It’s been suggested, on more than one occasion, that the introduction of dubstep into the United States resulted in a (perceived) ‘decay’ of the true sound. As is always the case, this is not entirely true.
California-bred Matthew Gonsalves was one of the first Stateside producers to pick up on this new sound – way ahead of the mainstream wave of commercialised EDM. He played an integral role in helping the sound flourish in underground American bass culture which, in his case, was based around the reggae scene in Santa Cruz.
Matty G was at the centre of this fertile melting pot, starting his career as a DJ playing hip-hop, soul and reggae. His affection for music started early, learning to play the saxophone and ending up in his school’s jazz band. He also started playing the guitar and bass – joining a local hardcore band.
The switch to DJing, and playing a number of genres, led to the discovery and shift to playing jungle. But after a while, he started to feel that both jungle and hip-hop weren’t moving in a direction he was happy being part of. In a 2010 interview with MTV he explained:
“As the styles of jungle and hip-hop evolved it was becoming difficult to find tunes that I liked. A friend of mine was getting rid of an old computer with a sequencing program on it and so I took that opportunity to start making the music I wanted to hear. A few months later, Nick Argon (who runs Argon Records) came over to my house. His brother had been into grime for a long time and had hooked up Nick with some mixes from Rinse FM. Nick played me some of them and I was like, ‘Whaaat’! I played him some of the beats I had been making which were all over the place, but had one common theme; bass.”
His early beats (the first release on Argon started appearing back in 2006) reflect the dub-influenced state that dubstep was in at the time, but had a noticeably different take on it. It was the use of the 808 drum kit that breathed hip-hop in 140’s bones – and we can thank the first dubstep record from an American artist for that. Where Loefah’s music hinted towards these hip-hop influences, Matty G made true “West Coast dubstep”.
One of the other reasons for the differing dubstep style Matty G was producing were the technical ‘impairments’ the producer was dealing with.
“For a long time though, regardless of what I wanted to do, I was limited by the equipment I used. Most of my releases were produced on an old iMac G3 in OSX 9, for all the nerds out there. It wasn’t really able to run synths, so most of my tunes are sample-based – which has helped shape my style.”
The sample-based productions only add to what became the producer’s signature vibe. Later releases, like the now iconic West Coast Rocks, as well as infamous 50,000 Watts no longer reflected Matty G’s reggae influences. In his recent FKOF interview, he explained how this hip-hop infused sound was a conscious choice of style.
“Even though I was participating in a scene that originated in London, I wanted my music to reflect as much of America as possible. So for my deeper, darker tunes, I leaned towards more of a hip-hop influence. For my more mellow tunes, I incorporated an RnB style.”
His first album, 2008’s Take You Back on Argon Records, reflects this conscious choice. The LP offers an iconic (and often instrumental) take and (possibly) a better direction on mainstream hip-hop than we’ve seen in recent years – apart from maybe Kendrick Lamar. NWA and Dr. Dre’s iconic The Chronic album are all heard in this piece; clear influences on a producer bringing American style to a London sound. As well as drawing influence from West Coast hip-hop artists, Matty G also found inspiration from the East Coast – Mobb Deep and Wu-Tang to name two.
The use of samples (often taken from scratching) form a signature part of Matty G’s style, coming from the producer’s deep love for turntablism. In a recent interview with Sub.Mission, he said:
“Before I started producing I was really into DJing. I always respected 6Blocc’s style, especially his DJ aesthetic and his turntablist style that he used to rock a bit more back in the day. He always brought a hip-hop influence to the drum n’ bass culture which I tried to do in my sets as well, and that carried over into my dubstep productions. He’s a West Coast legend – I was definitely influenced by his style later on down the road when I started to produce as well.”
Looking back to the early days in Santa Cruz’s reggae scene, Matty G explained his love for the underground sound in his FKOF interview:
“Looking back, I can’t believe how quickly the sound evolved and developed from something that was once confined to those grimey hole in the wall bars and clubs, into main arena stadium size shows. The sound and scene I loved was really only around for a couple of years before things started to change. For me, Rusko’s Cockney Thug really marked the beginning of a stylistic split. However, despite the divisions that began to form around that time with the music, I would have traded that era for anything that was to come in the years to follow. Cockney Thug seems tame in comparison to what came after as far as massively popular aspects of the scene were concerned. The music and the venues continued to evolve together, until (for me) it was completely over stimulating. You had these super loud tunes with an emphasis on mid-range basslines performed in huge clubs with massive light shows, half naked girls dancing on stage, pyrotechnics and the works. I am not knocking it, it just wasn’t for me.”
Matty G joined one of the labels pushing this more commercial angle of the sound with his 2010 release My 808s / Turf W*rz. Unsurprisingly, the release did very well on the iconic Dub Police imprint. And, in advance of Dub Police’s US tour, the release was a great catalyst for getting people into the more underground dubstep sound. My 808s and Turf W*rz were a beautiful progression on the producer’s earlier sound, highlighting just how far Matty G had been able to perfect his productions. A year later, he released his Back To The Bay EP, which featured 4 absolute beauties – including his highly sought-after remix of Subscape’s Screw Up.
After that, the releases quietened down until 2013, when Matty G’s collaborations with J:Kenzo appeared on Artikal Music. Anthems SC Connection and Flatline reflect just how good combining the styles of both Matty and Jay can be. Matty explained that the two producers’ connection goes way back:
“I’ve been in contact with Jay almost since I started in the scene. I had a release or two out when he first got in touch. I believe he had just started producing and sent me some tunes. I actually went digging through my closet recently and found an old CD he had given me. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure how I got hold of that. I think he must have mailed it to me because I don’t think we actually met in person until well after I received it! Anyways, as with a lot of my early work, the ideas were there, but the technical skills needed to be honed in.”
An originator in the truest sense of the word, Matty G is the prime example of how dubstep’s early ethos has flourished Stateside.
With his American brethren now continuing the work Matty G helped to start, the Californian producer’s legacy and addition to the sound is the sample-based soul that draws inspiration from both East and West coasts.
Matty G has succeeded in producing dubstep rooted in the Californian vibe – a producer that has been true to the sound. All hail the founding father of the American dubstep scene!
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- Matty G – Back To The Bay [Dub Police, 2011]
- Matty G – My 808s [Dub Police, 2010]
- Matty G – Street Knowledge [Dub Police, 2007]
- Matty G – Cuttin’ n Scratchin’ [Argon, 2008]
- Matty G & J:Kenzo – SC Connection [Dub Police, 2013]
- Matty G – True Soul [Dub Police, 2011]
- Matty G – Jam Like A Tek [Not On Label, 2011]
- Matty G – The Realness [Argon, 2009]
- Matty G – Turf W*rz [Dub Police, 2010]
- Matty G – 50,000 Watts [Argon, 2007]
- Matty G ft. Ugene – Cold Break III [Argon, 2008]