Crossover potential usually comes in packages similar to Nelly Furtado and Gwen Stefani – go through a genre transformation, go through an audience expansion. Mathew Santos, on the other hand, went through no genre change and an audience expansion. “People want to draw that line for you, but I’m not having it,” says Santos when the touchy topic of genre comes up.
If his name sounds familiar, it makes sense. Matthew Santos is the voice on Lupe Fiasco’s first Top 10 hit, “Superstar.” The Minneapolis native lent his flexible vocals to an R&B hook, but R&B is far from the appropriate word to describe the music he creates. “Just because you can sing R&B doesn’t make you an R&B singer. Just because I’ve had folk/rock songs doesn’t make me a folk/rock artist. I can sing blues and opera, but that doesn’t make you an opera singer.”
In a recording studio in Houston, Texas, Matthew takes a break before embarking on a national tour that will for-sure bring him fans by the bundle. From the moment Santos’s speaking voice booms out, it’s deep. It catches you off-guard as you’re expecting the R&B softness that bathes even his original and acoustic vocals.
The tour that Matthew is replenishing for is Kanye West’s Glow In The Dark Tour. The Minneapolis native will be opening alongside the hot performers Rihanna, Lupe Fiasco, and N.E.R.D. Still, Matthew seems undaunted by the possibilities this tour has for him. When it’s stated that it’s one of the most anticipated tours this year his response is a simple, “Oh, yeah? I guess it’s big, huh?”
This easiness might just root from being prepped by Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool tour during late 2007, which Matthew was also a part of. When asked about his biggest challenge, he’s quick and thoughtful, “It’s hard to adapt to that culture. The Hip-Hop culture, within the industry, is a particularly shady culture. The business ethics are just a little skewed and foreign to me.”
Night after night, to packed venues, he’d walk on stage with a guitar and perform in front of audiences waiting to hear Fiasco, and when the audience is told that he’s the featured artist on “Superstar,” well, it can go one or two ways.
Matthew recalls with a sense of purpose, as if this realization alone carried him through the tour, “It [was] very challenging. It [was] definitely a very fulfilling experience at the same time. It just proves that it’s really not about style it’s about soul. ”
“I mean I’m the only white dude on a Hip-Hop tour and the only white dude on stage. So, there’s this cultural thing going on,” he explains. “But it’s all good because Lupe’s fans are so hip to it. There’s this whole new consciousness and this new wave of thinking and this openness that it didn’t really matter. When I would get off stage, I didn’t even notice it, people in the back were asking, ‘Do you hear how loud they’re screaming when you hopped on stage?’” It’s more than certain that audience reactions were the same kind that made Lupe Fiasco sign Matthew to his record label: 1st & 15th.
After speaking to Matthew Santos you might be tempted to play back his vocals on “Superstar.” Now you hear the sense of clairvoyance, you hear it in the soulful conviction. It was as if he knew deep down this hook’s mantra was one he would have to live with for the next couple of months, surrounded by millions of fans, artists and celebrities, and his own budding stardom. All of which came from changing nothing.
his solo album is out right now, bbs...these are three of the songs on it