Hip-Hop Soul: Mateo
Best known for his work with Alicia Keys, Kerry “Krucial” Brothers has carved out a niche as forward thinking hitmaker. As the latest artist signed to Brothers label. Krucial Noise, newcomer Mateo will certainly have a chance at stardom. His just released mixtape “Love + Stadiums is a collections of well-developed modern R+B with appearances from artists like Pusha T, Ab-Liva and Kardinal Offishal. We talked to Mateo about his sound, his influences and his mom’s love for Hip-Hop—Khalid Salaam
XXL: How did you get started?
Mateo: I’m from Cincinnati, but i’m based out in LA now but Ohio is where it got started. I’ve always done music, and I started off with playing the piano in Cincy. My grandfather used to play guitarswith James Brown and my grandmother is a touring singer that has traveled around the world. Things got a little more serious when I went to attend college in Atlanta at Morehouse and I majored in business and music. After school, from there I worked as a consultant in New York for 6 months and hated it. I mean I seriously hated it and moved to LA 3 yrs ago. I wanted to give myself a chance, and as soon as I decided that i’m gonna try and do music, the doors started to open up for me.
XXL: What was your first real gig?
Mateo: I started working on TV shows when I first got to LA. I played the background music for shows like Eve and All of Us. I played music over the stock shots, that’s when they change scenes and they usually show the front of the house or apartment0 the characters live in. That was paying me until I figured out what kind of music I wanted to do. I was used to having a 9 to 5 but everything in LA was about the grind and I needed time to put it together.
XXL: So when was the first moment when things really started to materialize?
Mateo: My first break came when my manager, who also managed Janet Jackson, talked to his friend at Power 106 who gave my music to someone he knew there. Been grinding ever since.
XXL: Describe your sound?
Mateo: My style is like R +B with soul in it. A lot of R+B is just singing over hip-hop beats but I want to build on that and take it to another level. I want to add some piano keys over the beats and add something melodic to it. My style is like if you played Coldplay over break beats. It took a whole year to figure it all out. My first song was called Human and we had a dope drum on it. We got it on MySpace, this is a couple of years ago, and that started it. We made a EP and I made a song called “Get to Know Me” and we toured all over the place in a little va, it was like a molester van. We got a lotta of love for an indie artist. Blogs started noticing me and that’s when things really changed.
XXL: How did you get connect to Kerry Brothers?
Mateo: When I was on MySpace Records he heard my music and that’s how I got connected to Kerry Brothers. Eventually I left MySpace and I signed with him. I knew his previous work and what he did with Alicia and that was exciting to me. He’s really into pushing standards up. They stuck to a sound and didn’t chase radio and that’s what i’m trying to do.
XXL: How did that lead to this mixtape and working with guys like Pusha T and Kardinal Offishal?
Mateo: Kerry’s been in the game so long and he knows so many people and he reached out to Pusha T and Kardinal and that’s how that whole thing came together. We just sent Kardinal the joint and he did it right away, that’s how easy it happened. I was in LA when they made when that happened and Pusha T and Ab-Liva just jumped on the song. They were just in the flow.
XXL: What did you listen to growing up?
Mateo: The neo-soul movement was big for me growing up and that helped introduce me to Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway. Until then I was into A Tribe Called Quest heavy. Growing up my mom was into NWA real hard and she tried to cover my ears so I wouldn’t hear it but I heard her playing it sometimes anyway. I listened to Pac and Biggie too.
XXL: What are some of your all-time favorite hip-hop albums?
Mateo: My favorite all-time albums are Kanye’s 1st one and Common’s Like Water for Chocolate.
XXL: Did you follow the situation with Common and the White House appearance criticism?
Mateo: Yeah I followed the White House stuff, that situation was crazy. It didn’t make any sense. Did you see Jon Stewart’s comments? I’m glad he said what he did because it was needed. Common has always been about upliftment. The people who were opposed to his White House visit don’t understand what his music is about. That whole thing pissed me off but I’m glad the White House stood by him.
XXL: What’s your favorite rap song so far this year?
Mateo: My favorite rap song, man I don’t know. Last year it was Karaoke from Drake’s album. Its so simple but it just works. I met with Boi 1da recently who did a lot of Drake’s work and we talked about maybe doing some stuff together.
XXL: Who are your favorite Hip-Hop artists right now?
Mateo: Right now my favorites are Drake and Kanye, besides Rap I like Adele right now. Even though she doesn’t fit into the industry’s usual standards she succeeding and selling a lot of records because good music always prevails.
XXL: We just put out a list of the best 250 Rap songs of the 90’s. What are yours?
Mateo: My favorite song from the 90s? That’s hard man. There’s just so much good stuff to choose from. I don’t know. I’ll say Fugee-La and the One More Chance remix are my two favorites.