This MC Dared To Put His Lyricism Against Jay Electronica’s & Then Spit Tabasco Flows (Video)

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Citrons are to lemons what Matt is to Hip-Hop: his music is clearly influenced by and related to the familiar, but the fruit he bears is not exactly the same thing we’re accustomed to. A 22-year-old native of Atlanta, Georgia, Matt Citron is an MC with a distinctive flow and an even more distinctive look – at least in the world of Rap – one which belies the affectation in his delivery. With the backing of hometown hero and radio personality DJ Greg Street, a veteran who has worked with 50 Cent, Lil’ Wayne, Mary J. Blige, Outkast and others, the young spitter is preparing to impress and surprise the status quo, particularly with bold stand-outs like an adaptation of Jay Electronica’s “Exhibit C” and “Tabasco Flows,” the latter built atop some familiar Just Blaze heat and for which the video premieres today on Ambrosia for Heads. For an up-and-comer, looking to the works of influencers for inspiration is not a new routine, but few are able to handle the gravitas while also leaving a distinct footprint behind. Matt Citron has begun to leave those footprints, and there’s no telling just how far the trail he’s forging will lead.

While many emergent artists opt to introduce themselves by way of covering a previous Rap record in hopes of amassing some fruitful clicks, Matt’s decision to take on the works of two heavyweights is a direct invitation for critique, so bring it on. “Jay Electronica’s Exhibit C is one of the most incredible displays of rapping ability I’ve heard in my life, and I wanted to be judged up against that level of excellence. I wanted that challenge,” he tells AFH. “I think as an artist, and especially as an artist in Hip-Hop, you have to know yourself, but at the same time you need to have the utmost confidence in what you can do.” In many ways, that innate desire to prove himself is born out of a sharp sense of self-awareness, one that often makes the road for MCs like him difficult. As he explains, “honestly I want people to hear these songs, and realize I’m here and I’m very much a contender when it comes to my ability. I’m very serious about this, I’m not looking to be some bullshit gimmicky white boy rapper that people listen to just because of the color of his skin.”

Outward appearance aside, it’s markedly apparent that Matt Citron‘s sound pulls from the depths of Hip-Hop’s amalgamated diaspora in a unique way. Balancing the sonic flavors of Atlanta and New York City, he says the two cities “deserve to be represented in the right way,” and his experiences in both locations have allowed for just that opportunity. Once a fledgling NBA hopeful playing college ball in the Big Apple, an injury to his retina sidelined his goals of shining on the court and drove him to pursue the same success on the stage. Like many of life’s setbacks, his ended up having the proverbial silver lining and his return to Atlanta would prove to be a just the kind of kismet he needed. Of the experience he says “my eye is fine now, but I was just up [in New York City] watching my teammates practice while I sat there thinking, ‘I don’t know what it is, but there is some huge feeling I’m getting that’s telling me I need to move back to Atlanta.’ I left the school and moved back, and sure enough maybe two weeks later I got introduced to Greg Street by a good friend of mine who is an iconic painter in the Atlanta area, Gilbert Young.” As fruitful as a citron tree, that meeting sparked a musical partnership that continues to blossom today. “Greg fell in love with the music right away, and we’ve been family every since. I think it goes without saying having Greg support me as heavily as he does feels pretty mind blowing. That’s the voice I heard on the radio every single day growing up as a kid, and now I’ve got him calling me at 11PM asking me how quickly I can get down to the studio to meet Big Boi. It’s wild man.”

“Tabasco Flows” is one such song bound to earn Matt the attention of new fans, famous or otherwise. It features basketball prominently, both in the lyrics and the visuals and there’s little doubt as to why – the parallels between his two careers are plenty. “Both are major industries built essentially around entertainment, but also, especially in hip hop, built around competition. In Hip-Hop everybody wants to compete, and a rapper is lying if he tells you he doesn’t want to be the best,” he tells AFH. “Not every indie rock band or soul singer is going to say, ‘all I care about is getting that top spot.'” For him, the similarities between the sport and the genre are ongoing, and their reflective qualities carry lessons which he continues to carry with him today. “Hip-Hop is completely like going to those Amateur Athletic Union travel-league tournaments back in the summers during high school. Who can jump the highest, who can shoot the deepest threes, and who can score the most points. Now it’s a totally different set of criteria that the competition is measuring themselves by, but it’s the same mentality. Also what I’ll say has helped me in a major way above anything else is just the work ethic. People see their favorite rappers and their favorite players in the NBA, and they look like they’re just effortlessly running through the competition like it’s nothing to them. What people don’t see is the unbelievable amount of work that goes into making it look that easy. It’s funny because I used to wake up at 5AM to workout before classes so that I could compete at the highest level possible, and now I’m staying up till 5AM at the studio hoping for the same outcome. The game switched for me, but my mindset never did.”

One line of “Tabasco Flows” in particular embodies Matt Citron’s work ethic, the legs of which manifest in the power of visualization. “Bought a house in the hills. No, wait. I’m trippin’, I didn’t. I’m just living so far ahead, sometimes I just speak from the vision,” he raps. Of the verse’s meaning he says “I think it’s important to know what you want in life. Your surroundings and your circumstances are constantly changing, so you have to be able to adapt and roll with the punches, but at the same time keeping a strong vision of who you are and where you want to be is going to help you stay focused and driven towards that end goal.”

Inspired by a veritable cornucopia of musical stylings – from Blink 182’s “Adam’s Song,” to Jay Z’s “Lost One,” Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” to Outkast’s “13th Floor/Growing Old” – Matt Citron continues to look ahead and visualize future collaborations. “I would love to work on some original music with Just Blaze at some point. He’s hands down my favorite producer of all time. I’ve heard his style try to be replicated so many times over the years, and nobody can even come close to the way he does what he does,” he shares. “Next I think Yung Gud might be the most slept on producer in the industry. I don’t understand how that guy doesn’t have way more major album placements, so yeah I think it would be extremely dope to work on something with him. And finally Kaytranada is probably my favorite producer out right now. The way he incorporates hip hop, jazz, disco, pop, and electronic music so beautifully into his music is unbelievable. Nobody can be or top Dilla, but I feel like Kaytranda is the closest thing we’ll get to what Dilla would sound like if he was still making music today.”

But an artistic future is not always reliant on with whom fledgling MCs plan to collaborate. There is something much more visceral, much more personal at play. “Your dreams should change and evolve as you develop, so I don’t think you should be afraid to allow them to,” says Matt. “Like I said earlier, a few years ago I wanted to be an NBA All-Star, and now just a couple weeks ago I performed on stage in front of 2,000 people in the same gym I tore my retina in. I’m super highkey trying to take Kevin Hart’s title as the celebrity game MVP though, so tell him I’m coming for his spot” [laughs].

Ambrosia for Heads Spotlight features.