Matthew Santos doesn't write hip-hop music, but hip-hop is what got him onto the Billboard charts for the first time.Matthew Santos doesn't write hip-hop music, but hip-hop is what got him onto the Billboard charts for the first time. Lupe Fiasco's "Superstar," which features the young Chicagoan's vocals, has been climbing the Hot 100 as well as a number of other charts, but Santos has his own solo effort that he's been trying to promote this season.
"Playing with Lupe, I've gotten such great exposure. But ['Superstar'] isn't what I do," the smooth-voiced Santos tells Billboard.com. "So while I've been on the road with him, I've been trying to hype what I do too."
What Santos "does" can be heard on his recently released CandyRat set, "Matters of the Bittersweet." The acoustic, folk-pop fare is a far cry stylistically from what Santos contributed to many tracks on Fiasco's latest album, "The Cool." However, the soulful underpinnings of his voice are what remain consistent, containing a versatility suitable for his singer/songwriter stylings as well as R&B.
"I grew up on R&B. Boyz II Men taught me a lot of what I know," Santos says. He also had a steady diet of strong female vocalists, from Billie Holiday to Bjork. "I love music with soul."
Santos was born and raised in Minneapolis and made his way to the Third Coast as he started music school at Columbia College. He soon joined up with CandyRat Records and developed a following surrounding his intimate video performances that made the rounds on YouTube.
"It was all done live with one mic in my basement... nothing glamorous. I want to stay with that rootsy feel. I could get away with the acoustic thing the rest of my life," he says. "I like 'Superstar' as a song, but it's not me, I didn't write it. I see the video and I'm like, 'I'm not that dude.' But it helps that it's out there. It's just another way people can get to me."