Music

Pop Explosion profile: 20 minutes with Quake Matthews

'It's a battle between mainstream and doing what you love'

Quake Matthews on stage at Reflections Cabaret Friday night, third night of Pop Explosion.
Quake Matthews on stage at Reflections Cabaret Friday night, the third night of Pop Explosion.   Megan Fraser

Matthew Arab, known as Halifax rapper Quake Matthews, has been on a stage rapping since he was 15, when he opened for DJ Dopey in downtown Halifax.

The 27-year-old has been working hard since his debut album, The Myth, and has collaborated with Canadian artists such as Classified, Ria Mae and Neon Dreams. He took home the rap recording of the year award for his fourth album, Rap Music, at the East Coast Music Awards in April.

The Fairview native recently teamed up with Kayo Guevarra, a rapper from St. Lucia who studied at Saint Mary’s University, to release The Search – Lost & Found in August. The two collaborated on the album The Search back in 2011.

The Signal sat down with Matthews before his Halifax Pop Explosion performance Friday night at Reflections Cabaret.

Q. What’s your favourite song to perform?

A. That’s a very, very tough question. There’s a fine line. The craziest crowd reaction I’ve gotten over the past few years is a song called “I Don’t Need Chase.” A part of me loves that reaction; it’s a clubbier, “dancier” song. The artistic side of me hates that it’s that song because I have so much more thought provoking music, well thought out music that doesn’t get that response. It’s that battle between mainstream and doing what you love, being artistic and still trying to appeal to people.

Q. But what song would it be if you could get that reaction?

A. I think those songs that I find special; only a few people relate to them. I think that’s for a reason. It’s even better that it’s our little secret, rather than every single person relating to that type of song. That’s what makes it rare, you know?

Q. What type of people are those?

A. I always end my show with a song that’s about anti-violence. Especially with what’s been going on in our city as of late and is continuously going on. That sound is very powerful to me. It’s called “We Can Do Better.” Wherever I perform that live it always goes over well. I would rather move you on an emotional level, something that really connects then yell out some type of catchy chorus about getting drunk.

Matthews’ song “We Can Do Better.”  WARNING: Contains explicit language

Q. How do you think your music has evolved (since the beginning)?

A. Back then it was very, how could I describe it? Naïve passion. I had the heart, but I wasn’t as smart back then, I didn’t treat it as a business. I didn’t know how to manoeuvre in a room full of vultures. I just had raw talent, like, ‘I don’t know what I want but I just want it now.’ Now I feel like it’s just a little bit more calculated. Sometimes I miss that naïve aggression that I had, people loved it. It’s hard to recapture that.

Q. So what’s it like performing with Kayo?

A. It’s amazing. Kayo always brings my energy up to make it a better show for the audience. I’m not a guy who typically in the beginning moved around a lot on stage. He has all this energy, rhythm and dance moves. I’ve been watching him and I picked up a little bit from him, but he’ll still probably always be a better dancer than me rhythm-wise. That’s something I’ve learned from him for sure.

Q. It’s been a couple of months since the EP “The Search – Lost and Found,” your project with him has come out. What’s the fan response been like?

A. I think it’s been good. You know, it’s something we did in a weekend. I feel like it hasn’t been out there to as many people yet as we’re gonna do. We haven’t even dropped a video yet. It’s really in the beginning stages. A lot of people liked it. A lot of people who normally wouldn’t like my typical style are now coming in and saying ‘oh I never knew you could sound like that.’ Everyone is going to like the video. It’s gonna be really, really, really crazy. I just think not enough people have heard it yet. But it’s coming.

Matthews, right, Kayo Guevarra rapping songs from their album at Reflections Cabaret.
Matthews and Kayo Guevarra, left, rapping songs from their new album at Reflections Cabaret.   Megan Fraser

Q. What is the feel/sound of the new album?

A. It’s a headphone album. If you listen to it with your headphones alone you’re gonna appreciate it. You’re gonna pick up on lines you never picked up on. Stuff is gonna hit you that doesn’t hit you initially.

Q. How’s it feel to be a part of Pop Explosion?

A. Any show you do is going to have a snowball effect. If you could gain two fans today, two fans tomorrow, three fans from this show. It’s all just making your brand bigger. Every show you do is gonna help.

Q. How does it feel when people download your music?

A. I live for the messages that people send me saying like ‘you helped me through this.’ I’ve had several messages of people saying they were on the brink of suicide, went through a breakup or lost someone close and my music helped them. That’s what I do this for. We’re all human. I feel like I’m more sensitive than normal. I feel hard. I dig deep within the depths of my soul. When people can relate to that it puts a smile on my face every time.

Q. What advice would you give young Canadian rappers trying to make it?

A. My first advice I’m going to give you is quit, don’t even try. The ones who listen to that or who give up easily weren’t supposed to make it anyways. The one who knows their own vision, blocks everybody else out and has it in their head that they’re gonna be successful; that’s the person going to make it.

Q. So what’s next on your to-do list?

A. I’m slowly working on a new project but believe it’s gonna be different than anything I’ve ever done. It’s gonna either be the one or I’m done.