By Maya-Roisin Slater
VANCOUVER — Growing up in New Westminster, Matthew Brevner was diligently preparing for his rap career by the age of six, writing poetry and studying reading comprehension through Hooked on Phonics. His formal introduction to the genre happened in middle school when he heard Jay Z’s Volume Three, when he finally felt represented in music. Hova resonated with Brevner as the voice of the underprivileged, defining rap as poetry, but cool. His high school had a built in recording studio, so throughout his time there he was constantly writing and recording. Life after grade school proved to be slightly more challenging.
“I wanted to learn how to record my own music, so I signed up for the four year program at The Art Institute, but I dropped out after a semester because I was like, yo this program is $40,000 a year, there’s no guaranteed job placement after because I’m not trying to work at a fucking radio station and there’s no equipment so I’d be trained and not have the tools to use my skills. So I was working a shitty job at the time and doing whatever else I had to do on the side to cover bills, and I bought a very modest recording set-up and kind of went from there,” Brevner explains.
Brevner’s biggest thrust into the public eye came in the form of an opportunity to co-produce a song for Swollen Members affiliate Madchild called “Jitters.” Brevner claims he fronted money to help with the song and accompanying video but wasn’t properly compensated following its release. “The 13-year-old in me thought if I have a number one single on Rap City, shit was on; I’m helping my mama get out of debt, it’s lit. Not only was it not that, but I actually took on a lot of debt because I didn’t see the money from it. So I moved to New York temporarily, I was working with Chinx and French Montana doing video work for them. I didn’t even tell them I was a musician at the time. But then being around those guys, was such a positive influence for me. It gave me my hunger back,” says Brevner.
His time in New York did more than just increase his drive, it gave him a greater awareness of the subjects he wanted to approach with his material. “A lot of guys that were up-and-comers around then, landing pretty decent gigs and shit, were talking about stuff that was so foreign to them, but things you have to talk about being in that arena. For me I spent my whole career up until this point avoiding it. I was a product of that stuff, but I didn’t want to talk about it because it was too close to home. I thought ‘I’m going to be different, I’m going to write love songs.’ So I came back with the hunger to actually tell my story and not be afraid what local guys are going to think about me. I always thought nobody wanted to hear about this mixed kid from Vancouver talking about the street because it’s not cool. But whether it’s cool or not, that’s what I am.”
Though he still looks uneasily at his shoes when making comments about doing what he had to do to “survive” earlier in his career, it seems all his experiences up until now have landed him in a place where he can live in his truth. A truth which can exist as love songs, closer to the poems he wrote as a kid, and one that can also exist as jacked up rap tracks, a self-aware embrace of both the meek and the militant in himself. Brevner released his self-titled EP on February 26th, before setting out on his first headlining tour across Canada. As he talks of his vision for the future of his city and his collaborators, the defining quality of Brevner rises to the surface, he is incredibly focused on the future. A fast talker and a big dreamer, Brevner knows exactly what’s on his horizon, shit just has to go to plan.
Matthew Brevner’s self-titled EP is available now at the Urbnet Bandcamp page.BC, Brevner, British Columbia, Matthew Brevner