Rhythm and blues, usually dubbed as R&B, has been around since the early 1980s. After the groovy disco era, R&B made its way into record labels with musicians including Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, DeBarge and Marvin Gaye. Currently, R&B can be defined as soft hip-hop. Present-day R&B artists range from Justin Timberlake to Mariah Carey to Beyonce.
The newest face of RnB Mateo, who has been compared to the likes of Chris Brown and Bruno Mars, recently released an EP on August 13th titled, We’ve Met Before (PURCHASE LINK). His most popular following is on his YouTube channel, where he covers songs of artists like Lana del Rey and Kendrick Lamar.
The Cincinnati native has had musical upbringings, with his grandfather playing the guitar and his grandmother being a singer. When playing with his grandmother’s karaoke machine in his childhood, he says, “Performing in front of people definitely helped me with confidence. All those things have helped me become the artist I am today.”
The musician’s real name is Iman Mateo Jordan. He uses Mateo as an alter ego to stray away from the “shy, nerdy, skinny kid from Cincy,” and become the “funny, hyper guy that owns the stage.” He also uses the meaning behind Mateo, gift from God, to connect to his music because he “feels like his music is also a gift from God.”
Mateo’s musical career started by making covers of popular songs that he could easily add his own flair into. In 2009, Mateo released his first mixtape. Since then, he has released four more mixtapes and 2 EPs. “I have a better sense of who I am as an artist both from a musical and lyrical perspective. I spent so much time learning why I liked particular songs and figuring out how to take those attributes and plug them into my own style,” says Mateo. Now, the R&B singer has discovered that he wants to make more than love songs, “I want to make LIFE songs,” which is what much of We’ve Met Before is all about.
On the future of R&B, the singer/songwriter believes that a renaissance is in the near future. “We are getting back to the basics of what makes music so dope… individuality,” Mateo says.
Want to get your feet wet in the music industry? Here’s some advice from Mateo himself: “Keep putting out music. Build your online following and press relationships, because those are the people that will support and spread the word about your project.”
Watch Mateo’s new music video, Sing About Me below!
MORE ABOUT MATEO
Your first mixtape was released in 2009. How have you grown as a musician since then?
I think by doing a lot of mixtapes, I have a better sense of who I am as an artist both from a musical and lyrical perspective. I spent so much time learning why I liked particular songs and figuring out how to take those attributes and plug them into my own style. Now I have a pretty good idea of how I want my music to come across and how I want my music to make people feel. I'm about making more than love songs now…I want to make LIFE songs.
Who and what are your biggest musical influences? How much have you taken likeness to them and how are you different from them?
I'm into old and new school. Huge fan of Donny Hathaway, The Beatles, and Stevie Wonder…but also a huge Coldplay, Kendrick Lamar, and Kanye fan. They influence my music in different ways. I try to create songs that have that soul and r&b but still has that arena rock feel. Think it’s a good mix.
Many artists are critiqued, whether they’re just debuting or have platinum records. How do you take any negative criticism effectively (without getting hurt)?
I think it’s inevitable that your feelings will get hurt in this game. As an artist, we wear our hearts on our sleeves so it gets hard to take criticism. I think the rule is to never take it personal….even when evil people who make comments try to make it personal. You have to ignore those type of critiques and look for the constructive ones. Everyone has an opinion based on what they are going through in their life….so many times what people say, has nothing to do with you.
What’s on your summer playlist?
Got that J. Cole in constant rotation. Also James Blake, Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars, and Drake
You moved to New York City after you graduated college and then moved to LA to focus on your music career. How has your experience from living in a small town like Cincinnati to big cities like NYC and LA expanded your knowledge about the world? How do you incorporate this into your music career?
Moving to NYC and LA was definitely a change for me. I actually moved from Cincy to ATL first so that helped the transition. NY helped my music because you can soak up the energy of everyone around you. There’s so much vibe there. It’s almost like the person walking next to you or the person on the subway is telling you their story without even speaking. Making music in NY is my favorite because I have so much to pull from. LA was a different story because it was the first place where I felt ok with saying I'm an artists. Since there are so many dream chasers out there…I felt ok with saying that I was too.
In both cities, you meet people from all over the world who are successful at what they do. That definitely keeps you motivated.