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Bigger than Yeezus

Canny club producer Matic808 takes on rap god Kanye West

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Matic808’s Yeezus: Baltimore Club Edition earned shouts from the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun.

“How’d you find out about me?,” producer Matic808 asks.

He’s at Charles North’s Club K, it’s a few Fridays ago, and despite Matic’s more conventional club music come-up (the 22-year-old began producing at 15 under the name DJ Lil’ Matic), his chaotic style sits comfortably next to more actively avant-garde acts playing tonight: Kitchen-sink producer DJ Badlady; Gigi Alien, who backs riot grrl-esque spoken word with teen pop; and Cutlass 83, mixing Pure Moods chillouts into ghettotech.

Matic’s tracks tend to feverishly swirl around—a bed of vicious bass and gnarly electronics that manages to simultaneously disorient you and get your ass moving. He’s best understood as the logical weirdo heir to mid-2000s producer/DJ Blaqstarr, though if he were from the U.K. or even New York or L.A., he’d be considered part of some new strain of heretofore undiscovered post-dubstep and signed to a cool-grabbing label like Hippos in Tanks or Night Slugs.

The answer to how people are finding out about Matic is, of course, typical: the internet. His production has spread thanks to a mix of WTF-inducing beatmaking weirdness and a web-savvy that seems to come naturally. “OMFG,” a 2012 rap-club hybrid—hip-hop drums bumping into blown-out buzzing synths featuring local MC Killa Kizzy—has been resurrected thanks to a joyous, homemade video of Kizzy, Matic, and friends going nuts to the song in an apartment.

Two of his recent club remixes have in their own way gone viral. “Rosedale Explosion” molded audio from a foul-mouthed video of two guys commenting on the fiery aftermath of that tractor trailer-and-train collision back in May into a club song. “I did that real quick,” Matic explains, “I saw [the video] and club music immediately jumped into my head because when you think of club music, you think of obscene, ratchet-ass samples. And that was obscene and ratchet!”

And last month, Matic remixed every track from Kanye West’s latest album, Yeezus, bringing them into the world of club music. The project, called Yeezus: Baltimore Club Edition, blew up on hip-hop blogs in a hurry, ultimately earning mentions in the Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, and City Paper. Matic created the remix over six days. Once he figured out an approach, he says, it took two to three hours to knock out each track.

“I was listening to the tracks for the first time and then remixing them,” Matic is quick to point out. The project would have come out even sooner, but his internet happened to be down around the time the album dropped. Besides a bummy wifi connection, the biggest challenge was working with completed songs, without access to a cappellas or instrumentals.

Sometimes, he says, it was tough to do much of anything with a track, which sent Matic into problem-solving mode and pushed his creativity. “Guilt Trip,” for example, proved too busy to cull a clear sample from, so Matic decided to “flip it.” The result is a futuristic marching-band track—supported by the stalwart fury of Lil Jon shouts and “Percolator” synthesizer squirts—with Kid Cudi’s coda sneaking to the front of the mix every once in a while.

Matic ambitiously makes sonic connections with the do-whatever energy of a mashup artist: His remix of “Hold My Liquor” contains audio from Rod Lee’s club classic “Shake My Ass”—a woman proclaiming “I do what I want”—which has the notable side effect of answering the original album’s dude-centric attitude; a lewd sample from the TV show Workaholics appears on Kanye’s sexually explicit rap “I’m in It”; “Love Lockdown” mopes through the middle of “Bound 2,” connecting the broken-hearted sad-rap qualities of both albums. Kanye’s most quotable and ridiculous lines (“Hurry up with my damn croissants,” “I be speaking Swaghili”) are looped endlessly, inducing plenty of LOLs.

Yeezus: Baltimore Club Edition transcends its attention-grabbing concept. It’s a clever twist on what club music usually does, which is pull something from the mainstream and hammer it into something more rarefied and regional. With the art-rap leanings of Yeezus, though, Matic is engaging in more of a direct conversation with Kanye. The goth-tinged noise-rap vibes the album was going for are accomplished with more energy and joy thanks to Matic. He’s stripping a superstar rapper’s album for parts and, arguably, improving it.

Bleeding-edge electronic party music, filled with dread, is the move here, and it’s steadily blowing people’s minds. “I didn’t think people were going to pick up on it like that,” Matic admits. “Like, come on, that is pretty cool.”

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