[Interview] Quake Matthews talks “Corrado,” working with Chris Noxx, and hip-hop as advanced math

Interview by: Martin Bauman

The past year has been a challenging one for Quake Matthews. A pair of life-altering events led to a change in perspective for the Fairview, Nova Scotia emcee, and it shows on his latest album, Corrado. The album, set for release on April 4th, features guest appearances from Freeway, Roc Marciano, Kayo, JRDN, and Aldean Alliston. The Come Up Show caught up with Quake on tour to discuss his upcoming album, working with Chris Noxx, how hip-hop is like advanced math, and much more. Read the full interview below.

TCUS: You showcased at this year’s East Coast Music Week. What was that experience like?

Quake Matthews: It was dope, man. You know, there’s been a lack of venues in Halifax as far as performances, so I haven’t really performed in front of the hometown crowd in quite some time. So for it to be the ECMAs’ 25th anniversary, something real big like that – and the way that they did it all up, the lighting and the stage was all set up perfectly – so to do that, and have a big crowd in our home city, it felt good, because it’s been so long since we’ve been able to do that.

TCUS: What can you tell us about your upcoming project, Corrado?

Quake Matthews: That shit’s got 14 songs on it, all of them good, bangers. Just joking [laughs]. Corrado is something I really changed the writing process on; I did it all on the spot, so it was more of my emotions I was going through at that exact time. You definitely get to hear that raw emotion in it. We did all the songs on the spot. Since The Book of Matthew, a few things have happened; there are a few things I’ve witnessed that have changed some of my outlooks on life, and you can definitely hear them in Corrado.

TCUS: I didn’t realize this until the other day, but Seamz is responsible for your artwork, Classified’s artwork, and Kayo’s artwork on all of your recent albums. What can you tell me about Seamz?

Quake Matthews: Man, Seamz is a beast. I’ll be sticking with Seamz for the rest of my career. He’s just the best that does it, man. He puts a lot of heart and a lot of passion into it, and I’m not sure of his process, but what I usually do is I send him the album before anyone else, he sits down in his little studio or whatever, he listens to the album, and once he has a feel of the album, he really crafts it off that. So it’s not like “make me an album cover” and he’ll make you something random; he really gets into the music, and he really tries to see what you’re going for and then tries to match the artwork with the project. So yeah, he’s definitely the best in my eyes, for sure.

TCUS: Speaking of the artwork, one thing I noticed that’s featured very prominently was Joe’s in Fairview. What can you tell me about that corner store?

Quake Matthews: Shout out my guy Joe. I lived in Fairview my whole life, two blocks down from Joe, [for] 24 years. Joe’s seen me from a young guy to now, and [the store’s] kind of a landmark for me, and I want to represent where I’m from. Everybody knows Joe. It’s just a certain theme that I was like “you know what? I’m gonna keep running with this.” And Joe loves it. Every time I come in, he’s like “people come in here, they want to see the store from the video, [and] they want to meet me!” He gets people driving in from Dartmouth to buy blunts and stuff, so he gets all excited. I’m Lebanese, too, and so is Joe, so we definitely have that connection. He talks to me in Arabic, but he calls me half-Lebanese. That’s been my nickname from when I was young because my mother is Canadian [and] my father is Lebanese. But yeah, Joe’s my guy from the neighbourhood, man.

TCUS: So far, you’ve released the single “Lucy”. What was the inspiration behind this song?

Quake Matthews: Just different things in the way I see how certain females act lately. I don’t know, there’s nothing against certain females, but like… I don’t know if the music’s responsible, like, they see Rihanna out there acting like a little wh—, pardon my language, and then they wanna do it, too. I just feel like there’s misguidance going on somewhere. I’ll actually hear a girl’s conversations, like “oh yeah, I got this guy at the club tonight to buy me five drinks just from dancing with him and flirting with him, leading him on.” It’s like… you actually have no self-respect at all? So it was that girl who just lives for the shiny things and lives for the materialistic shit, because I see a lot of that going on lately. I just wanted to say to girls coming up, you don’t have to be like that. You don’t have to be like Rihanna; you can be classy, [just] be yourself.

TCUS: You’ve been doing a lot of work with Chris Noxx. How did you two first meet?

Quake Matthews: The first time I met Chris Noxx, it was actually crazy, because he was producing for these guys that went to our high school. And I don’t know who it was at first, but I rapped with a bunch of my friends in high school, they rapped with a bunch of their friends, and he produced their shit. Somewhere along the lines, someone ended up dissing me or one of my friends, and Noxx ended up recording it. So I was just like f— it, I’m going in on them all; he got it, too.

But a couple years went by, he went to California, we were talking over MySpace, he told me he was doing good out there, and then one time, he was like “you know what? I’m moving home. I really want to conquer the local shit.” So he moved home, and ever since [then], it’s just been on from there. Noxx is honestly one of the funniest guys you’ll ever meet, and a super talented producer who has a crazy, crazy, range.

He can make any style of beat. Like, when I met him, the beats he was making were all down South, 808, Lex Luger type shit. But then I was like “here man, use this sample. Try to make me some more East Coast, New York, Golden Era type shit,” and he would take the breakbeat and the sample and make something crazy. This guy really, really knows what he’s doing, and he’s all self-taught, so that’s crazy, too.

TCUS: How did you link up with Roc Marciano?

Quake Matthews: My manager had shown me his music. Usually, when my manager shows me music, I’m not feeling any new guys. Sorry Myke, if you’re listening, but I’ll play it for 30 seconds and shut it off, like “this is garbage.” When he showed me Roc Marciano, I was like “holy f—, who the f— is this guy?” So I was like alright, you can reach out to anyone on Twitter, [so] I hit him up a couple times. He had his email on Twitter, so I hit him up on email a few times, like “I need you for this project, I need you for this project.” I never heard back. But I had seen him tweeting back and forth with Freeway’s manager, Amir. So I was like “okay, Amir must know him.” And I’ve got a relationship with Amir, so I [asked him] “can you put the good word in for me?” And also, I’ve got a good relationship with Oh No, so I was like “can you put the word in for me?” And then one day, out of the blue, he did respond back. So thanks to Amir and Oh No for putting the good word in, I sent the beat, he loved it, and he was feeling my verse, [so] it was history from there. It’s a real eerie, dark track, man. Real hip-hop heads are gonna love that track. It’s so grimy.

TCUS: Do you have any work with Oh No at all?

Quake Matthews: No, I don’t. I actually met him like two years ago at a battle in Montreal, and we just kept in touch ever since. If I do anything new, I’ll send it to him, and he’ll tell me what he thinks. We just chat here and there, man. He’s a good dude. But I hope the collabo comes in the future. We spoke about it, but it’s just schedules, and busyness… but I’m definitely gonna hook up with Oh No in the future. Oh No’s my dude. Big shout out to him.

TCUS: You’ve also been putting together a documentary about the making of Corrado. What’s the release plan for the documentary?

Quake Matthews: You know what? I’m not even sure at this point. I can tell you it’s very short, it’s only like seven minutes. I don’t know if you saw the Driven with Nas or Jay-Z. The one I like is Nas, that’s my favourite artist. But it’s where all his friends and the people he works with answer questions about him. So I’m only in it for like two little parts. You get to see what everyone around me thinks of me or my creative processes, so it’s not really from my perspective. To be honest, I never even saw what any of them said until I saw the full documentary, because I wasn’t there. So it was kinda cool to see what people thought of me, and how they look at me. It’s definitely something dope to look forward to, and it’ll probably be out the same day as the album.

TCUS: You talk about music as an addiction that you can’t break. Can you explain?

Quake Matthews: Basically, every time I do a new joint, I’ll play it like a hundred times that next day. Maybe if I wasn’t working this hard, I would do like a new song a week or something, but now, it’s just like, we’re at it every day. I do two, three, or four [songs a day], and now I have all this music I can play back. It’s that feeling of making a song and then being able to play it back off your own phone or your own iPod, and critique it yourself. I’m addicted to that feeling. I don’t know what it is. And every time I just want to keep going, going, and make more, more, more, more. I guess it’s a blessing that I’ve got an engineer around me, Corey LeRue, who’s down to work as much as I’m down to work.

TCUS: One last question I have for you, this is a tweet of yours: “You have to be trained on how to listen to rap. That’s why the general public loves basic shit. Advanced math isn’t for every student.” Can you explain?

Quake Matthews: Exactly. Because the Top 40, or what most of these kids listen to, is designed so that you can do three things and still know what they’re saying. You can watch TV, follow that show, you can be cooking breakfast, your pancakes are not gonna burn, and you can still be singing whatever artist it is and still get all of [the words]. That’s how they design it. And people don’t focus on one thing, you know what I mean? It’s designed so that you can multitask and still get it.

But something like Freeway, the way his rhyme schemes are, or Nas, the way these people put their words together, you’re not even catching that. And sometimes I get discouraged, because I’ll go through all this trouble to place my words a certain way, and it’ll have a certain poetic structure, like “I’ll rhyme this, and this, and this in this bar, and then I did something in between, then I came back to what I rhymed before that, and now I’m rhyming the in between after that.” You know what I mean? It’s a tangled web.

And to me, and people who get hip-hop, they freak on it. But the average person has no idea what you’re even doing. They don’t even care. So I guess that’s what it means. I would rather be that fine dining restaurant that you go to once a year on your anniversary than the McDonalds where you can go and everyone’s there on the Dollar Menu. You know what I mean? That’s how I describe it.

TCUS: That’s all from me, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Quake Matthews: Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @QuakeMatthews, check for us in a city near you – me and Kayo are out here doing it big, man – and that’s pretty much it. It’s always a pleasure. Thank you, man.