Last month, Matthew Hess aka Matti Baybee, Chief Keef's 15-year-old cousin (specifically, second cousin—Hess' dad is Chief Keef's mom's cousin) released his debut mixtape Young Legend a summertime gem full of bubbly hooks, shimmering Auto-Tune and a charming touch of steel drums. Matti's a cheerful burst of positivity amidst an often grisly group of young Chicago rappers—all the flexing and finessing minus the brutal bravado; verses about shiny foreign cars he's too young to drive and a PG-rated penchant for the ladies. He's a vocal supporter of local anti-violence movement the 500 Campaign, and before opting for homeschool to pursue music, the self-proclaimed valedictorian of his eighth grade class. He flaunts his taste for the finer things alongside Lil Durk on "Shopping Spree" and "Young Flashy & Cocky" with Tink. Despite his famous bloodline, Matti is determined to ascend in his own lane as he preps a duo of new tapes, September's $o Abnormal and Young Legend 2, which he plans to drop for his 16th birthday next February. For now, download the first Young Legend, then read a chat with Matti about Facebook, staying out of beef and why he and Keef haven't collaborated.
What made you decide to start rapping? I always knew I wanted to be a rapper. In school, they would ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up, and I used to say stuff people wanted to hear, like a policeman or firefighter or something like that, but I always knew I was gonna be a rapper. I can't see myself doing anything else. Nothing else excites me. I used to use Garageband to remix whatever songs people liked at my school and put them on Facebook. I made a remix to "Make it Rain" by Travis Porter. I got a good response from all my friends and I was like, I wanna make a real song, my own song. My father/manager helped me get started. He was a gospel rapper in a group called Sons of Jacob. That's probably why I like music, because I've been around it all my life.
Young people in you area are burdened by a lot of violence. Is it hard to stay out of that? I'm from the South Side of Chicago, and it's cool for me. It's supposed to seem real dangerous, but I don't think it seems that dangerous to us because we grew up here. It's hard sometimes, because you could be the most innocent person in the world and stay out of all the violence, the groups and the gangs, but if somebody steps to you, you can't do nothing about that. For me to not rap about the danger and the violence—it comes naturally, because I don't really get involved with beef. I know about it. My friends, they be outside and stuff and all the time, but I'm not. I don't try to be a role model, but if that's what people wanna call me, I'll take it.
What kind of music do you listen to? I listen to people like me, outgoing types of people. I like Tink and Drake. I love Future and I like R&B stuff, like K. Michelle. She's a singer and she's got a new song out called "V.S.O.P." I love that song. The people I would want to work with are Lil Bibby, Lil Herb and Spenzo. I don't really have a favorite producer, but I like Young Chop and DJ Kenn.
Last year your cousin Chief Keef praised you on Twitter. Is there a reason you haven't worked together yet? I was still in school when he did that. That was before I drew the buzz that I got. Is there a reason? I don't know. We're cool, though. Sometimes I don't even want to tell people we're related, because then it becomes all about him. I don't want that. I've worked with Fredo and all them—I'm related to Tadoe and Fredo and him. We're all cousins, and I talk to Tadoe all the time. Fredo, I don't talk to him too much because he's busy. It's really up to them.
Do you get recognized around Chicago? That happens a lot. My auntie owns a shoe store and we'll go there to get some new Jordans or whatever, and people will recognize me but they won't say anything. When I get home they'll tweet me or something, and I don't get it. They'll be like, I was nervous. I'm like, What are you nervous for? What am I gonna do to you?