[Interview] Quake Matthews talks “The Book Of Matthew,” working with Freeway, and how he got his name

Interview by: Martin Bauman

If you haven’t checked out Quake Matthews’ album The Book of Matthew yet, do yourself a favour and download it right now. The Fairview, Nova Scotia artist is responsible for my personal favourite album of 2012 so far. After making a name in the rap battle circuit and getting a lot of attention from The Search last year with Kayo, Quake Matthews is on the cusp of becoming a dominant voice in Canadian hip-hop, having worked with Royce Da 5’9″, Freeway, and Termanology already. The Come Up Show caught up with Quake Matthews last week to talk about The Book of Matthew, working with Freeway, and how he got his name, among other things. Check out the interview below.

TCUS: So, The Book of Matthew came out earlier this month, how’s the response been so far?

Quake: The response has been great, man. We’re just doing a couple Atlantic Canada shows, and there’s been good turnouts, people seem to be diggin’ the music. Like, people knowing the words and s*** like that, so I mean, things have been good. The online response is good as well… a bunch of people hitting me up on twitter and facebook, and all that good stuff. So it’s been good.

TCUS: You have a line in your song “What I Want” that goes: “This here is history in the making/ And you better believe that I’mma make it/ I see the prize right there for the taking.” What’s the prize that you’re after? What goals have you set for yourself?

Quake: Basically, I’ve always said this: I never wanted to be the rich rapper, or flossing, or living lavish, or anything like that. I said when I was really young that I love to do this, and it makes me happy. So if I can make a living and pay rent, and one day, if I eventually have a family, you know, provide for my family. And if I can do that through music, doing what I love, then that’s pretty much my goal. That’s all I want.

TCUS: You had Freeway, Termanology, and SonReal on The Book of Matthew, what was it like working with those guys?

Quake: Well, man, I’ve always been a huge fan of Freeway. Some of his rhyme patterns, I learned a lot of the way I rhyme through listening to him when I was younger, ’cause he has a very unique flow, and very unique rhyme patterns, as I’m sure you know.

TCUS: Definitely.

Quake: So, I reached out to him, I was like, “alright, one day, I wanna do a song with Freeway.” So I reached out to him on twitter, and then he started following me, and I was like, “man, I wanna get you on this track.” And I don’t think he responded at first, and then I hit him up [around] two days later, I was like, “man, I really wanna get you on this track. I hear you all over this beat.” And then he was like, “okay, yeah man, send the beat. If I’m feeling the beat, then we can go from there.” So then I sent him the beat, and after I sent the beat, I didn’t think he got it or something, cause it was another two days. And I was like, “did you get the beat, man? Did you get the beat?” And I hit him up again, and he said, “yeah, yeah, I got the beat.” He loved the beat. So he [said], “yeah, I’ll do that right away.” So then, a few days later, his verse was in my inbox, and it just went like that. And the pressure was on me, because he actually had his verse done before I had sat down and wrote my verse, so I was just racking my brain, like “damn, he just killed that!” So I was [thinking], I gotta really come with something serious. And that was actually one of the first songs that I made for that album, so I even feel like I came a long way from that point. So, if I could go back and do it now, I’m sure it would even be better than it is now. But yeah, it was dope, man.

And as far as Termanology, he was down here for a show with Statik Selektah, and he came through the IV League studios. Real cool dude. We just popped a bottle, he wrote his verse right on the spot, it probably took him like ten, fifteen minutes. And then we just knocked it out, and it went like that.

And SonReal, he’s been fam for the last couple years. He came down here, and we got a chance to meet him. And the first time I met him was when we did the song “Go Hard”, it’s off “The Search”, with me, him, and Kayo. And that was really the first time I got to meet him, so I didn’t really know him too well, and then I bumped into him a couple more times after that, and eventually, he just became fam. He’s like a brother, man. Big up to SonReal.

TCUS: You also had the chance to work with Royce before, who else is on your list of artists to work with?

Quake: S***. Am I going big here, like am I dreaming here? Or am I trying to keep it realistic?

TCUS: I don’t know, you tell me.

Quake: Man, I don’t know, as far as new artists… I like Kendrick Lamar…. S***, as far as like, dreaming, if we’re getting really big, my number one goal is to do a song with Nas, produced by DJ Premier. That’s my dream collabo right there.

TCUS: Definitely. You just got a follow from Jay Electronica on Twitter, was that a surprise?

Quake: Yeah, yeah, that was a crazy surprise. But I kinda got discouraged after, ’cause just today, he said something, he was trying to follow as many people as he can. So, I don’t feel as special anymore [laughs], but nonetheless, it’s dope that he hit me on the follow.

TCUS: Yeah, it’s gotta count for something, right?

Quake: Yeah, exactly.

TCUS: You were recently at the East Coast Music Awards, what was that experience like?

Quake: I didn’t get to go up there for the whole weekend, because I had a show in Cape Breton the night before. So, I drove back from Cape Breton, I don’t know if you know how far that is from Halifax, it’s like a five hour drive. And then as soon as I got home from Cape Breton, that Saturday, I went right to Moncton in the car. So, I got to see Class[ified] and Maestro do their thing onstage, that was a pretty legendary moment. Everyone was going crazy. I got to meet D.O., he was saying he was really digging [the album], I met a few people from out West… Live Vision Management, and stuff like that. So, it was a good experience, man. And everybody was drunk as hell, having a good time, so I had fun.

TCUS: You’ve got something called the “Steak with Quake” contest, that’s happening tomorrow, what gave you that idea?

Quake: Honestly, I work part-time at ScotiaBank, and I work with a lot of other people my age, and all we do all day is just think of ideas, like, what we could do. Actually, “Set You Free”, a song off “The Book of Matthew”, was inspired from the same guy who gave me the idea for this “Steak with Quake” contest. We just talk, and have conversations, and then I get little ideas off the conversations. One day, he was like “I love my basement door”…. he’s a little younger than me… “I love my basement door, I get to sneak out and smoke,” and this and that. And I was like, “man, that’s a song!” And I made the song. And I think he was talking about the Halifax MooseHeads, the hockey team, doing some type of contest like that, where they took fans out to dinner. And I was like, “Yeah, man, I’m gonna do that too!” It sounded dope to me. It’s a good way to give back to the fans, let them know I appreciate all the support and everything.

TCUS: You got your start in battle rapping as a teenager, do you remember the first dude you battled?

Quake: The first dude I battled….. The first ever battle I did was [with] this heavy-set girl outside the corner store on Fairview, and I was probably thirteen, fourteen at the time. And she was rapping, and there were a bunch of people around drinking and smoking, older people. I was just hangin’ out, I didn’t drink or smoke at the time, I was young. And she goes, “I’ll battle anybody!”, and this is a big, scary looking girl. And I’m like, “alright, I’ll battle you, if you go first.” And then she went first, and then everyone was like “ohh f***, she’s being rude to this little kid,” blah, blah, blah. And then I just came with it, and just murdered her, and everyone was going crazy. That was probably my first ever battle, man. [As far as] an official competition…. I think it was Tachichi of the Goods crew. I’m pretty sure. And that same night, I also went all the way to the finals. I was sixteen. It was a battle at this club called the Marquee Club, and it was a $500 prize. I think it was on a school night, and my parents let me go, they let me stay out. And I was wearing sweatpants in the club, I had no idea about style or anything like that. And I ended up in the finals, and people were actually laughing at me before the battle, like “you’re actually in this?” And I ended up in the finals against Littles the General. And I beat Littles, and when that happened, that’s when my name started buzzing, and that’s when people started to really see who I was.

TCUS: Is that the story that Ghettochild talks about in the opening of “Story of the Underdog”?

Quake: Yeah! That was the first time I met Ghettochild, because this club is… I’m not a hood dude, I come from middle or lower class, but this club is like, right in the hood of Halifax. It’s right on that street. So that was the first time I met him, and a lot of those guys. So it was a pretty intimidating situation, man. But, as soon as they heard me spit, everyone was on my side. And from then on, Ghetto kind of took me under his wing, I started hanging out with him a lot, doing music with him a lot.

TCUS: Did you always go by Quake? What made you decide to go with that name?

Quake: Yeah, I think I did always go by Quake. I mean, I’m sure there were a couple little names, when I was like eleven, twelve, I can’t really remember right now. But I had Quake ever since I can remember, and it was these Adidas shoes that they used to make, and it was called the Adidas Quake. And I liked the shoes so much, I bought back to back pairs. I kept gettin’ em, and gettin’ em, and then one day, I was like, “man, I need a rap name.” And I was looking in my closet, and I had all these shoe boxes, and they said Quake on them. I still have one of them, I think. I can send you the picture. And I was just like, “alright, f*** it, that sounds good, that fits.” So there’s no crazy story behind it, or nothing like that, I was just looking at the shoe boxes, and I was like, “alright, that’s it. That sounds good.”

TCUS: You competed in the Ultimate MC battle series last year, how was that?

Quake: It was a dope experience, man. It was a long, long ride up to Montreal, but s***, it was a dope experience. Got to meet a lot of people from different places, connect with different emcees, and I had fun. There was a little bit of controversy there, but I had a good time, I was a good sport about it. And yeah, it was dope. I was happy to be a part of it.

TCUS: You have a line in your song “The Book of Matthew” that goes: “What I’ve learned in this lifetime/ Is that I’m the only person that can stop me,” and you finish by saying that you enjoy your mistakes. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re getting at with those lines?

Quake: I tend to be really hard on myself, second-guessing my material, [and] self-conscious. And that was holding me back. Even in my younger videos, you can see I look kind of nervous, or unsure of myself. So that was pretty much me holding myself back. And then when I got a little older, a little confident, like “I am dope, I can do this,” I got more confidence and I stopped second-guessing myself so much. Even though I still do, but that’s pretty much what was holding me back, I felt.

TCUS: You’ve got a song called “Set You Free” on your album, we already talked about this a bit, and it talks about sneaking in and out of the basement door after drinking and getting high. Did that make for an awkward conversation with your mom at all?

Quake: Nah man, I’m twenty-three years old now, and you know, every kid does that s***. I played it for my mom, played it for my dad, and the first thing my mom said was “I love it, I love this song. I think it’s dope.” She didn’t say “I think it’s dope,” but she probably said it was neat, or something like that [laughs].

TCUS: [Laughs]. It seems like the Maritimes are just pumping out nonstop quality hip-hop right now, what’s the culture like out there?

Quake: It’s very tight-knit. Because it’s [all] smaller cities, and it’s very tight-knit, and everybody knows everybody, everybody supports everybody. And man, there’s a lot of talent out here, and it’s crazy, because it’s not like we have one sound. It’s not like when you think of Atlanta, they have a sound, or New York has a certain sound. We’ve got all different styles packed in this one city. For example, people coming to university… like Kayo, he’s from St. Lucia. So he’s got a different accent or swag than I do, and someone that came in from somewhere else might have a different sound, like a Jay Mayne, he might have a different sound than me, and I think it’s just… we all appreciate each other, we all know how to work together and coexist, and it’s just all love out here, man.

TCUS: Speaking of Kayo, you dropped “The Search” with him last year, how did you two first meet?

Quake: I think I was doing this open mic at St. Mary’s University, and that’s where he went. And I used to go down and do them every Wednesdays, they give you little fifteen minute sets… and they were like “alright, you’re going on after Kayo,” and I was like “who’s Kayo?” and they’re like, “oh, he’s another rapper.” And at first, I kinda chuckled, like, “oh, he’s probably nothing serious,” just joking around, thinking I’m the s*** or whatever. And he actually went on and f***ing just murdered it. And I was blown away, like “damn, who is this guy?” So I went up and talked to him, and got his background story. And then, all of a sudden, he was just part of the scene, man. Everywhere I’d go, I’d bump into him, and we were like, “man, we gotta do this song!” And we ended up doing the song “Find A Way”, the intro, and the intro came out so dope, [we were] like, “f*** it, let’s just put a whole album together.”

TCUS: Are there any plans at all for a follow-up album?

Quake: I know he’s doing his album right now, it’s almost done, and my album just came out, but we haven’t really spoke on it, man. But I’m sure someday that would definitely happen. I can’t say if it’s gonna be a year, six months, two years… but, I dunno, I think one of these days it will definitely happen again.

TCUS: So, after dropping The Book of Matthew, what’s the next step for you in the evolution of Quake as an artist?

Quake: I guess the business side of things, because all I ever used to do was just rap, and I thought, “yo, if I’m dope enough, whatever, I’m gonna blow up,” but I’m really learning that you have to know the business. And it’s almost all business, so now the next step is getting the business right, learning what a contract looks like, and hiring publicists to do campaigns, and different types of things of that nature. So I’d say its the business [side], that’s what I’m really trying to focus on. I have my music pretty much where I want it to be, but there’s always room for improvement. But my business, that’s the thing I’m really trying to evolve, and learn, and excel in.

TCUS: That’s all from me, is there anything else you wanted to say to the people out there?

Quake: I just want to say thanks for the support, and big ups to The Come Up Show for reaching out. And it’s all love, man, check for anything Quake Matthews related.

TCUS: Thank you very much for your time, I appreciate it, and best of luck in the future.

Quake: No doubt. Thanks man, good talking to you.