Exclusive: A$ton Matthews revisits honing his craft after being shot, bonding with A$AP Mob, Joey Fatts & Vince Staples and not giving away any more free music.
A bullet from an assailant struck close to the heart of A$ton Matthews when he was just 18-years-old, almost taking his life, but it was also that near-fatal event which changed his life-course and gave start to his promising Rap career. In the relatively short time that saw him trade in a life of crime for the microphone, A$ton Matthews has been gaining the attention of Rap fans and fellow artists from both coasts with his grim tales of street life over slow and dark trap beats. However it’s that same style of music which has attracted a lot of his fans also has brought criticism from some through social media that feel he’s just a one dimensional artist. This criticism is something that he’s aware of and Matthews is looking to change some of those minds with the release of his new mixtape A$ton 3:16 (available for download on March 16) and show there is more to him than just the trap style of Rap.
With the help of Action Bronson, Bodega Bamz, Ab-Soul, and fellow Cutthroat Boyz homies Joey Fatts and Vince Staples, A$ton 3:16 looks to be a more complete project than the previous Versace Ragz and NoFvcksgiven mixtapes. HipHopDX caught up with A$ton Matthews at a studio out in Santa Fe Springs, California to talk about his budding career, affiliations with the A$AP Mob, the Cutthroat Boyz and more in this new exclusive interview.
A$ton Matthews Talks Pro Wrestling & His Familial Love Of Rap
HipHopDX: You use a lot wrestling names and references in your rhymes and self-given nicknames. I’m glad that John Cena isn’t one of them. I can’t stand that dude.
A$ton Matthews: Nah, I don’t fuck with John Cena, and I wouldn’t expect anybody to fuck with me if I did. The WWE should set up a match between us.
DX: He does try to rap you know. Maybe you two can have a Rap battle?
A$ton Matthews: He doesn’t want that. He’s wack and his whole style is wack—with the jean shorts and the chain lock that he wears. I like Mankind and Stone Cold Steve Austin. I wish I could have made a theme song for those two. Also The Godfather, because he’s so wavy and he’s got the Ho Train.
DX: The artwork cover for your new mixtape A$ton 3:16 borrows from Ice Cube’s Death Certificate album. What’s the reasoning behind that?
A$ton Matthews: My dad is a big Ice Cube fan, and he used to play him a lot when I was kid. Plus I just thought that it was a dope cover.
DX: Since your dad is a Rap fan, does he listen to your music too?
A$ton Matthews: Yeah he plays music…my mom and my grandma too.
DX: Your grandma listens to your drug and murder raps?
A$ton Matthews: My grandma is always listens to [KPWR] “Power 106” FM because she thinks that I’m going to come on the radio. Just recently, she was listening to it and started rapping the chorus to Problem’s “Like Whaaaat” song. That’s now her favorite song on that station. She keeps hoping that I’m going to come on the radio, and hopefully I will soon. She listens to my shit though. Honestly, my family just likes the fact that I’m doing something with my life. They see and hear about me traveling to different places and working with higher profiled artists.
DX: They are waiting for that big house, huh?
A$ton Matthews: They want that big check [laughs]. I don’t have any problems with it. That’s who I’m trying to do it for. It’s dope that I’ve got the support of my family. That’s big to me.
How A$ton Matthews & Joey Fatts Dismissed Gang & Racial Barriers
DX: Latinos have been represented in Hip Hop since its roots, but out of all of those artists I can’t recall anyone of Guatemalan descent. If you blow up, you would be the first.
A$ton Matthews: I’m just trying to represent for my people the best way possible, but at the same time I want to represent everybody. I want every kind to fuck with me. But I feel blessed to be the one to kick down the doors for my kind, and I hope they all get behind me. I haven’t even tried to establish myself over there yet. However when I do try, that will be a whole new market for me.
DX: You’ve built up a nice little movement for yourself for someone who’s been rapping for only a short period of time. It usually takes artists a considerable amount of time to build their movements.
A$ton Matthews: It’s my grind and the work A$AP Yams and them.
DX: Aside from the A$AP Yams and Rocky co-sign, there must be more to it.
A$ton Matthews: After I got shot and decided to rap, I never went out. I just stayed in my [crib] for two solid years learning to write music. I didn’t go to any clubs or bars. The homies would come over and try to get me to go out, but I would always decline and just stay home to write songs. I had help from one of my homies who was a rapper, and he taught me the basics of writing my ideas down on paper and then turning those ideas in to raps. I put a lot of time in to learning because I had no previous aspirations to be a rapper.
DX: I find it interesting that you had no previous aspirations to be a rapper, because there are a lot of artists who have had dreams of being one since childhood.
A$ton Matthews: I put a lot of time and practice in to it, and that’s with anything that you do. If you put enough time in to something, you will eventually become good at it. I felt like giving up a bunch of times, but I saw myself getting better, and then I began to challenge myself to find more creative ways to write my raps. Luckily through it all, A$AP Yams and them reached out and it went from there.
DX: Let’s talk about the Cutthroat Boyz. You first met Joey Fatts at a Burger King to check out an iMac he was selling. It’s pretty amazing that the formation of the group was the result of that meeting.
A$ton Matthews: Vince Staples and Joey [Fatts] are from the same neighborhood, and Vince had played me some of his shit a month before that meeting, and I thought it was pretty tight. One day Joey had posted on Twitter that he had an iMac for sale, and I needed a MacBook at the time. We spent about two hours just chopping it up about our lives and the things we had in common. We hit it off as friends immediately, and that doesn’t happen often. The next day we got faded in the studio, and he wasn’t even a drinker at the time. But I told him not to trip, we downed a bunch of Heinekens and recorded a couple of songs that night.
DX: You and Joey have rival gang affiliations though.
A$ton Matthews: Me with the Bloods and him with the Crips, plus we are brown and black and that in itself adds a whole different element to that. But we are also from a different era, and today’s youngsters are more open to a lot of different things. We see money and the bigger picture. Fuck the bullshit; I’ll fuck with you if you fuck with me. Joey and I looked past the bullshit, and we see the bigger picture because we can end up really doing something crazy in the music world together. I think we can make a difference and bridge the two worlds of blacks and Hispanics. We are the same people if you look at it, and we go through the same bullshit from discrimination to everything else. We’ve all been thrown together to live in the same areas and if you make it out, then you make it out.
As for Vince, I’ve known him since he was 15. He was a cool kid who was a rapper, and he just kept doing his shit. I wasn’t even rapping at that time. I was out doing crazy stuff. We just kept in contact, and later on when I started rapping, he would come around and give me tips. I feel like Vince is on some next level stuff when it comes to Rap. He’s like a freak of nature, and I think he’s the best on the West Coast lyrically. People sleep on him and don’t give him enough credit.
DX: Why do you feel Vince doesn’t get enough credit?
A$ton Matthews: I don’t know. I think that people view him as a kid still, but he’s going to earn their respect. Vince has a crazy tape that he’s about to put out and some amazing music behind it. He will be one of the biggest things to ever come out of the West Coast, no doubt. We all try to stay level headed and work hard, and that’s why I feel like me, Vince and Joey are going to keep getting better and keep doing bigger shit because of that attitude.
Why Alchemist & Evidence Challenge A$ton Matthews Make His Best Music
DX: Will there be a Cutthroat Boyz album?
A$ton Matthews: We are talking about it and throwing the idea around. I’m pretty sure that we will do that, and it will be something that’s right. TDE set the formula for us to follow, with everybody creating their own buzz and establishing the fact that they are great as individuals first. We are always going to be family and come together when we need to.
DX: In your music, you tend to favor those slow and dark trap beats.
A$ton Matthews: I base my music around emotion. A lot of times during this new mixtape, I was messing around with lean. The slow tempo just came from being faded all of the time.
DX: In a previous song called “May 31st” you had a line that said, “When the devil calls, the angels sing.” Elaborate on that.
A$ton Matthews: That line in the song is describing a scenario where the devil calls someone to do dirt, and the angels will sing for the soul of the person that’s being taken out. When you’re involved in gangs, you do bad shit to establish the fact that you’re not a bitch in order to gain the respect of your homies. If someone gets one of your homies, you get them back. A lot of my lyrics are based on emotion and personal shit. When you do bad shit, you’re like the devil’s puppet. I know what I’ve done, and I know the things that I could do, and I just try to put it all on paper. I say a lot of crazy stuff on the 3:16 tape too. I do a lot of my fun shit, but at the same time there are songs where I talk about some real things that I’ve been through or what my homies have been through.
DX: What surprised me from listening to the A$ton 3:16 Mixtape, is that you have some banging Hip Hop beats and not just trap music sound—especially that “Murder, Macking, Money” song.
A$ton Matthews: I can really rap. I’m young, so I like to have fun with those trap beats and the heavy 808s. When I go to shows, I like to get crazy, and that’s just my style. I can really spit though, and that’s why I think that I make my best music whenever I’m with Alchemist and Evidence. I love making music with those guys because they challenge me to channel in to a whole different side of my brain that I didn’t even know was there. They force me to focus and I end up making great music.
When you are new on the scene and you get a lot of love from big people in this business, some people are going to say bad things about you. It’s dope when people like my music and I appreciate it for real, but I make music for you to accept it—not like or dislike it. I really don’t give a fuck. I’m not some emotional dude that cries about criticism, because at the end of the day I make music for me and my life.
DX: Evidence, Alchemist and Chace Infinite...you’ve got some great mentors around you.
A$ton Matthews: I feel like I’m a sponge right now trying to take everything in. I’m taking all of that game in and trying to make the best path for myself. I appreciate and respect those guys. I started as a fan of theirs even before I got in to this Rap shit. When they extended their hands out to me, it was like they were telling me that I was good enough.
DX: What is your exact affiliation with the A$AP Mob?
A$ton Matthews: They are just the homies, but they look out for me: Rocky, Ferg, Twelvyy, Nast, all of them, even the members that are behind the scenes. They’ve embraced The Cutthroat Boyz, and when we are out in New York, it’s nothing but love. Whatever we need from them, we’re good. That’s our extended family.
DX: Are you completely independent as far as a record label is concerned?
A$ton Matthews: I’m a free agent but there are people that are hitting up A$AP Yams to talk business.
DX: What is A$AP Yams officially to you?
A$ton Matthews: He’s the homie, but he also helps in managing me along with Chace Infinite. When he’s out here on the West Coast, it’s because he’s helping out me and Joey Fatts with something. He’s taking care of whatever we are doing. He just had that last video [“What You Need”] done for me, which had the A$AP Rocky cameo in it. Yams even has the “Cutthroat” logo tatted on his face, showing that he’s a squad member. He’s a brain to me. The man is a fucking genius. The advice he’s given has helped out my career tremendously. If I do business, it’s going to be through Yams and Chace.
DX: About two weeks ago on Twitter, A$AP Yams said that he initially pushed the mixtape back for a big surprise feature. I’m guessing that it’s A$AP Rocky.
A$ton Matthews: [Laughs] Everybody knows what it is. But Yams pushed it back originally because he wants my project to be perfect. I jumped the gun previously and gave it a date because that’s when I wanted it to drop. I’ve been done, but he wants to make it the perfect roll out and I respect that. But I’ve been done and I’m already working on my next shit. I don’t have a name for that one yet, but I have made a few tracks already and I just gave one to Joey for him to hop on.
DX: Is A$ton 3:16 the last free project?
A$ton Matthews: I’m making people pay after this. It’s for sure the last one that’s free. I might re-release this one on iTunes later one with some bonus tracks on there. But I’m excited about this 3:16 Mixtape. After this one they won’t be able to say that I’m just a trap music rapper. I can rap over any beat that you give me.