Interview: Brevner Leads A New Wave Of Vancouver Hip-Hop

The stakes are high for Brevner.

Photo by Trevor Brady

Brevner is making a lot of noise on the West Coast. The Vancouver rapper formerly known as Matt Brevner is ushering in 2016 with a name change, a new EP, and a take-no-prisoners attitude.

It’s a new era for Brevner, and one in which he has no interest in staying quiet. He recently sparred with Bob Ezrin online after the producer’s comments on Kanye West ignited the Internet, and he aired out his troubled history with Swollen Members and Battle Axe Warriors co-founder Madchild on one of the most savage diss tracks to come out of the beef that shook Western Canadian hip-hop last year.

With a new name and a new self-titled EP—boasting features from the likes of Project Pat, King Louie, Rome Fortune, and the Peach Panther himself, RiFF RAFF—Brevner is ready to let the past be the past, and focus on the future.

We caught up with Brevner and chatted about his new EP, Vancouver hip-hop, his relationship with Chinx Drugz, and his beef with Madchild.

Your new EP is your first effort as the newly minted Brevner. Why lose the “Matt”? Does the name change signal a more significant change for you as an artist?
Growing up, my friends always called me "Brevner" or "Brev." Creatively I felt the need for a fresh start, and although the name change isn't drastic, it represents the beginning of a new chapter in my life and my story. Everything has come full circle in the past couple years, and now more than ever, I'm happy with who I am and where I'm from. To my understanding, there are currently less than 50 Brevners in the world. It's a pretty unique last name, and I'm proud to bear it.

One of my favourite cuts on the new EP is “Last Call.” Fembot killed the hook. What does that song mean to you?
When Frances [Fembot] sent me her demo vocal, her words immediately made me think of two angles. At 2AM after a night of partying, there are two types of people most of us would call—either a fuck buddy or your drug dealer. Everyone is chasing a feeling of acceptance in one form or another. We all have a hole in our chests. Some people attempt to fill that hole with vanity, pride, materialistic things. The fillers most commonly sought after at 2am are substances and lust. "Last Call" is quite literally the story of my experiences with filling needs, and longing for something more all in one night.

There are some crazy features on your EP. Project Pat, King Louie, Rome Fortune...and RiFF RAFF. I’m curious to know how that one came to be.
A good friend of mine, a rapper from Calgary named Deezus, is a part of Riff's Canadian management team. Over the years when I would be touring through Calgary, D was always on some good people real hospitality shit. When the album was still in the production stage, I knew it needed a brighter track to bridge the gap sonically between "All We Know" and "Last Call." Last year when RIff came through Vancouver, D hollered at me to extend some tickets, and I reached out about working together on something. A couple days before the show, my homie Sonny Parmar and I started sketching song concepts that we thought might be a good fit for Riff and I to both do our own thing on. It was just a simple loop and the hook at that point, but when I sent that demo with a couple others, “Jane DOE” resonated with him immediately. Fortunately, the homie Lazee has a studio spot almost spitting distance from the club. It was a total alignment of effort to make it happen, between arranging everything and finishing it. It’s the colour that the album needed.

It looks like NDT produced many of the beats on the EP. What’s your creative relationship with him like?
NDT is one of those low-key geniuses. Definitely a diamond in the rough, but I have a feeling that's about to change. We definitely learn a lot from each other. Not just on the music shit, but generally. He's like a sparring partner and we definitely push each other to be great.

You’re half Trini and half Japanese. How do your roots influence what you do?
I'm very close with my family and I am definitely a product of my environment. So, it contributes to everything, from my visuals, to work ethic, and the relationships I have with the people close to me.

View this video on YouTube

What’s the deal with you and Bob Ezrin?
I know, right?

I thought your critique of Ezrin and his recording school, Nimbus, was pretty on point. I imagine that detail resonates with you, based on your brief tenure at The Art Institute.
To be frank, it was never my intention to critique the school. Everyone has their own path to take. There is no set way to be an entrepreneur, especially a creative one. In terms of The Art Institute, I signed up for a four year program and realized fairly quickly that it just wasn't for me. It was too expensive, and that just added much more stress and unneeded pressure on my dream. It didn't feel right. It's kind of unfortunate that it was spun in a way that made it seem like I was shitting on higher learning, or Nimbus specifically. My point was simply that it was ignorant to say what he did without acknowledging that a fair size of his student body grew up listening to Kanye records.

How did you feel about his response?
To be honest, it felt like a cop out. Like, "Oh shit, this punk kid is gonna cost me money, so I better make it about the kids." He didn't even really respond to me, he just said "Leave the kids out of it." Oh well. Que sera.

"We're coming to take what’s ours, and we're not expecting any handouts." – Brevner

It was tough hearing about Chinx Drugs’ passing. Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with him, and what his memory means to you?
My brother Rick Steel originally asked me if I was interested in coming down to kick it in Far Rock for a bit with the intention of shooting a video for Chinx. I was always a fan of the Cokeboys movement, and the opportunity to work with Chinx was a dream come true. After seeing how he operated, how much people adored and loved him and what he meant to Far Rock, it was crazy inspiring. He's like a superhero to his neighbourhood. My manager and I flew out and ended up shooting a video for him and French Montana, which could be its own interview altogether. Anyway, I learned a shit load about the music business in New York in a short period of time. Rick and Chinx were some of the first people to really put me on outside of my city. For that, I am forever grateful.

What’s happening in Vancouver hip-hop right now, beyond Brevner? SonReal is in the mix, Evil Ebenezer, LNDN DRGS, Tre Nyce...what can you tell us about the scene right now?
There are some people making real noise out here, man. And there are some solid kids that are about to start. As long as I've been doing this shit I've never been so excited or proud of my city and our scene. I mean, there are so many cats making great music and power moves right now. Snak of course, Merk, Caspo, Tommy Genesis, Vials, D-Kay, Stevie Ross, Tom Macdonald, Kai Skywalker (RIP), Lazeevil, NWD, Neph, Ghost, So-Loki, Dave Fields, Seth Kay, Golden, Immerze, Spotty, Gerry Scope, Emotionz, Heatwave, Creed Taylor….so much talent. What I can tell you about the hiphop scene in the V is that it’s extremely eclectic. We're coming to take what’s ours, and we're not expecting any handouts.

View this video on YouTube

For those that don’t know… What can you tell us about “Waterloo (The Jitters Story)”?
It was a forced deposition in the court of public opinion. Something that myself and Vancouver needed.

What would it take for you to, excuse the terrible pun, bury the hatchet with Madchild?
I no longer hold any malice towards Shane. I got it all out of me. I can't imagine he feels the same way about me, but fuck it. At the end of the day, he has a lot of kids who look to him as a role model, and I hope he can be healthy and be a good role model for them. The stakes are too high.

If you’re in Vancouver, don’t miss Brevner’s album release party on Thursday, March 24th at Alexander Gastown. You can grab the EP on iTunes here, or stream it on Bandcamp via Urbnet.

Latest in Music