In a world reeling from disarray, one thing is inarguable: hip-hop is king. Bruno Mars may have robbed Kendrick Lamar at the recent Grammys, but where it actually matters, there is no debate about hip-hop’s place of conversation-dominating, culture-saturating prominence in the zeitgeist. In Singapore, one of the channels by which we receive that glorious ruckus is via MATTEBLACC, a DJ-run entity whose impassioned focus on soulful, feel-good, compositionally dazzling music is the core of all its creative endeavours. Recently, the crew lifted the shutters on Choice Cuts Cuts Goods + Coffee, a lifestyle concept space offering coffee, vinyl records and those much-searched-for good vibes, at its new digs in Katong Point. To celebrate its first anniversary, we chop it up with MATTEBLACC’s Managing Director Jnr Tirso.
Happy Birthday Choice Cuts! How does it feel to be a year older?
It feels great! It’s been a never-ending learning process, so we are definitely wiser. The experience of setting this up and running it ourselves – with a bit of trial and error – has most definitely made us wiser. But the cool thing is that brand itself has come into its own because of this.
Why coffee and vinyl?
Well it’s not just coffee and vinyl, that’s the thing. What we wanted to do is have a place that likeminded people with a passion for music can congregate, have a decent cuppa, dig for records, chill to some music and have some quality conversation with not just friends, but anyone that’s into music that’s hanging out there. People who dig vinyl are the most passionate ones about music. And coffee is a great thing to have when you want to hang out and chat about music.
What coffee-record pairing would you recommend, and why?
A good long black and anything on the Blue Note imprint. A long black can be sipped on for a while, as it doesn’t have milk. And it has the true taste of coffee without being masked by milk. And with that in mind, you can sit back and listen to some of the most iconic jazz artists from Blue Note.
” If you want to collect music, and have a collection that you can showcase, and have long conversations over, all while having that warmth of analog sound, then vinyl is the only way to go!”
You’ve set up shop at Katong Point now. What sort of experience can people expect to get at the new digs?
They can expect a more open-concept feel to our previous shop house. This layout allows us to do more in the space. The old space was more retail-centric. This space is more functional as a takeaway cafe, but it’s also a space for events, DJ workshops, private hire etc. And we do have more regular weekly events that people can come check out.
We also have occasional scratch jam sessions, and fortnightly, we have a free intro workshop to vinyl DJ-ing. From these workshops, we hope to inform those who might be curious enough to pursue our upcoming vinyl DJ courses.
And on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, anyone can hit us up if they want to bring their vinyl along with their friends to have a listening session. Best way is to WhatsApp message Matt (aka Magnetic MZA) at +65 9228 4459.
Vinyl records are something that the older generation is well acquainted with. If you had to convert the new kids, what would you say to them?
You know what? We are seeing new kids everyday switching to vinyl without need of convincing. They might be far and few between, but these kids are into it. I guess they are intrigued by the format, the keepsake of the album art, or are just too hip for their own good. Or maybe they have parents that collect?
But if I had to convince them, I’d say that no one cares about your digital collection of music. If you want to collect music, and have a collection that you can showcase, and have long conversations over, all while having that warmth of analog sound, then vinyl is the only way to go!
Which record has the single best groove of all time, and why?
Indran, come on. This question is impossible for us to answer.
Let’s talk about MATTEBLACC now. When you play shows or nights, how do you make sure there’s a good energy in the crowd throughout?
You can’t go wrong if you balance what you are trying to do artistically, with keeping the ladies happy. Happy ladies mean happy fellas. But always put your unique spin on it to not sound like every other DJ so that people remember the difference that they experienced that night.
MATTEBLACC is known for being hip-hop-centric. What’s special about hip-hop compared to any other sound?
I think that, hip-hop for the last three decades, has been a common denominator for a lot of people. Even the cheesiest of tastes can relate to some of the breakout party hits of those decades. And you can use that accessibility as a gateway to more edgier, tougher and more lyrical hip-hop.
What are your thoughts on mumble rap?
It’s not my steeze. And I feel that it’s a genre all on its own. And I can see why people do like it, but you can’t and shouldn’t lump them into traditional hip-hop. Hip-hop is a culture. Emcees make hip-hop. Beatboxers make hip-hop. DJs / Turntablists make hip-hop. Graffiti writers make hip-hop. B-Boys make hip-hop.
Mumble rappers write music. It doesn’t mean that they are making Hip-hop music. If your music isn’t paying any respect to, or, further improving the culture, than you are just a rapper trying to make money. Mumble rap is just that – capitalising on a current market trend but not uplifting any of the pillars that make up the hip-hop culture.
Lastly, if there is indeed a right way to do it, what’s the best way to request a song from a DJ?
The best way is to understand what the DJ is trying to achieve with the crowd in front of him. Best way to get your request played is to make it match what is already happening (energy, tempo, style). And get his attention with a positive action like:
“I love what you are doing, can I buy you a drink?”
Most people treat the DJ like they owe it to them to play their song. The DJ is the creative director of the night. They would greatly appreciate some respect for that. Maybe follow up with a suggestive way instead of coming off that you expect it to be played ASAP.
“There’s a song that would be really dope to hear with what you’ve been dropping all night. By no means do you have to, but could you play…?”
Hit up MATTEBLACC here.