Vancouver, B.C. – On nature’s stage, a heat wave approaches with ample warning: cloudless skies, heavy air pressure, and the ground unusually warm beneath your feet.
Young, headstrong Emmanuel Matovu is Vancouver’s own HeatWave, and though he hails clear skies ahead there’s no doubt that the pressure is on. Opening for some of the biggest names in hip-hop means Emmanuel needs to be on his business: multitasking is not his strong suit but these things come with time . . . hopefully. It’s hard to be everywhere, and integrating himself into most corners of this city’s scene means long hours spent flashing his teeth at everyone this side of Facebook.
HeatWave creates a buzz everywhere he goes. Weeks after he headlined Britannia Secondary School’s Black History Month Assembly, teachers reported that students were still talking about – and mooning over – the community-minded rapper. The self-titled Fresh Prince of the City is “always there to be real with [kids and youth] and talk.” Often willing to volunteer his time to perform at non-profit events HeatWave feels that youth connect to him, and that even at a young 23 he has some advice to give.
His message? He’s certainly not the first performer to spread the gospel of “live your life” but he does it with just a little more style than anyone else in this city. Community is not only integrated into the rapper’s busy schedule but his musical ethos: The Masses Volume 1 will soon be followed up by Volume 2 and it certainly does have mass appeal, not to mention swag. Physically, HeatWave is in the right space: signed to Killawatt Records and under the direction of Red1 of The Rascalz, HeatWave is right in the game. He’s created quite a stir in Vancouver, and fresh off a tour with Juno-winning DL Incognito, all over Western Canada.
HipHopCanada.com caught up with HeatWave both in studio and backstage for a behind the scenes look at what it takes to make it in the game.
HipHopCanada.com: When did you first start rapping?
HeatWave: When I was around 11 or 12. I recorded when I was 11 in Vancouver but my first show was actually in grade 7, a talent show at my school. I killed it. I actually did the Puff Daddy song featuring Mase, “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down.” One of those teachers has the footage for that, I would die if I saw that.
HipHopCanada.com: How did Vancouver come to be your home base?
HeatWave: I moved here when I was 5 till I was 14 then I moved to Boston, then to Seattle, then I came back when I was 19. My mom was out here so I came back to stay with my mom. Seattle’s only two and a half hours so I was back every month. All those dudes who I grew up with, we still stayed in touch. I would always come back in the summertime with music from Seattle, we would do shows and I was buzzing the streets while I was out here for the summers and then Red1 heard about me. I’ve been on Red’s label Killawatt Records since I was 19, so about 4 years. Red discovered me at a Juelz Santana show then he just contacted me in the VIP room after that and we started kickin’ it. Red showed me the last beat on his mixtape to hop on and it was “Say The Word” so I hopped on it and I just destroyed it. And from there he just wanted me.
HipHopCanada.com: Red’s referred to you as his “young protégé,” do you feel that he’s a mentor to you?
HeatWave: Big time. He gives me life lessons every single day. He teaches me how to be humble, how to work hard, how to be disciplined.
HeatWave: I’m humble, don’t get it twisted. I’ve got swag but when I talk to people I get along with everyone. I’m a goofy dude for life. I’m never trying to hurt nobody. Even when I was in high school I was a people person. I never really had hate in my blood but I’m a competitive person. I know how to turn that switch from competing to laughing and kicking it in my life. That’s how I was raised.
HipHopCanada.com: Do you have similar relationships with your other labelmates?
HeatWave: Lamar Ashe and Plazma? We’re cool man, we’re family. It’s deeper than music, it’s forever. Lamar is like my brother, TalkS.I.K. and Joose are like my brothers, Red’s like my big brother. They got me, I got them in every kind of aspect of life.
HipHopCanada.com: You’ve nicknamed Vancouver “Raindrop City”: that’s pretty cute.
HeatWave: That’s where we from, that’s where I get my inspiration. In different cities you got different vibes, and it rains out here a lot but the rain’s not a downfall. I love my city so I had to give it a nice fresh name. Raindrop city is what it is. I represent this city to the fullest wherever I go by letting people know that we smoke the best. Point blank, period. When you see me, you see Van City, you see my Blockstars, all my boys, you see how we swag. It’s more than music, we have our own slang, our own handshake. Stars Up means succeed through all restrictions. Beef Pop means automatic, boys are ready to go. We got lots of little slang.
HipHopCanada.com: How involved are you on the business end of your music?
HeatWave: As much as possible, I’ve got to balance the two through creating music, being an artist and also a businessman but I’m learning as I go and 2009 has already been pretty good for me. I’ve been more focused this year on business, last year was music. This year since I have enough music I’m trying to promote and market it, get it out there to the people. I’ve been having to be on my toes and communicating, talking to everyone, being everywhere, networking from day to night. I don’t sleep more than 5 hours a night, work 18 hours and try to find some time for family.
HipHopCanada.com: What is your overall mission?
HeatWave: I hope that my message gets around the world. My message is live your life, follow your dreams, know what your purpose is and go after it. Find yourself and be you, do what you want to do. Love your life.
HipHopCanada.com: What’s going to make people listen to your message?
HeatWave: I’m going to say something, then I’m going to do it. I’m a man of action. I’m just going to live my life and people are going to see that, I don’t care what anybody says, I’m still going to do me. If you make somebody else happy by doing you, that’s a plus. If you’re trying to make everybody else happy and you’re not happy, you’re losing. Find your purpose.
HipHopCanada.com: Are you making people happy?
HeatWave: For sure, I’m inspiring. When people see me 3 years from now and I’m right there on TV and everybody’s watching me worldwide like that, I’m still going to be walking through the malls, in the streets, in the hoods, and I’ll be there to mentor everybody how Red does. Red didn’t move to Hollywood like Nelly Furtado, he’s back in the streets every time. He could be living in T-Dot right now, but he’s in Van City bringing up the community and that’s what I’m about too. I try to get involved as much as possible with teens or younger kids. There’s lots of paths in life kids can take, from positive to negative, and I was in that same situation and I just want to inspire kids who think it’s cool to go the negative way but I know that they can do good things. I get involved through doing shows, talking to kids, being involved in basketball, I’m always there to be real and talk.
HipHopCanada.com: What inspires you to write?
HeatWave: Probably understanding other people’s greatness. When I’m in [the studio] you see that we’ve surrounded ourselves with great artists’ record covers. Not good artists, great, amazing. So that’s all we know. Red1′s on the wall, Checkmate, Maestro, a few fell but we’ve got Stevie Wonder, Barry White, Isaac Hayes, Michael Jackson, Sting. Great music, all genres. I take something from all of that, I want to be great too so I’m not just hip-hop, I’m music. I see myself growing, learning to play every instrument to make great music.
HipHopCanada.com: What’s next for you?
HeatWave: I’m excited about [my mixtape] The Masses Volume 1, about the response, it’s been amazing. We’re working on the Killawatt album right now, which is an incredible album, with me, Lamar Ashe, Red 1 and Plazma plus a few more features. I also got a few online street mixtapes right now, the Starboyz mixtape with Tre Nyce, me, Fi-Zal, a few others . . . that shows you my Blockstar family from Vancouver to Seattle to California, it shows my affiliation.
HipHopCanada: Lets speak about Team Offense member Cali Snipes’ single “Money 2 Burn” and how the west coast remix came about?
HeatWave: Yeah, the Offense and Cali Snipes is family all day and the track is fire. So when the opportunity was presented to me to jump on the west coast remix it was a no brainer . . . big ups to Cali Snipes and the whole Offense movement.
HipHopCanada.com: Any dream collabos?
HeatWave: I’d love to work with Snoop Dogg, Crooked I, 50 Cent, he’s a great artist, and amazing storyteller, great writer of hooks. Eminem, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Freeway, Beanie Siegel, Styles P, Jadakiss, Raekwon, Rakim, KRS-One . . .
Coming off an energetic performance with the Killawatt crew at the Commodore Ballroom, HipHopCanada.com touched base with HeatWave again, just to see if the pressure was getting to him.
HipHopCanada.com: So you just finished opening for Wu Tang’s The GZA and only recently returned from your Western tour with DL Incognito. How are you feeling right now?
HeatWave: I’m kind of tired, you know, but I’m having fun. Every day’s a show, every day’s music. I accomplished a lot, met lots of people, having fun, yo.
HipHopCanada.com: You took your time showing up tonight, I heard you were primping at home. What was the hold up?
HeatWave: I suck at multitasking. I was just trying to focus on the show and was getting sidetracked by lots of things I had to take care of. That always stresses me out before a show.
HipHopCanada.com: What does it feel like to be on stage with all these people here watching you, as opposed to playing the smaller venues?
HeatWave: You know what? I zoned out. The vibes are always different but I’m always in the same kind of element. Every time I step on the stage I’m always in that good vibe. Even if the club’s empty, there’s only 50 people in the room, I make sure everybody’s partying. I always bring the party to you. When it’s a bigger crowd of course there’s more response, it’s more intense. It’s just lovely, it’s a feeling I can’t really explain.
HipHopCanada.com: Well thanks man, good luck next week and try to get a bit of rest!
HeatWave: For sure, much love to HipHopCanada.com.
Editor’s note: For more information on HeatWave check out http://www.myspace.com/killawattrecordsvancity and http://www.myspace.com/heatwaveteam.
Written by Amalia Judith for HipHopCanada