Name: Matt Smith, aka Shuteyes
Hometown: Syracuse originally, resides in Buffalo
Genre: underground rap
Sound: boom bap, jazz funk, space funk, reinventive
“I make music with my soul and I slap it if it’s ugly.”
He calls them wack beats: techno poppy samples played repeatedly on the radio that popular hip hop wigs rap over and reuse. Empty words. Uninventive rhyme schemes. Same old, same old content and lyricism. Just listen to his series of “wack beat” videos on Youtube dedicated to their butchery with what he calls “murderous lyrics.” There will always be that divide between the mainstream and the underground, that’s just how it is, he said, but he’s okay with it.
He went to school for horticulture, but music is his real major. Shuteyes--real name Matt Smith—has been a part of the underground rap scene for about ten years, and he’s not afraid to swat you like a fly for something phony. He’s studied enough to know better. He records on vinyl. He grew up listening to his parents’ records and knows his jazz musicians like the back of his hand. And when he assembles words—I say assemble, because if you listen to one of his recordings, it’s more than merely a matter of throwing words together that rhyme, but a process—the history of a culture seeps through every syllable. If there’s anything I’ve learned from briefly talking to Shuteyes, it’s that learning the foundation is the first thing; mind your Ps and Qs, learn your As, Bs, and Cs and only then can you think about stepping foot into the scene.
“They watchin’ from the mezzanine, a brand new style. Music be the medicine, the script ran out.”
The beauty of hip hop is that it’s a universal language and it finds its way into every genre of music, Shuteyes said. Instead of a generic approach to beat making, the emcee reinvents and pays homage to the musicianship from yester year by pairing poetics with the tantara of the trumpets in the Glenn Miller Orchestra circa 1939 in his recently produced track “Go To Sleep ,” a track that embodies both his sound and direction. The instrumentals remain untampered with against his lyrics in order to preserve its refinement. The classics are what he refers to on his 2010 Beats and Alphabetics album also. Literary masters like Shakespeare, inspiration for his track, “Breakspearre,” works his way into a poetic beat in a lesson on blank verse and iambic pentameter.
His eclectic raps and instrumentals speak for themselves. In “Me & My Dog,” classic beat scratching and dark, sultry piano chords combined with vocals from singer-songwriter Nellie McKay’s theatrical song “The Dog Song” convey more about the joys of reflecting on a walk with man’s best friend than any dog trainer at Pet Smart could. The emcee’s raw but eloquently pieced together Freestyles EP was released in November 2012 and is composed of 6 freestyles with ad-libbed material. He borrows from the age of jazz and the art of improvisation as he speaks of legends like Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, and Clifford Brown. He raps about anything—people, places, food. Few emcees would be able to freestyle about ordering a chicken finger sub and waiting for the delivery guy to come, while describing the hunger pains as they intensify with every tick of the second hand and make it sound like a book that you want read until you reach its conclusion. The EP is filled with the skillfully constructed storytelling that mainstream rap lost—except Shuteyes dusted the process off and did it on the fly.
The vocabulist consistently cranks out new material like it’s nobody’s business; a track here, a beat tape there, a collaboration here. It has circulated among the underground community, creating a an artistic whirlwind among hip hop game changers like Covert Blackbelt, Mad Dukez, and Prime Example, and it continues to pick up momentum from anyone and anything. Shuteyes has made his name synonymous with Buffalo hip hop not through a bombardment of social media marketing like many emcees and bands do, which may work in their favor depending on who knows who; he did it the old-fashioned way. His Youtube videos don’t have thousands of hits and his fans aren’t blowing up his Facebook page. He doesn’t have a personal promoter that he’s paying on the side. The love for his music is evident through grapevine acknowledgement and fanfare at local shows. Word-of-mouth is often the strongest promoter and goes to show that good talent—if it’s substantial enough to make a lasting impression—will be brought to the forefront one way or another. So…if you don’t know, now you know.
2013 - “Don’t Sleep Season”
“Don’t Sleep” In his own words: “A movement, a moment in time, a mix-tape. While stacking up too many songs in the past year or so they all seem to be wanting to be released at the same time, which brings us to the ‘Don’t Sleep’ season. Throughout the course of the release of these projects listed below, I’ll be providing a new track each week (on Facebook/reverbnation) to eventually make the Don’t Sleep Mix Tape. Current list of projects (to be released throughout 2013): - EP Phone Home – solo album written and produced by Shuteyes - Untitled project Da Vinci – album written by Shuteyes in four days, produced by Covert of Essential Vitamins Crew and Cufx of E.K.L. - What It Is. What It Is. – album written by Shuteyes and Mad Dukez, produced by Shuteyes. - 2950 – concept album conceived and created with Definition of 25 Metro. - Walking With Huck Instrumentals VOL 4 – instrumental album produced by Shuteyes - Wack Beats Installment 2 – Youtube blog series written by Shuteyes - Don’t Sleep the Mix Tape – jazz-based album written by Shuteyes, produced by Mr. Dirty Hairy