You know how they say what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger? That seems to be the case for Long Beach resident, A$ton Mattews. The brooding emcee has been looking for a gateway into the hip-hop scene ever since he took the shot to the chest from a 40-caliber handgun. The video for The Cuttroat Boyz viral banger, “Bricks,” shows just how real the scars are as Matthews lifts his Cincinnati Red’s baseball jersey.
He was hit in the midst of a gang rivalry at a house party and he survived to tell the tale. But now, his violent and turbulent past just seems more like a conduit to a prosperous future. On his collaborative track with Schoolboy Q, “May 31st,” he passionately tells all spitting, “Stomach sewn like a zipper cord/Thinking bout the get back as my momma’s tears hit the floor.”
Psychopathic flow switches and demented thoughts swirl through his latest project, Versace Ragz, which features production from Joey Fatts and features from Vince Staples, Da$h, Retch and Bodega Bamz. The Joey Fatts-produced “187” displays versatility and ability to propel into mainstream hip-hop with a penchant for melodic hook-writing, while on the syrupy banger “Mini Van Dan,” he’s villainous, “Buying, selling bitches on eBay/All my bodies underneath the 91 freeway.” During New York’s CMJ Festival, he attended SOB’s celebrating with the Tan Boyz and a slew of New York up-and-comers. With a great tape in hand, a new crop of spitters with him, and affiliations with both A$AP Yams and Chace Infinite, he his horizons are bright. Meet A$ton Matthews.
How’s everything going man? This Versace Ragz project is like a movie. It’s tight.
Not much man. I got my feet up fully relaxed. Just chillin’. I tried to, bruh. I just do what I do. I appreciate it man. That’s wavy.
Who is A$ton Mathews? What were you doing before hip-hop?
I’m just a normal dude. I like to smoke weed and drink a lot, take drugs on occasion, probably fuck with lean on occasion. Before rap, I was doing the gangbanging shit, caught up in a lot of fuck shit. Being young and dumb. Doing that fuck shit.
So, did you have any previous projects before Versace Ragz?
I had a previous tape to this. It was called No Fvcks Given. It was like 10 tracks. I started rapping like right after I got shot. I was 18, and I started fucking with a couple guys from the area. I didn’t give a fuck I just wanted to show people I could rap. I did that shit in two weekends.
What’s your recording process? Where’d you record it at?
I be walking around and come up with a verse and just go fuck the shit up. I recorded in my garage. I got my own little shit. It ain’t nothing expensive. It’s just a mic and speakers and a computer. It ain’t no fancy shit.
How did you get up with Joey Fatts and Vince Staples and those folks?
Joey [Fatts], that’s my nigga. Vince Staples hooked us up. Vince posted a song of his up through Twitter and I heard his verse on the “Pretty Flacko” beat. I listened to it and I was like, “Damn, this little nigga out here gettin’ it, bruh.” I had to hit him up and I said, “Let’s link.” So he got at me on Twitter and we linked, and it’s crazy — he had a Mac at the time and I needed one so I was like, “Sell me that computer, bruh.” He gave me a good price and we met up in L.A. We met each other in front of a Burger King, and we was out there talking for like two hours. Off the jump, the first time I met him I could tell he was a real nigga, and we messed with each other ever since. We fully dedicate ourselves to this music everyday. I’m proud of Fatts. He’s come a long way.
Did you record that entire project in your garage? It sounds pretty clean.
Yea man. He edits and masters everything. He’s talented. [Joey] Fatts did most of the production and everything.
What’s the situation with Yams from ASAP? There are rumors of a Yamborghini Records brewing?
I want to keep that under wraps for right now but Yams is definitely the homie and he’s really showing a lot of love right now that he doesn’t have to. Him and Chace don’t have to be. Everybody reached out, and my nigga Chace is from Inglewood . He’s from the West. He came out and linked with us. He oversees all my shit right now. We have a conversation everyday.
Did you record Versace Ragz prior to meeting them? What’s the inspiration behind the tape?
I did all this prior to meeting them. I’m a big Juvenile fan, and he had a mixtape called Soulja Rags, and it was inspired by that. I wanted to put more of my life into this one. People really appreciate that when you get honest with it. I’m just giving you what I’m going through and if nobody likes it then I don’t give a fuck.
What’s the influence behind your flow switch? I feel a lot of influences on this tape but I can’t quite place it.
I don’t know where it comes from, to be honest with you. One of my homies that raps would tell me, “Yo, switch your shit up every two bars or four bars.” So I would say the homie. I would say I listen to Mobb Deep, and 50 Cent and G-Unit. 50 Cent definitely had a lot of influence on me. I had a song with Schoolboy Q, it’s called “May 31st” and that was inspired by 50. Oh, I will come clean. I’ve been fucking with Eminem and Cam’ron. It’s a combination of their stuff. I’ll go really complex and then come really smooth with it.
I love the visuals. I saw the Belly scene in the beginning of the video. That was dope. What was the budget on all this stuff?
I direct all the videos myself. Every video this far I directed myself. I wrote the treatments for it. The lighting was all my idea. My budget was nothing. I probably spent like 50 dollars on the drugs and shit and some gas to drive the mini van. It’s just the homies looked out and I had the vision. All the homies is showing love and they got my back, man.
Where’d the name Mini Van Dan Come from?
I was really high that night and I think I was leaning that night too. For some reason, I kept thinking of mini van, and it means a lot bad shit in my life. A lot of violence happens in mini vans. A lot of people get snatched up in mini vans or people put in work. I got a lot of different aliases. If you get Mini Van Dan you gonna get some fucked up crazy shit. That’s what it is.
I was interviewing KRNDN of S.A.S and he told me he saw a lot of you young cats coming up in California.
Yeah man, I linked up with him through Chace Infinite. That shit was crazy. He’s a real cool dude. The big homie looked out .
Where are you at right now?
I’m in Lakewood right now. It’s Long Beach. If I walk down the block, I’m in Long Beach. If I cross the street, I’m in Long Beach. It’s like an off-brand Long Beach. It’s a lot of little cities around here. They should just name it one thing.
What’s the culture there? Is gang culture still relevant ?
Oh yeah, it’s still very relevant. Gangs are a definitely major part of the culture out here. Thats just what it is. Ain’t really no way to explain it. It just is what it is. It’s a lot of black and Hispanic sets that really get down. Mo’ fuckers don’t really get a long. It’s a lot of black and Hispanic folks that don’t really get along where they should just be getting money together.
There’s still a divide between black and Hispanic culture?
It’s a little bit of beef, but it really depends. Summer comes around and bodies start dropping. People selling crack, coke, and motherfuckers start dying. It’s really few of us that really get along with each other, but a good example of the opposite is me and [Joey] Fatts. It’s a bunch of esés round here. They pretty much outrun everybody but it is what it is. Not everybody’s a gang member.
What’s your nationality? How would you describe your upbringing?
I’m Guatemalan. I’ve lived in a lot of different places. I lived in L.A. plus a lot of different places around this area. My father’s from Guatemala and he moved out here when he was young. Then he moved us from L.A. [My upbringing], it’s some weird shit but the normal shit you see when you in a bad neighborhood. From crackheads to people getting killed and shit. I played a lot of sports and just did my thing but in high school it started crackin’. People I knew started dying to this shit and it started getting crazy.
So you have a scar going up from your stomach? Can you tell me about the incident that led to that?
I was out here gangbanging. I’m a Blood from out here or whatever. I’m a Piru. People from the other side was in the party and I knew who was in there. Shit started happening and motherfuckers started letting off. I just so happened not to have my burner on me that night so I got caught slipping. I was definitely out here by myself, and they got me, bruh. In that gangbanging shit it’s what you’re supposed to do and I got caught slipping.
How do you feel about that life afterwards? Did you feel like it was dumb?
It definitely opened up my eyes to a lot of different things. I didn’t want to die. It’s a lot more things out there to do than this shit. I was out here trappin’ and doing shit low key. You definitely want to survive and make a better life for your people. I didn’t see that at 16, 17. I dedicated myself to this rap shit.
Are you ever worried about having people confront you because of the gun talk?
If it comes, it comes. I definitely never ran from anything. Gunplay, I’m definitley with the fades. Half these niggas ain’t ’bout shit and they not really with it. I got niggas just like everybody else does. Either they respect it or they don’t. I’m not worried about shit. If I’m meant to die, I’m meant to die, bruh. I know plenty of people that get shot in the head and the live. God has a purpose for me, man.
How do you feel about the reaction to your music? It seems to be picking up steam on your Tumblr and YouTube.
I don’t even know how to react to it. I’m never really known for anything other than the whole gangbanging thing, so to be known for some positive shit, I’m really proud of my shit. The response is crazy right now. California has an image of Hispanics and esés, but there’s a whole new generation of people who aren’t esés, they just get fly. The response from Crips and Bloods and the hipsters. Everybody fucking with it.
Do you have any plans for the future? If so, what are they?
I think I might drop a project before December. I got a fucking crazy title and everything because I don’t want to give people too much. I’m trying to be here for 10 years down the line. I got to be wavy out here. These niggas not fucking with me. I’m trying to have my people real cozy with the Versace robes on with just the socks off. I’m trying to make a way for my people.
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