Anderson Street Interviews Khari Mateen
Have you seen those new Sprite billboards featuring Drake, Nas, Rakim and Biggie? The billboards are a part of Sprite’s new “Obey Your Verse” multimedia ad campaign honoring Hip Hop. In support of the campaign, Fader has produced four mini-documentaries with Drake, Nas, IsaiahRashad and Vince Staples. We’re proud to share that these documentaries were scored by Philly resident and friend to the Anderson Street Project, Khari Mateen.
What DOESN’T Khari do? He’s a multi-instrumentalist, playing the cello, bass, and the drums among others. He’s a touring musician, currently performing with Aussie pop superstar Cody Simpson. He’s a go-to producer for the Roots and Jill Scott. He scores for film and visual projects. And to top it off, he’s a recording artist with his latest project set to drop later this fall.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Khari about the Sprite project, his works with Jill and the Roots, and his upcoming projects.
ASP: How did you break into Philly’s music scene?
Khari: It’s not really hard to break in the music scene here in my opinion. You create something. You create a product. You create a buzz or a thing that you provide people with: the music.
Dice Raw was looking for music for The Roots because he writes for them. I was playing him some of the music I was creating. He played the songs for Richard Nichols. Richard Nichols was listening to it like “alright cool, this kid could do something,” So I did 4 songs for Game Theory.
ASP: Is there camaraderie between Philly producers?
Khari: It’s just a mutual respect. Everyone is trying to get it done. Everyone’s trying to put food on their plate. The music business ain’t easy.
ASP: I can imagine.
Khari: So for me, my biggest goal was to diversify as much as possible, as quickly as possible, so I can get on a lot of projects.
I think the next major opportunity was to score a film I did with Mark Webber, Explicit Ills. It introduced me to the film world. Literally from that film, every connection from that point on has led to other film projects including the Sprite project.
ASP: How did you get the Sprite gig?
Khari: It was through an editor that worked on Brick City, a TV show that I scored that was nominated for an Emmy. It was documentary about Newark.
One of the editors has his own company. He gets and fields different film jobs. Through our connection, they suggested me for those documentaries on Fader.
ASP: Do you still produce for artists?
Khari: Yeah, I feel like producing is taxing. I only do it if I want to work with that artist. I’m working with STS. If the Roots were to approach to me about doing an upcoming album, I would like to work with them again.
ASP: Well, you worked with Jill Scott, do you have any songs on the new album?
Khari: I did a song that has Too Short on it. Is that on there?
ASP: Nope that’s not on there. But THAT’s interesting. Were you there when they recorded?
Khari: No, she does her recording when she wants to. She really liked the track. It didn’t make it for one reason or another.
ASP: How is it working with her?
Khari: She’s cool. She’s really talented. I worked on a song called “Let It Be.” Man, she came in there and sang them vocals. It was on point. She’s a pro. She came in and knocked it out in one day. I wanna be like that. A lot of respect for her and what she’s done in the film world and music. That can never be taken from her.
ASP: What would you tell younger producers and up and coming musicians from Philly?
Khari: I would suggest to try to make a movement the best way you can. Try to get a group of creatives together, being creative together. I think that’s really important to understand. With that creative energy, you all become better and you all will have your own thing to give to each other. Get together. Make music. If you’re a producer, produce for everybody. If there’s one or more producer around, create concepts together for records.
Be very collaborative. And give credit when credit is due. You’re creating history. It is very fulfilling to be around people. It’s like a gang. It’s like a posse. Even if you guys don’t talk regularly and you have kids and move away, you’ll always talk about the memories.
And that’s important, you can’t just go around life chasing some cloud in the sky that you don’t understand. The music industry or fame in the music industry, it is a thing but you don’t even know if you want it unless you get there and you might not even want it.
ASP: Do you want the fame?
Khari: It’s not really the fame that I want. It’s the security to make music for the rest of my life. So fame has nothing to do with it. I’m not making music for every person on the planet. I don’t even think that’s possible.
ASP: On a performance level, I think I’ve only seen you perform once but it was one of the most interesting things I’ve ever seen. It’s almost like performance art. It’s just you on stage and you’re playing 5 or 6 instruments while singing. And quite frankly, you’re sound is so unique. I couldn’t put a genre to it. Talk about your style from a recording standpoint and the performance standpoint.
Khari: From a recording standpoint, it’s about making the best story possible. It’s about being inspired by what’s out there and what has been. So I’m just pulling from different eras in music and using it to my advantage because I know what it is. If it’s some strings, it’s inspired by the first things I’ve learned and classical music like Bach.
The performance side, I like to use technology to bring something across. It’s really honest to create something by yourself when you create something on stage. That’s how it was created anyway. I’m in the studio creating it by myself unless I bring in another guitarist because I love their sound. But when I’m on stage, I feel like that’s my space to project to the audience and really be the center of the focus. Sometimes you have like 8 people on stage. It looks good. A lot of different energy up there. I play for someone that does that. It’s very fulfilling for him. The way I performing is very fulfilling to me to and I think I still gets the point across.
ASP: Tell us about the new project. What’s the inspiration?
Khari: Change of scenery. The new song is “Talk to Me.” A lot of that record is about the transition of working in LA and being in that environment. It’s just the stories I’ve accumulated of that 2 year period since my last project. I love this record. Can’t wait until it comes out. I’ve already started on a new record.