‘I See Nothing But Bright Shit For Rittz’ – Producer Matic Lee Speaks On ‘The Life And Times Of Jonny Valiant’ [Strange Exclusive]
You might not know him by name off the top, but once you know the string of classics that he’s made fo Strange Music, you won’t forget.
The producer of songs like Tech N9ne’s “Show Me A God”, “One Good Time”, and “Red Nose” (amongst many, many others) recently got the opportunity to produce two tracks for Rittz’s The Life And Times Of Jonny Valiant.
We talked to the seasoned-yet-up-and-coming producer to get his perspective on making so many classics for Strange Music including his work for Rittz’s stunning debut album.
What’s your musical background? How did you get into music?
Originally just played in the percussion section. I did that right around middle school to right around high school. When I was in high school it got really hot and software started coming out and I had more money to explore all my options there. Then I started rapping and clicking niggas around my neighborhood and shit.
I was making beats and I was the only one really interested in the actual making the music part, so I always got stuck with the rapping, recording and beatmaking duties and from that it just kind of grew into me saying “Fuck it, I’m going to do my own thing.”
Did you learn piano or any other instruments? From listening to your beats you can tell that there’s a sense of musicality there.
Right now, yeah. I pretty much – it’s kind of ironic you ask that. I started clicking around notes on Fruity Loops, just clicking notes digitally and that evolved into me buying a piano and tinkering around with that and learning how to play with that and then buying a guitar and then a bass guitar and shit, everything else in-between really.
When did you decide that this was something that you solely wanted to do as a career?
Honestly, I would say I didn’t really decide, life decided for me as I started indulging more and getting more out there. It’s kind of like circumstances kind of ended up making that decision for me, whether it be money coming in, opportunities or just the fact that I don’t like working for anybody. Me and a boss don’t go well. I can’t really remember if it was a conscious decision. More or less it was like life kicked in.
When do you remember feeling like you had your first break?
I think it was right when I met up with David Sanders. He’s a producer he works with Tech and Krizz and Strange and all of y’all. It was Misery Loves Kompany and they were doing the promo videos for that. At the time I was just listening to Tech and doing my own thing and making my own beats. Tech had shouted out this cat from Alabama, “David Sanders, he’s been sending me beats” on the promo video. Myspace was poppin’ at the time and I had my page up so I immediately went to Myspace and sent [David] a friend request, and from there he heard my music on my page and complimented me, and we developed a little working, pen-pal relationship, trading beats back and forth – sounds and shit. He just asked me, “Do you ever want to send some beats to Tech?”
I sent him ten beats, Tech picked one and I think that was kind of the break, when I got the call from Travis and he let me know he was interested in my production and that whole spiel. I remember at that point I was working a job so I got off work and heard the message and then called back so, didn’t get an answer the first time I called back, called the next day and then it went on that way. Yeah, that would probably be my big break I would say.
What was that beat that he chose?
I think it was “Shit Is Real”. And the funny story about “Shit Is Real” is that the working title I had for the beat was called “Girl”. Well I had two different beats called “Girl”, one was all lower-cased, one was all upper-cased. At the time I was just clicking my stuff and sending it to David, I wasn’t really listening to it, I just automatically assumed the beat got sent was the uppercase “Girl”. Well come to find out it was the lowercase “Girl”. Uppercase “Girl” sounds more like a Timbaland track. Of course the other track was actually the first track I ever played guitar on that I bought and learned how to play a little bit. That was the first track I ever l made guitar on so it was like Sublime, kind of funky, reggae-type feel. I had no clue. So they said they wanted the track “Girl”, of course the first thing I did was send them the stems and all the tracks to the song I thought it was. Ended up finding out they actually picked the beat that I did not plan to send. So shout out to perfect mistakes.
Yeah I did that. That was the second beat I did yeah.
A lot of songs that you have produced for Strange Music have actually turned out to be classics that are still spun by a lot of the fans to this day. What do you think it is that has brought you and Strange Music together so often?
I think me and Tech kind of got a little bit of the same musical background as far as we’re really big into darker rock, and you know, the more musical type of textures in songs – we’re really geared to that. Whether it be strings, squealing guitars, loud-ass trumpets , loud-ass bass or loud-ass 808, me and Tech kind of always kind of sought the same things in music, I would say. That helped the process a little bit being that he was able to catch a feel off of whatever instrumental I sent him and make classics.
It’s pretty much that man, we kind of got the same kind of groove as far as musical tastes. I mean really I would like to have them answer that question before I would, I never asked. They pick whatever moved them.
Some of these songs: “Show Me A God”, “One Good Time”, “Demons”, “Smililn’ Faces”, “Get Off” some more from Krizz’s stuff, when you were making these and crafting these beats, did you have any idea that they would turn out to be as special as they did? Do you ever get a feeling like “Wow, this is going to be something.”
You never know. They never even picked the beats that I thought they were going to pick most of the time. You just never know. That’s kind of the wonderful thing about music. It’s never really about what your intentions are making the song, it’s kind of how it’s perceived what is going to give the song it’s whole entire life. I feel like we’re just a vessel to get out of bigger messes than other people are definitely going to pick up on. You know, me, when I was making the beats and they were picking them, I was always wondering “What the hell are you going to do with these beats?” But they came out to be classics. So, I’m impressed, the fans were impressed. I’m happy…it’s all good.
Can you remember one beat that you were the most surprised, not only that they picked it, but into the caliber of song that it turned out to be?
I would have to say “Choir Boy” off of Genius. “Choir Boy” definitely surprised the hell out of me and Krizz said that he liked that more than kind of how that was recieved. That whole track and what Krizz did to it put the icing on it and made that something that definitely surprised me when I finally had the chance to hear it on the album. Definitely was a great feeling there.
As a matter of fact, another one that I want to say that I was surprised on was “Red Nose”. “Red Nose” definitely definitely surprised me.
A lot of Tech’s fans would put that in their top ten for sure.
And now fast forward we have you making this track “Misery Loves Company” on Rittz’s The Life And Times Of Jonny Valiant, how did that opportunity come about?
Funny enough, me and Rittz, we connected outside of Strange. I believe it was after The White Jesus Revival that came out. One of my clients that records at my studio, he had an opportunity to get Rittz on the song and he was seeking out production of course. Me and Rittz didn’t grow up together but we grew up kind of in the same area so, I kind of made the beat there. From there we did a song called, me Rittz and Dice did a song called “All I Need Is Time”. We did a video for that.
Me and Rittz kind of established a relationship then and he sought out production from me and was seeing if I could send him some stuff. I had already began sending him stuff and he had started writing to it and I guess a couple months after that the news broke that he had just signed to Strange. So that was actually a humungous surprise to me, just finding out he was actually getting affiliated with Tech, and my relationship with them was kind of a weird ironic thing – kind of the law of attraction. It kind of worked it’s way out at the end of the day.
Have you been able to hear the song?
Oh yeah. It’s hard. I love it.
How do you like how it came out?
With Rittz, he never ceases to not impress me. It was definitely where I thought it was going to be at, because I was a little perplexed as to what he was going to do, and it definitely came out. It’s going to be a classic. I predict it.
What are your favorite qualities about Rittz as an artist?
You know what? He’s very honest. I can honestly say by establishing a relationship with somebody on a personal level, reflecting on the music, you can definitely tell he’s a thorough, consistent dude. He’s a very stand-up type of guy. It’s hard to beat that nowadays with so many egos. He definitely is a very, very humble person and I already know that’s what’s going to take him far with me if anything, if not reaching the top of the pop and hip hop charts.
At the end of the day, it’s kind of like, the spirit you possess and carry is going to dictate your whole future. I see nothing but bright shit for Rittz.
Did you guys have any discussions towards what kind of sound he was looking for? When you were making beats for him, what were some things that you kept in mind?
He definitely told me he wanted some west coast influence on his tracks as far as instrumentation. I kind of composed that alongside southern drums and different elements from the south. We both grew up on UGK and everything pretty much in the southeast region was a big thing for us. You can tell that in Rittz’s music, and he always wanted to stay on with that but kind of venture out as far as sounds and different things and I just put a couple of beats together. I believe he picked “Misery Loves Company” and the one with Krizz and Tech on it.
How did you like how “Say No More” came out?
That definitely came out. Krizz and Tech on a song is always murder and Rittz is just…it’s always going to come out to be a fucking chopper massacre.
On “Misery Loves Company”, it’s cool because you have this piano element that you think is just going to carry out the track on its own, but then insert this dubstep synth that comes up during the chorus. Is that a sound that you’ve been experimenting with?
Dubstep has actually been around for a long time – like in the UK scene and the EDM realm, it’s been around. I’ve always had access to it so I’ve always kind of flirted with it but I guess now the actual dubstep genre starts to rise in popularity it’s kind of re-bringing itself back up. I believe that the shell of the beat was the actual dubstep element. I more or less already had that and added a hip hop-infused Southern element. So, funny enough, that was the song – that whole dubstep synth. I made a rap around it. That was the root of the song right there.
Have you heard any of the rest of the album? What do you think about it and do you have any favorite tracks from it?
Yeah I have heard it. Actually funny enough, “All Around The World”, I really love that. I don’t know who did the actual production on “All Around The World” but I really love that.
Now this is an often/asked question to all producers but I have to ask you given your level of success, closing this out, what advice would you give producers?
My biggest advice I think that I’ve given out most frequently, honestly, because I got a lot of different sayings about this. A lot of people ask me that. Prioritize your needs and your wants. Definitely do that because a lot of times when people want to produce they want to be a dope producer but sometimes they don’t see the need in doing it everyday or to keep constantly listening or wanting to learn. A lot of people see the wants before the needs.
I need to learn in order for me to get what I want. A lot of people, as far as right now, making music being that we do have some technology and you can whip out a such and such beat in 30 minutes and go on YouTube and see somebody show you exactly how to make it, including all the same sounds, it’s almost as if you take pieces of that, but you also use your creative elements to have in your own mind and do something greater. I feel like that’s the best thing I’ve ever learned was learn, learn, learn, learn, learn and use your creativity with the shit you learn if you want to be a dope producer.
I can tell from listening to your earlier stuff, which is dope, don’t get me wrong, but I can tell that you’ve made a progression in terms of melody and musicality from then to now.
Definitely. Yeah I appreciate that. You can tell I’m definitely doing something right and that’s my goal at the end of the day.
Another cliche question, but it begs to be asked, what kind of style would you say you have as a producer, or what are some keynote traits of a Matic Lee beat?
That’s funny because a lot of people ask me why I don’t put tags in my music and the funny thing is I always say “You can tell it’s my beat in the first thirty seconds because it generally sounds better than most of the beats you’ve just heard for the past thirty years.” But that’s some cocky shit (laughs). No um, I guess my style, you know what? I’m a child of the world bro. I feel like I can do and I’ve done everything so it’s kind of hard to pawn me a style. I’m more like an entity, I kind of take mold to my environment.
Is there any direction or area of music that you want to grow into that you haven’t yet?
I would say that I’m in the process of doing all that right now so stay tuned and you’ll definitely hear my name more. I don’t want to give away too much but stay tuned.
I’m looking forward to it. For any fans of yours out there, what can they look forward to from you in the near future?
Get on Twitter @MaticLee, you can go to MaticLee.com, you can get on XBox Live and type Matic Lee, you can get on YouTube and type Matic Lee, you can get on Google and type Matic Lee. You can find out a lot more there than what I can really explain.
Definitely just stay on the lookout.
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