By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
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Eats, Rhymes and Life
Placentia’s Matt Castillo taste-tests his way to his hip-hop dreams
Matt Castillo is hardly a loser.
The Placentia-born-and-raised MC known professionally as Brawdcast has the credentials to back this up: His first album, The Suburban Spokesman, was a featured new release on iTunes when it came out in 2006, and he’s won Best Hip-Hop at the Orange County Music Awards the past three years (he’s up for it again this year, too). He’s become friends and collaborators with such influential hip-hoppers as Johnny Richter of Orange County’s cult faves Kottonmouth Kings.
And yet, certain aspects of his life don’t exactly scream “resounding success.” He’s 27 years old and still lives with his parents. Recently, they kicked him out temporarily, and he was living out of his car. He graduated from Cal State Fullerton last December with a bachelor’s degree in communications, but in lieu of any actual career, he has worked a series of odd jobs—very odd, actually.
“I worked at the Block, just for a week, as manual labor,” Castillo says of a recent gig. “To move Spencer’s Gifts. They moved locations. I helped move all the boxes from one location to the next.
“I worked at Disneyland. I was a ride operator on Splash Mountain. I’d be like, ‘You guys buckle your seatbelts?’ and they’re all, like, tripping out. There’s no seat belts. I was the best on that ride. I had fun with everybody. I got on a good ride. Lumberjack! I had the suspenders, everything.
“I do a lot of taste-testing. I’m registered with, like, five or six different research places. I’ve done, like, cigars. I’ve done Subway—low-sodium-meat Subway sandwiches. It’s, like, 40, 45 bucks an hour. I just did Taco Bell last week, some new cheesy-bacon, 89-cent thing.”
“It wasn’t that great. The bacon tasted like Bacon Bits.”
As surprisingly lucrative as it may be, trying out experimental new fast-food products is far from Castillo’s dream; he’s still determined to parlay his local success into national attention. Not that years of struggling to get noticed in Orange County, hardly a hotbed for hip-hop, hasn’t been discouraging.
“I’ve been ready to quit so many times,” he shares. “My parents have been nagging me to quit forever. And I totally understand.”
That’s a key reason why Castillo, who has been rapping since high school, kept up with college, so he had options in case the whole music thing doesn’t work out.
“You need a Plan B, at least,” he says, adding later that he’d like to go back to school and become a college professor. “No matter how talented someone is, you do need a break. I hate to think like that, but you really do need a break. Those days of getting signed, saying, ‘check my demo out’ are long passed. It used to be one in a million; now it’s one in a trillion.”
Though for Castillo, that break may be imminent. He’s going on tour with Richter late this summer, as both the opening act and Richter’s hype man—his first national dates. He feels close to signing a deal with Burbank-based Suburban Noize Records, home of the Kottonmouth Kings, Unwritten Law and D.I., though he admits that his style and the likes of the Kottonmouth Kings don’t necessarily mesh. (“It’s a whole subculture, those dirt bikers and all that stuff,” he says. “I grew up on Common.”)
No matter what happens with Suburban Noize, he’s releasing his sophomore record, The Quest for Human Completion, this June through OC Records, who also put out his last disc. He’s psyched about the collage of sounds on the album, which he credits to working with several producers.
If the music dream does come true for Castillo, he says, it’ll be, in a sense, fulfilling the aspirations of his family, who have been in Placentia for more than 100 years.
“My great-grandfather came over here and worked in the orange groves in Yorba Linda. Basically worked to death. He was a huge musician who came from Mexico, trying to get to Los Angeles. He never got to fulfill his dream. My grandpa was a really good jazz musician. He headed his own big band out here. My family’s always been doing some sort of music, but I feel like they never had a chance since they were less-fortunate financially.”
And if Castillo has to swallow a few more Taco Bell concoctions to make things happen, he’s ready.
Visit Matt Castillo online at www.myspace.com/brawdcast.