A$ton Matthews is one third of the Cutthoat Boyz trio (along with Joey Fatts and Vince Staples) and something of A$AP Mob’s West Coast ambassador (his biggest look yet was a verse on Trap Lord‘s “Fuck Out My Face”). Like Fatts and Staples, though, he’s much more lyrically inclined than A$AP regulars, perhaps at the risk of catchiness: Aston 3:16‘s 19 tracks are proof that the dude can rap his ass off—see the cold-as-fuck “Money, Mackin, Murda”—but there aren’t too many songs that linger. (If you can only listen to one project between this and Staples’ recent Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2, I’d easily pick the latter.) It’s packed with features from bicoastal big-ish names and up-and-comers, though: Ferg, Action Bronson, 100s, Ab-Soul, Flatbush Zombies, Bodega Bamz, Staples, Fatts, plus production credits from Alchemist and Evidence. It’s by no means a bad listen, but what’s far more interesting to me is the bigger picture being painted by this year’s first quarter slew of good-to-great releases out of California. From YG to Schoolboy Q to 100s to the Cutthroat crew to Ty Dolla $ign to HBK Gang (and, duh, everything Mustard-related), is young California finally positioning itself as a solid competitor to the dominant Atlanta and scrappy Chicago scenes? It’s too early to tell, but 2014 seems like the West Coast’s year.
Highlights: “Worka” featuring 100s, which fuses the fellow Cali up-and-comer’s throwback funk with Matthews’ unsmiling steeliness. “Latino Heat Part 2,” a collaboration with Bodega Bamz, a Latino pride anthem—if anyone knows what this gorgeous sample is, please let me know!
WTF: If your kid looking at me wrong, Ima fuck your kid up! Ooooookay!