Influential Asbury Park collaborators Bulletproof Belv & Matty Carlock talk about their new albums, their plans in support of them, and how working together help unify the City by the Sea’s rap and rock music scenes and bring more hip-hop to its live stages.
Several factors recently have unified the rock and rap scenes in Asbury Park and brought more hip-hop to its live stages. They include Chris Rockwell’s annual integration of rap and punk at The Saint and his public criticism of a lack of a hip-hop category at the Asbury Park Music Awards, the Asbury Park Press article that inspired criticism about the longtime segregation of the scene, and inclusive concert promotions by Black Suburbia Music Group, Asbury Park Music Foundation, and Rodney Coursey’s Garden State Hip Hop.
But perhaps what influenced the scene the most, particularly as collabs go, is Bulletproof Belv teaming with Matty Carlock as his producer and guest performer on the local smash, “Dark City Lights.” The single from Belv’s 2017 LP, 11:11 Wishful Thinking, nabbed lots of airplay, video views, performance requests and publicity not only for themselves but Asbury rap ‘n’ rock. And their influence continues. They recently teamed on Belv’s club anthem, “F Being Friends,” from his latest LP, With or Without You, and will perform together on Feb. 16 at Asbury Lanes with Experiment 34, Des & the Swagmatics, P-Funk North and Flourish. That show immediately follows the release of Carlock’s debut full-length, The Jailbirds, featuring guest appearances by New York City punk legend Jesse Malin, Danny Clinch—best known as a photographer but also a bluesy harmonica player and singer—and longtime hardcore brother Jared Hart of The Scandals and Mercy Union (look for a review of The Jailbirds here next week).
I recently spoke to Belv and Carlock about their work together and apart and their personal and musical histories.
How and why did the two of you connect?
Matty: I knew of Belv before the gentrification of Asbury Park through my hardcore affiliations. And I linked with him through my bro Joe None of Shattered Realm and Second To None. I saw so much potential and noticed he didn’t have a hit, and I wanted to contribute, so we made ‘Dark City Lights.’
Comment on how and why your collaborations have been very influential on and inspirational to the Asbury Park rap and rock music scenes.
Belv: From what I know, there hasn’t been a hip-hop and folk collaboration in Asbury Park ever. Also, this song, ‘Dark City Lights,’ is an Asbury Park anthem. The two songs we did united Asbury Park’s music world. Hip-hop and rock music in Asbury Park really never co-existed. We made it so easy for both worlds to see what they can do together if they worked together. We made two amazing songs.
Matty: I personally think people in music scenes all over the world, including Asbury Park, are overly obsessed with making it no matter what, networking, doing extra stuff to get ahead to fuel some inorganic process to the top. Our initial collaboration came from the complete opposite: through pain, emotion and not really caring if anybody heard it literally at all. So, I think for once, people connected to the authenticity of the single and how much Belv bled onto the track versus making something everybody else makes, desperate for attention and recognition.
Belv, how and when did you get the name Bulletproof Belv and why did it stick?
Belv: I always went by the name Belv because of the Belvedere I used to drink with my best friends Evan Griffin and Shareef Hughes. Bulletproof got added to my name after being shot point blank range in front of my mother at her house on Bangs Avenue in Asbury Park. …
What was it like growing up on Bangs Avenue and how and why did that inspire you to become a rapper?
Belv: I’ve always loved music. I actually wanted to be a singer. Being on Bangs Ave. actually made me a rapper because of the tough times and the turmoil we went through while living there. It’s hard to talk about being shot at and stabbed, but it was easier to rap about the struggles of living in an urban environment within the city. Rapping was like my journal that I write in every day to relieve me of the pain and stress I went through fighting to stay alive.
How did you hook up with El Trapo, the producer of much of your recent music?
Belv: Me and El Trapo met on Bangs Ave., and he was part of the crew. So, he is actually like a brother to me, and that’s why I think we work so well together.
What does he bring to your music that wouldn’t be there without him?
Belv: El Trapo listens to my ideas and makes the beats around them, even if we are on FaceTime together all night cooking up. He wants me to win as much as I want him to win.
Who else has El Trapo worked with who makes you proud to have worked with him too?
Belv: El Trapo made the beat for me and Fetty Wap for the ‘Wave Runnin’’ song. I’m just happy he gets to do what he loves to do while working with me because it’s a Born Getta Thing. Born Gettas, wave runners, we the reason why the wave coming.
How did you develop a friendship with Fetty Wap?
Belv: We had a brother-type of vibe since we met and a mutual respect for each other. He coaches me on the music game and how to live with success and to be successful in more ways than just music. I’ve been rooting for Wap since day one, and it will stay that way.
How has he influenced your career and music, particularly some of your lyrics and the stories they tell?
Belv: Fetty Wap influences my career by letting me tell better stories throughout the travels and journeys he has let me be a part of. Instead of talking about the urban area in every song on the album, now I can talk about the L.A. Hills and staying in a glass mansion for a week while shopping on Rodeo Drive.
Matty, you got your start playing in hardcore bands, such as Shai Hulud, along the Jersey Shore, particularly Asbury Park. How does that experience and sound still influence your music and music career today?
Matty: That experience was a culture shock. Every show I played from 2004 to 2014 was walking into a room expecting to fist fight in self-defense or as an aggressor. It taught me a lot about life, friendship, companionship and loyalty, which a lot of those crazy experiences are what I write about now. Tap water builds character, and it gave me a strong sense of my surroundings and a strong DIY ethic to go get my dreams and unfold them myself.
What was Asbury Park like when you first were a part of its music scene compared to how it is now?
Matty: It was extremely violent and run down. I was in middle school getting dropped off at Club Deep, which is Langosta Lounge, before somebody got murdered there at a local hardcore show I attended. That was normal for me and my young friends, and we grew up with that type of life expectations and influence. I look around now and it’s still a trip. A lot of people I’m friends with now who play in the local circuit, I just stay low, humble and appreciate the fact that they get to experience a better area for their careers. I love that.
Belv: The music scene is growing tremendously, and I feel great about it.
What inspired the title of your new album The Jailbirds?
Matty: I just have an obsession with love and friendship and youth. And to me it means two lovers who are young and just fucked up and are killing each other but can’t live without each other. Everybody has had that Bonnie & Clyde-reckless, toxic, fighting-at-4-a.m.-on-Christmas, throwing-plates relationship as an angsty teenager. But you just love them so much you’d rather die than abandon them. That’s what it means to me; the trials and tribulations of that.
What label will be releasing it?
Matty: My own label 115 Collective, LLC.
Who are the special guests on the album, on what songs do they appear, and how did they contribute?
Matty: I have a song ‘Young and Fucked Up’ with the legend Jesse Malin. A song with New Jersey’s hero Jared Hart called ‘The Punks That Had Enough,’ and my personal favorite, Jeralyn,’ with Danny Clinch, who is completely self-explanatory. Jesse did a verse and a bridge on the song, Jared did a verse and a bridge, and Danny did harmonica and two verses.
The Jailbirds is your debut full-length. Did you release a previous EP?
Matty: I released an EP called Loveless in 2016. I have singles with Albee Al, Arsonal Da Rebel, Chad B, Tsu Surf, Cage, and music with Belv.
With 115, you’ve been able to pursue a variety of styles of as producer and performer, such as punk, Americana and hip-hop. You’ve also produced a lot of videos for yourself, Belv, Albee Al and others. In the video for your collab with Belv, ‘F Being Friends,’ you enlisted Asbury singer-songwriter Taylor Tote in a role. Why did you want to go with her?
Matty: Taylor is just a very talented, ambitious artist who I think stands out way beyond any other artist in potential and ethic that’s around. She’s a good friend of mine, and I knew a few certain artists who are very successful were going to see the video and wanted to put her on.
Have either of you played Asbury Lanes before? If so, what do you think of the new Lanes? And if not, how do you feel about playing there for the first time?
Matty: I grew up at the Lanes, and I’ve played shows to nobody there and sold-out shows there through every era of the building until now. But I think in April, there’s a proper solo show.
Belv: I have never performed at Asbury Lanes, so this will be a great opportunity for me to perform at a bigger venue in Asbury Park, which is my hometown. I’m excited. I’ve always wanted to be in that place as a performer.
Where else will you be performing and when?
Matty: I will be announcing spring/summer tour dates soon.
What else will you do to promote your new album?
Belv: I’m promoting my album with the shows and traveling I’m doing, as streams are more important than actually selling hard copies now. People love entertainment now to bring them to your music.
Do you have any other recordings in the works? If so, what details can you share?
Belv: I’m working on a new album called ‘Everything Earned’ for 2019. It’s a quarter done already so I hope to release it with or before the documentary I’m shooting comes out.