"I'm too old for this," says Matthewmaticus while sitting on the patio at Gabe's, a westside deli near his home. With specks of gray in his cropped beard and hair, he could be on to something. But the 34-year-old hip-hop artist has a youthful enthusiasm about him, especially when he talks about his music. Or when he talks about his various influences.
The son of a steelworker, he grew up on the westside of town before moving out to the one-stoplight burg of Spencer, OH. Despite the change in scenery, he found solace in music.
"My earliest memories are of driving in the car with my dad, listening to 105.7 when they played early rock and roll and R&B — all that Phil Spector and British Invasion stuff. My aunt was a college rock chick. She played the Smiths and the Pixies and Echo and the Bunnymen," he says. "They whet my whistle for music."
When hip-hop exploded, he was on it, buying DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince's Rock the House on cassette from a record store at the mall.
"All those influences, which to this day I think are important to me, were formed early," says Matthewmaticus, who went to college at Kent State and played in a band that he says had a Tribe Called Quest dynamic. "I was into writing and poetry and put the music down and focused on that for almost a decade."
After what he calls "a bad marriage," Matthewmaticus started going to the Tuesday night showcases at the B-Side Liquor Lounge in Cleveland Heights to hone his skills. He officially rebooted his career last year when he dropped the mixtape The Job Will Not Save You. Earlier this year, he followed up that album with The Sanctified Tape. The EP's opening track, "A Meditation" features undulating beats courtesy of LTHEBLACKPRINCE while Matthewmaticus asks, "What am I really doing?" The track certainly lives up to its title, especially as it closes with a refrain about goals and plans.
"I'm working on what I think of as a musical collage and I want to pull from different places," he says with a mischievous grin that makes you think whatever the next project turns out to be will be decidedly against the grain. "I'm going to make a big, crazy hip-hop album in mono with a lot of reverb and a very lush sound. I'm going to take as long to do it as I need to. And I'm going to do it until it sounds exactly like I want it to sound."