Hip-hop music in New Mexico is at odds with itself. On one hand, there’s quality, much like Wake Self, a conscious and confidant Albuquerque rapper who often acclaims feminism, denounces consumerism and unabashedly reps his home state while doing so. On the other hand, we have Discogs.com’s second-worst band of 2014, Brokencyde. To say the least, there’s discrepancy.
Matthew “Vez” Chavez is currently beneath a saturated tier of rap musicians budding from the 505, but his musicianship speaks in decibels. A seventeen year old currently starting his senior year at Rio Rancho High School, Vez enjoys hanging out with friends, long walks on the beach and absolutely destroying Mobb Deep instrumentals.
He began a year ago on what was implied to be a boring afternoon, through an appreciation for a few little-known rappers:
“Drake, Kanye and Lil Wayne — the big three.” Big surprise.
“It didn’t look too hard,” he said. “I’d watch freestyles on Sway and what not. I tried writing for the first time (a year ago), and I loved doing it, but I was so bad. My first verse was over a Kendrick-type beat, but I started doing it daily. For a long time, every day: four to six hours. Every day, a lot. Eventually I just got comfortable with it.”
Since then Vez released two songs that have garnered a righteous amount of attention: “69 Bars” and a remix of “Shook Ones.” The former is an exposition over a classic boom-bap relished with big band instrumentals and details his life and interests. Kind of like a prologue to his aesthetic:
“More than a predecessor, I’m tired of taking orders and always having to listen,
but listen to me, listen to what I say: my first song I got was the great featuring face.
Can’t say it was a mistake, from there I dictated the next moves to play,
but from then my brain started to suffocate trying to create,
to where I couldn’t operate.”
Moreover, his take on Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones” depicts a more aggressive tone and style, almost similar to Denzel Curry in terms of speed and vocal rhythm. He bounces through the decrepit piano melody to vividly detail how quick people are to underestimate his writing and performance.
The appeal is hidden in plain sight: Vez raps well. It’s put in perspective through SoundCloud in his features, like “Revenge” by K.T. Hamilton. Vez forcefully tackles the first verse and provides direction for the track’s arrangement. The subsequent verses fail to match his energy, and one can hear in detail how hard it is to make rapping sound easy.
“Zeus Flow” is another gem that glistens into his technical ability. His verse at 0:55, which sounds like one breath, is furious and charismatic. He writes with confidence and pairs syllables to rhythm with ease.
“I take my time more now,” he said, referring to the writing process. “The thought process didn’t change of course, but now when I think I’m done. I double check if I’m really done. I’ll write a verse, re-write it the next day and take the good parts. A good verse is like four days of revision. I’m giving it more effort now.”
Right now, Vez’s place in contemporary hip-hop is obfuscated. Despite a determined work ethic, he wears his influences on his sleeve. It’s easy to point to his replicates in mainstream rap culture. “69 Bars” sounds like half of Logic’s flows off of “Incredible True Story,” and he is hardly a threat to innovative collectives in the rap game, like Brockhampton.
Yet aspiring musicians take years to reproduce the style of mainstream artists. Chavez has saved time and money by cutting first in line to prove himself competent at seventeen. There’s still a lot of time to hear his style evolve and see his character develop over the upcoming years, to perhaps forge his own persona in contemporary rap culture.
When asked if planning on making a career out of his ongoing momentum, Vez said quickly: “I have long-term plans.”
Readers can check out Vez’s material online at soundcloud.com/dawnofthevez, as well as on YouTube and Instagram.
Audrin Baghaie is the music editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @AudrinTheOdd.