Introduce yourself, crew affiliations etc.
What up to everyone reading this, my name is Matre. I’m an MC from LA rap group, The League; consisting of myself, Doc Lewd, Life Rexall (Shape Shifters, Chain Smokers, $Martyr) and my producer Jericho J (we also have a group together, M3JX2). I’m also a member of Universal 1 (an international all-elements hip hop crew), Large ups to the whole Shape Shifter fam, 2Mex, Xololanxinxo, Deeskee, la2thebay, Top2Bottom, Project Blowed, DJ Handprints and Nocando, and of course DJ Chaps, Factor G, Rove One and the whole Side Road family.
You have been holding it down on the West Coast for quite a while. How did you get involved in The League?
Doc Lewd and another homie, First Citizen, started The League way back. Lewd brought myself and Jericho into it early on, and a little after that we got Life Rexall in the mix too.
Why did you drop the word “English” from The English League?
A lot of folks were thinking we were British I was having a lot of people ask me if we were, and I new the name made it sound that way. We were referring to the English language. The League of English, like the cats that write your dictionary, the elite language authority you know what I’m saying Chaps.
You titled your solo debut Struggle Music. What is the significance of that title?
Struggle Music is a way of recognizing and showing my appreciation, gratitude and respect for the hardship and struggle (social, racial, economic, internal) from which so much great music is born, and from which Rap in particular emerged, as a part of a tradition of Black American music, that has for so long successfully practiced the highest form of alchemy, transforming struggle into beauty. This spirit of transformation is so powerful for me, and is a big part of what calls me to this music. Struggle Music is a title that refers to music that inspires me, and a statement of my commitment to work towards cultivating that same spirit in my own music, with the hope to work towards eliminating the violence and injustice that has been at the root of so much suffering in this country and around the world. The last song on the album, “Open”, strives to explain the album title.
You are known to have a real hype live show. Why do you think so many mc’s these days lack that energy on stage?
Do a lot of MCs these days lack that energy on stage? I don’t know I think rockin’ a party is an essential part of a hip hop stage show the music side of hip hop culture was built on that, and I feel that in order to maintain the culture, its good to maintain that party energy I’d like for hip hop shows to be a time when people will out let go, smile and laugh a lot, throw their hands up and rock em to the beat, not cuz they think its time too, but because the shit feels so goddamn good that they’re bobbin their head like their trying to break through a wall with their baseball caps before they even recognize their doing it. I take great inspiration from the Old School cats seeing Slick Rick for example, is like a kid going to Disneyland you have fun, straight up, you don’t worry about what time it is, or how you look, or even getting a drink, your just rockin’ with him until it’s done, then your cheeks hurt from smiling and your voice is hoarse and you walk out sweaty and feelin’ like you just got a work out and a healing that’s a fuckin’ show
I have heard that you “jump around on the stage like a kangaroo with no fear” what does that mean?
You might have heard that I do that, but the truth is that the only place that really goes down is in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and you pretty much have to be from there to know whats up. You might want to ask some of the locals, or you can hit up Akuma for the secret of the fearless kangaroo jump, its kind of like a bunny hug, but different.
Is The League still active and what are the other members doing these days?
The League is family, so were always in the mix together. Even when folks don’t see us all together for a while, we’re doing the same stuff that we’ve been doing since we started the crew working with thoughts and words and music and energy. Jericho and I are working together a lot; We have a project called The Exotic Dirt Years that folks can start checkin’ for pretty soon. Life Rexall just released an album with 2Mex, under the group name $Martyr, and he’s got his fingers in all kinds of projects always, and Doc Lewd is working on a solo project.
You teamed up with Canadian born producer Polyhedron for a couple tracks on the album including the banger “98 Degrees”, How did that come about?
Polyhedron’s got heat I’ve known him since high school, but I hooked up with him to do music through Life Rexall who works with him regularly.
What are some major hurdles facing you as an independent artist and what will it take for you to overcome them?
Being an independent artist, and I think an artist in general in this society, is a hustle. I’m learning more and more though, that my biggest challenges are internal, and dealing with those is what will help me most.
What are your favorite hip hop moments as a fan and as and artist?
As an artist, having the opportunity to work with DJ Rob One (RIP, thank you Rob) was one of the greatest experiences for me. In general working with older cats, and having the opportunity to listen to them, is a great experience that I’m real grateful for. As a fan, seeing shows like the Slick Rick jam I described above, and hearing albums that move me in that same way.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I really don’t know maybe retired in Saskatoon.
Is Saskatoon just like LA but smaller?
No, Saskatoon is a lot more friendly to Kangaroos. Umm I think the way a hip hop scene develops in a smaller place like Saskatoon is real different than in LA everything is very close knit. In LA the city is vast and spread out, and the scene is too, although I feel like we have a pretty good sense of unity in the LA hip hop scene
Is being independent in Cali different than in Canada?
I don’t really know enough about the situation in Canada to say, but I think it probably is if for no other reason than just how much less populated Canada is, so I would guess that its a lot harder to spark up a buzz and create a fan base with a lot fewer people to work with.
Regional artists in the States seem to be able to make a living, does it affect their motivation/drive?
I don’t know, I can only speak for myself on that It’s a challenge for me to work towards making a living with my music, because it becomes not only music and community, but business and hustle. And that brings a whole other element into the picture that can definitely effect how I feel about things. Motivation is a big question for me I guess maybe I’m working to find a balance.
What would you say to people that say hip hop is dead or past it’s prime?
Oh man I think this one well have to discuss in person Chaps, thats Pandora’s box. For now Ill just say that I agree with Mos Def when he said that hip hop is at, wherever were at. It’s not a giant that lives in the hills, it’s us.
What were your goals and aspirations when you started out? Have you accomplished them and how have they changed or evolved?
When I started out, I wanted to be the best rapper ever and I wanted to make music as good as the music that inspired me to do this in the first place. I’m not the best rapper ever, and I never will be, and as that becomes less and less important, I become more and more free to discover what my more enduring goals really are.
What are you listening to these days?
I always like that question. Most recently I’ve been bumpin’ the new album from The Coup, Pick a Bigger Weapon, I would recommend it. I’m still feelin’ the Danger Doom album and I’ve been looking forward to the Gnarls Barkley project (Danger Mouse and Cee-lo). I’ve actually been bumpin Lil Wayne’s album The Carter II (I know, it sounds crazy to me too, but he’s actually a unique and fresh rapper with some dope beats). Besides the rap, I’m always bumping a lot of Reggae and music from different parts of the world. I’m bumpin’ a lot of West African and Latin American music right now, hype dance music, Samba, Cumbia, Soukouss, as well as my periodic doses of good Country Music, Folk, Jazz, Funk and Soul. I love music Chaps.
What are you working on and what does the immediate future hold for Matre?
I’m working on a 7 inch with Factor of Side Road Records that should drop soon, in time for a tour that will take us through the Western and South Western U.S. and Western Canada (including the prairies of course). Like I said, I’m also working on The Exotic Dirt Years with Jericho J, and another solo album with different producers that isn’t titled yet. The right moment for the next League project is steadily descending from the future, so that should be up and coming too.
Do you have any last words, shout outs, stories?
To everyone reading this, thank you for taking the time to do so Love and Respect.