because there’s such a range of artists that have come out of Atlanta, you know what I mean? And the music from Atlanta has grown so much – I don’t want to say the genre has expanded there, but it has a lot of sub genres.

Well, honestly, I think maybe what makes me stand out in Atlanta is the reason that Atlanta stands out, period. I think that’s probably because there are so many different types of artists in Atlanta that aren’t afraid to stand out. I think that we kind of break the mold in different ways. You have different artists, even going back all the way to Outkast who broke the mold–Atlanta, back then, it wasn’t even rap. Like the booty shake music was big back then, and then Outkast came through with some real lyrics, and they cracked that open. They were doing this vibey, chilled out, super lyrical rapping, and they showed that Atlanta could break the mold. And then time and time again, I think Future invented that style of just the real gutter, muddy singing, and then you have artists like Lil’ Yachty who no one’s never heard anybody sing like that before, and then people just take influence from Atlanta. But I think really, Atlanta’s just not afraid to break the mold. If I’ve taken anything from the culture, just from observing it in Atlanta –not even really saying like ‘taken,’ but just really learned from what I’ve seen – it’s that you can do your own thing here.

I think really, that’s the artists that make it. I think that the artists that try to copy other artists in Atlanta, they don’t cut through in a real way that’s going to have any longevity. For me, I just grew up listening to so many different types of music, so many different types of hip hop artists in particular, and so my influences were so broad that I took a lot from that. And also, I have a very large influence from the New York rappers as well, because I spent a couple of years up there, but really, my whole family’s from up in New York, so I grew up listening to a lot of the artists like that. But yeah, I think what separates me from a lot of the artists in Atlanta, I think it would be too hard for me to do that. It’s like, what separates Migos from Lil’ Yachty? What separates Young Jeezy from T.I? There’s so much there. And so I think that really, probably what separates me is the same thing that makes me alike. I am different, and I sound different, and I think there’s a lot of artists coming out of the city that just don’t sound really like anybody else around.


Matt Citron: The Buzz Is Infectious
Matt with (clockwise) Buckwild, Greg Street, & Diamond D.

Over the last few years, things have been picking up for you. What have been some of the milestones?

Well, I dropped out of school. After I was playing college ball, I hurt my eye and I just didn’t want to be up in New York anymore, [so I] decided to come down to Atlanta–back to where I was born and raised. I spent a lot of time by myself, just working. I looked up to Greg Street, and me and him had a close relationship, we spent a lot of time just talking, and doing different things, recording different stuff, and I just spent a lot of time doing some self reflecting. I think I really got to know myself for that first year, and then after that, finally I dropped the song. It was originally called “Exhibit C,” which is now call “Tabasco Flows.” I put that out, which is basically just me rapping over Jay Electronica’s “Exhibit C” beat, and I remember the first night I put it out, DJ Khaled retweeted it, and that was crazy. After that, I took a little bit of time off, and I actually got linked up with Brooklyn Nights; I’m working with them now, and they introduced me to a bunch of guys. I went up to New York, and I was in the studio with Busta Rhymes, and Jim Jones. That was crazy, because those are two of my biggest influences I’ve ever listened to.

So, I was in the studio with them, and the fact that they listened to my music, but they didn’t just listen to it, like they really fucked with it…I think each artist kind of has their own growth, and it’s all individual. I think just the way that it’s been happening for me. I’ve met Sway, I did Sway in the Morning when he was down here in Atlanta for BET, and he really fucked with me. So I just felt like there are people in the industry that are so well respected, and the way I’m coming up with things, it doesn’t feel like a lot of other artists have been this blessed this early on with what they’re doing, but it doesn’t feel forced, it doesn’t feel contrived. These people don’t fuck with me because it’s like ‘Oh, this kid’s going to make us some money.’ Nah, it’s been ‘We respect what you’re doing, we love how you’re making music.’ It’s hip hop, it’s real, it’s raw, it’s what I’m doing, and so they’ve taken to it. Moments like that, like when I was in the studio with Busta Rhymes, we actually went out after that, and just being out, just off the sheer strength that he just fucked with my music. Things like that. Then putting out songs and having it get played on Beats One with Ebro. It’s just little things.

It’s just little things, and none of them, the Busta Rhymes and Jim Jones shit was fucking unreal, but none of them hits you crazy hard, especially with me, I’m the type of person I just like to keep my head down and keep pushing. But with that, it’s just these little things where I sit back for a second and be like, holy fucking shit; these are the people that I’ve looked up to for years, and that I’ve only seen on TV, and in videos, and over the tracks. I remember going to the studio with Big Boi, and going there, and meeting him. I was playing some of my music over the AUX and saw him in the back of the room with his eyes closed swaying in the back; it’s just little moments like that where you feel so blessed, and you also just feel proud of yourself that you worked hard. A lot of these songs, you work on them alone in your room, or just in the studio, just you and your engineer, and then you just don’t even realize the places they can take you, or the people they can put you in front of. It’s definitely been some very unbelievable moments, but it’s also just been a positive past year/year and a half of people just really showing me love, and supporting, and being involved with what I’m doing.

So what’s next then? You mentioned you’re in the studio with Jim, you’re in the studio with Busta, you’re in the studio with Big Boy, so is there like a super monster project we should be looking out for?

Yeah, I mean really that was kind of vibing out, and then listening to what I was doing. I remember sitting down with Busta and him telling me ‘We’re gonna get on a track together, we’re gonna do it,’ and I remember what he said, he was like ‘I’m gonna murder you on it.’ Then he kind of laughed and looked around, then got quiet, got in close and said, ‘I’m really just saying that because I want you to murder me on the track.’ So just to feel the level of competition there – but right now, I think everyone’s just enjoying watching what’s going on, and I don’t even feel like I’m at the place where I want to – I mean obviously, I want to make music with guys like that, but I feel like I’m in the position where I need to prove myself more than that at this point. Right now, I’m making music, I’ve got a tape coming in December that I’m going to be putting out, it’s called Final Moments of Forever, and really on this tape, I just want it to be an introduction to what I’m doing. It does deal with a lot of personal things in my life, and there’s also just a lot to prove. I feel like I have a lot that I have to show out.

If I’m going to be regarding myself as one of the best lyricists, if not the best lyricist in my opinion, then I can’t come out of the gate with anything but really fucking crazy shit. If I’m going to have other people supporting me, and hitting me up, and sending me messages saying ‘You’re like the dopest rapper I’ve found in a long time,’ I’ve got to step up to the plate, and I’ve got to hit home runs. So I feel like right now, it’s just a point of stepping up to the plate and proving myself, and I’m still working on music nonstop. I’m just making it clear that I’m not interested in just being another guy in the mix. I’m here to compete. I grew up playing basketball, and I’ve always played that at a very high competitive level, obviously playing in college, and I don’t like buddy-buddy stuff.

I love the positive vibes, and meeting other artists, and vibing out with them, but it’s kind of like when I used to play ball. If we were boys, we played on the same travel team–we might even go out, get some food together, play some video games together, whatever. But when it comes time to play against each other, you’re ripping heads off, and you’re trying to come at that guy’s neck, and you’re trying to win that game. When the game’s over, you laugh about it, and you shake hands, and you talk shit if you want, and you take the shit if you lost. But right now I’m kind of in the mindset where I want to come in and make some noise, and I think there’s no better way to do that than put my head down and try to do the best work I possibly can. So regarding what’s next, this project coming up, I probably got one more track coming out before then that’s going to be on the tape, but other than that, the tape’s coming, and then I got a whole mess of shit coming after that. I’ve got a lot of shit in the chamber that I’m working on. I don’t really see any point or sign of slowing with what I’ve got going. I’m hungrier than I’ve ever been, and I wake up each day, and the hunger keeps growing, so I’m feeling it right now.

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns
interview

Koncept Talks Korea & Premieres New Video For “Never Again”

The Queens MC flipped a two-week tour into a two-year odyssey of success

It’s all about trusting the journey because sometimes following your gut can take you into unexpected territory. Just ask Queens (New York) rapper Koncept — one-time Fat Beats employee and former member of the Brown Bag All Stars. He’d built a bankable brand as a solo act, blazing from the onset of his debut LP back at the top of 2012. Having worked his J57 collaborative project The Fuel and having just about wrapped his next LP (which would become 14 Hours Ahead), he set off on a short tour in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. That was almost two years ago, and Kon has finally made his return to New York City after what became an unexpected odyssey of overseas fame.

RELATED: Read Our 2015 Interview With Koncept [Released In Support Of The Fuel]

“I was only supposed to be there for two weeks … the tour got extended,” he reveals to AAHH. “I ended up partnering with Sony Music [Asia], and it was a domino effect into a bunch of things.” The label made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, but as they agreed to release his 14 Hours Ahead LP, the deal required him to stick around indefinitely. “They said they wanted me to stay over there for the rollout of the album, so I could be face to face in the country, play shows, promote my brand and the album.”

The LP’s success led to a consistent touring schedule. “I tried to come back a few times,” he notes. Each time he attempted to return, bookings would pile one, forcing him to abandon the plans. “This time I was straight up, like, ‘all right, I’m going to go back to New York. I’m going to fly out June 20th. Like there are no bookings after June 15th, you know what I mean?'”

“I just been nonstop,” he continues. “I just finished this new album, and I want to drop these news videos I have … but I just [needed to] regroup and take a little rest, you know what I mean? Chill for a little bit and then get back into everything.” The first of these new videos — there are five in total — “Never Again” is premiering right here on AAHH. “It’s just about not making the same mistakes and learning from your experiences,” he says of the track, “just getting rid of all of the negative things in your life, from relationships to friendships, etc.”

 
Ultimately, he credits his time in Korea with helping him break ground that merely networking online wouldn’t have allowed — which is a big takeaway for any artist considering touring overseas. “I’m constantly booked … I play three shows a week. There’s a real connection with the people, the fans, and with the industry as a whole out there.” Though he’d already tasted some initial success stateside, the same success that led him to Korea in the first place, what’s he’s built over there has been next level. “Going out there and just being the unicorn, just being different, instantly people gravitated towards it.” On top of just a hectic live schedule, he also landed numerous print magazine placements and even commercial placements — notably appearing in Spyder clothing ads that appeared across Asia in movie theatres.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s sparked a whole new wave of creativity for Koncept. “It’s dope because it’s in a different place is just really inspiring. You know what I mean? Walking outside every day and just seeing things that I’m not used to, meeting different people … it’s a whole other inspiration.” As he explains, the outlook has given his music an even more unique vibe than it already had. “I’m not to trying to be pigeonholed as a New York rapper … there’s a big world out here. I’m trying to be a fucking a global artist, you know, global musician.”

14 Days Ahead
is available everywhere.

 

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interview, Interviews

Get to Know London Rapper: Kid Bookie

“Energy Transcends” was the phrase that stuck with me after an insightful conversation with the highly motivated, London based rapper:…

“Energy Transcends” was the phrase that stuck with me after an insightful conversation with the highly motivated, London based rapper: Kid Bookie.

After watching Bookie’s music video for the single “Who’s Next,” I became intrigued by the UK artist. The image that stood out to me from that video was of a sign reading: “you’ve been brainwashed into liking trash,” because immediately after showing it, he spits bars that would make any Soundcloud rapper terrified. Kid Bookie proved to me in six seconds that he had a deep respect for lyricism in Hip Hop, and that he was not afraid to voice his opinions towards those who mishandle it. After watching a few more of his videos I learned that Books had recently toured with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. This was truly icing on the cake. So I called him up.

The first thing I noticed about Bookie was how hungry he is to be heard. This man truly cares about his art and he told me how appreciative he was that I recognized his talent. Immediately I asked him about his quote from the “Who’s Next” video: “you’ve been brainwashed into liking trash.” And his answer clarified how deeply involved with Hip Hop he truly is.

Books said that “Even if you’re not rapping, but you have an element of musicality because you studied music, and you know what goes in a beat, that shows me that you care. And people don’t care these days, but people who do care, you find them. You have to study your predecessors.”

 
This is pretty much an extension of the J. Cole/Lil Pump conversation, where people are acknowledging the increasing gap between “clout” rappers and true lyrical artists. But Bookie had no malice for these types of “rappers” in his statement. As he put it: people will find those who put blood, sweat, and tears into their music.

When I asked about the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony tour I was impressed to learn that the group actually reached out to Bookie first. The London MC modestly said that the OG’s respect him, despite being relatively underground. And it was clear the respect went both ways. Bookie described growing up watching his father rap, and hearing Grime artists all around him in. But he made it clear that he is not a Grime rapper, or fully aligned with London’s underground scene. The MC told me that he resonated more with artists like XXXTentacion and those with an aggressive, artistic energy about them. When Bookie and I previewed a track he had been working on I could spot the influence. With a combination of fast paced spitting, melodic singing, and super aggressive scream-rap, it became apparent that the young MC has a strong portfolio in the making.

When I asked Bookie who inspired him growing up, he told me that before he even picked up a rap CD, he listened to rock. System of a Down, Slipknot, Korn, and Blink 182 were just a few of the bands the MC said influenced his music. We spoke about the importance of the rock/rap relationship and how Hip Hop has adopted the energy that was introduced in the 80’s and 90’s via the punk scene. London was arguably at the forefront of this scene, and Bookie proves he is a product of this through the energy he puts out. As I listened to his upcoming tape “Publish THIS” I could hear the rock influence; but it’s his variety of flow, subject matter, and carefully calculated lyricism that makes it an airtight project.

My conversation with Kid Bookie gave me a promising hope that there are budding MC’s out there preserving Hip Hop’s gritty, lyrical roots. With the self-proclaimed underground album: “Publish THIS” scheduled to drop May 31st, Bookie wants you to know before he’s dead, no matter how early or late it be, he will change the world through his music.

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interview, Interviews, New Music

Daniel Najar Is In It For The Love

Growing up as a Jehovah Witnesses, Hip Hop’s artist Daniel Najar journey began while going door to door one weekend…

Growing up as a Jehovah Witnesses, Hip Hop’s artist Daniel Najar journey began while going door to door one weekend with his family. “One day a lady let us into her house, and she was explaining to the older guy I was with that her son was rebellious and listened to rap,” he tells AAHH. “Her son shortly came out of his room, and I could hear ‘The Real Slim Shady’ by Eminem in the background.”

His fascination with Eminem — and The Marshall Mathers LP — led him to explore the catalogs of multiple artists, before getting into the game himself. “I ended up having a very crazy life of my own, and at the age of 24 I began to take rapping seriously, pursuing a career in music,” he says. 

“I feel that I can add some value into Hip Hop … I look forward to sharing my life story with the world,” he continues.

“I look for beats that match my emotions or how I’m feeling at the current time,” he says of his deeply personal approach to creating music. “I spend hours every week looking through beats to find something that gets me inspired and motivated to write.”

Currently, he’s working on a project called On The Rise. “I’ve released all the tracks I’ve finished to my Youtube Channel and all the streaming sites,” he noted.

“Everyone in the world has a layer to them you will never see,” he explains. “When you create music you are forced to reveal the things you would normally never share with anyone … making music is extremely personal and puts you in a vulnerable position.”

“I want to show people if they believe in themselves anything is possible,” he shares as a noble goal in the industry. He’s definitely in it for the love — you can’t hate on that!

Check him out, below.

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interview, Interviews

Cold War: An Interview With Rising Upstart Cautious Clay

We spoke to Cautious about his musical influences, creative process, and a fated trip to Korea that changed his life.

Cautious Clay burst onto the scene last September with the release of his debut single, “Cold War,” and hasn’t looked back since. The former leasing agent marketer has progressed at a torrid pace since the impressive drop, accomplishing more in nine months than most artists do in an entire career: he’s racked up millions of plays on Spotify alone, performs throughout the country, and is already being hounded by major labels. He re-released his debut EP, Blood Type, attached with an extra track, “Stolen Moments,” in April and is already slated to release a new EP by the end of May. We spoke to Cautious about his musical influences, creative process, and a fated trip to Korea that changed his life. You can check it all out, below.

Not even a year ago, you were working as a leasing agent marketer. What was it like working a 9-5 as a passionate musician?

I was fortunate enough to find a way to make a living out of college. But, besides that, it was still something that I realized, even though I was making money, it wasn’t in a way in which I was happy. As cheesy as it sounds, I’m kind of a guy of my convictions and I didn’t relate to anyone else at my job. It was super soul-sucking.

And what made you finally take the leap of faith and quit?

Long story short, I had been making beats and stuff for several years and had a lot of weird ass beats up on my Soundcloud. The head of a Korean label sent me an email almost three years ago, in 2015, saying he wanted me to come out to Korea to work. At first I said, “That’s ridiculous,” and I ignored it. A year later, my manager was going out to Korea for a vacation and asked a friend of his if there was anyone he should meet while out there. He was introduced to the same guy that cold-emailed me years ago and they were like, “We have to get him to Korea.”

I was still working in corporate throughout those years and basically had no vacation time, I had like one or two days, and I took unpaid days off too and was like cool, I wanna do this. I basically ended up producing eight songs for these semi-big Korean artists; that was super surreal for me. The fact that I did that, I was like okay this is a sign. The beats were just some stuff I was working on like on a plane ride or making randomly, so I realized if I really just put 100% of my efforts into this and focused, maybe I could make a career out of this. One of the songs I produced ended up being nominated for a Korean Hip-Hop Award.

Growing up in Cleveland, how did the city influence you musically, i.e., Kid Cudi or Bone Thugs-N-Harmony? Sometimes your voice sounds eerily similar to Kid Cudi’s, although you’re different stylistically.

It’s funny you say Bone Thugs because they lived in Mayfield Heights, not too far from me. I think in terms of inspirations growing up, I would say that Cudi was surprisingly not a huge influence, I had always heard about his stuff and kinda listened to it peripherally but I never really got into it, funny enough. Not that I don’t like him as an artist, but he was never super inspiring for me.

You said in a past interview that you’re heavily influenced by Hip-Hop. Which artists in particular?

Today, there’s some artists I really like even just because of a couple verses that they’ve done. I really love Earl Sweatshirt’s verse on, “Super Rich Kids.” I think he’s incredibly talented and I really fuck with his stuff. Obviously Andre 3000 is amazing. Sometimes stylistically I’m really into Ugly God too, he’s of a genre that I love because it’s the most self-deprecating, he’s just funny.

And which artists overall?

I was super into a lot of different stuff, a lot of stuff my parents turned me onto early on, I kinda didn’t accept at first as most kids wouldn’t, but it kinda comes back around. I listened to a lot of RnB, Pop Punk; Green Day, Lil Bow Wow, 50 Cent, a bunch of pop of just in the early 2000’s and late 90’s was around the house and in my ears. In my teens I was a really big jazz head and played in a jazz band.

Which artists would you most like to collaborate with?

I’m really stoked actually to collaborate, I think I might be working with Duckwrth pretty soon, I really like his stuff. I would definitely say Kendrick Lamar, he’s so sick, that’d definitely be the dream collab. Otherwise I’m kinda open to different ideas in terms of collaborations. Someone like Alina Baraz might be cool or SZA. Maybe even in a production sense it could be interesting.

 
As a poly-instrumentalist, front man and songwriter, what’s the creative process like for you in terms of collaboration? Do you do most everything alone or like to include others in the process?

That’s a great question, I’m kind of grappling with that right now because I do get hit up for a lot of production and collabs, and it’s easiest sometimes for me to just be by myself and just make everything on my own. But there are some situations where I’ve been collaborating with people lately, on my next project I have one co-production, everything else is on my own. That’s a good example of someone having a cool sound, something I admire, and I’ll work with them for that particular reason. But in general I definitely feel like it’s difficult because I am a producer, so if a producer wants to work with me you gotta be good, cause I can already do this.

Blood Type seems to cover lots of topics regarding relationships, specifically, people struggling to stay present in the digital age. Would you say the whole E.P. is based on this theme or is the project more so general observation?

I would say it’s more of a general observation and that’s just a part of it. I try to toe the line and not be preachy in how people lead their lives, I like to have more of a reflective mentality about it. Everyone has a different perspective on things and I wanted to show my interpretation of how I see things. That stems back to the title, Blood Type, representing my identity in a grander sense. It’s purposefully trying to highlight my perspective on relationships and on things people might wanna consider or think more about in their own lives. I’m not trying to say you’re bad for using Tinder, of course, use Tinder! But kind of like hey, this is where we’re at and this is okay but also just realize that you can live your life in a lot of different ways.

From a songwriting perspective, are all of your songs based on your personal experiences or do you draw inspiration from elsewhere?

Mostly, 80-90%, my experiences because for me, that’s the easiest way to feel that what I’m saying is authentic. It’s weird for me me to try to do something if it doesn’t feel right. I think today is the coolest time to just be yourself, so, that’s all I can do.

Stay independent or sign?

I think I’m definitely gonna stay independent for the near future, but down the line, if an opportunity comes about that makes sense for me, I would definitely consider that.

What’s on the horizon for Cautious Clay?

Yeah, right now I’m actually working on putting out my next project at the end of May. It’s something I’m pretty stoked about, it’s a 3-4 song E.P. There’s gonna be a video and some pretty cool artwork that my friend Lane is working on, he did all of the artwork for the last project. I’m playing a show at Bowery on July 24th. I’m just stoked to keep it moving, it’s a fun one for sure.

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‘Don’t Smoke Rock’ Is Crack [Pun Intended]

"They chasing a hit, I'm chasing legacy."— Smoke Dza I was actual sworn to secrecy about the existence of the...

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