“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!
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.
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.