With COVID and all the great requisite music swirling around during those years, music fans could generally be forgiven for a couple of tracks slipping through the cracks but something as big as a collab between underground rap hip hop genius Mic Nickels and legendary Wu Tang big voice Method Man…we at YEDM ashamed of ourselves. The track in question, “El Matador,” dropped as the last track on Nickels’ 2021 album Bars for Days, which also featured Timbo King, Teen AF and vocalist Jeanette Berry but perhaps got lost in the rip tide of tracks that came from bred artists during COVID. Now with the re-release, a sick animated video and three wildly different remixes, it seems the potential energy of “El Matador” is about to turn kinetic.
With over 20 years in the hip hop game as himself, his two other aliases, his jazz/hip hop fusion band Nickel and Dime Ops and his co-founding of international collective, MHB, it stands to reason that Mic Nickels has more than a few influential hip hop friends. In fact “El Matador” was originally supposed to be a collab with another hip hop heavy hitter, the late MF DOOM.
This track was originally slated to feature MF DOOM. He agreed before he passed but never completed it. Eventually we filled in with Method Man, which was incredible. (It was) a complete honor for him to hear my music and say ‘yeah, I can get with that!’ The idea behind the track was to discuss how one deals with their opponents, almost how a matador plays with their aggressor. The premise came to me after reading The Sun Also Rises, by Hemingway. I wrote and recorded it before any other MCs listened, so it doesn’t cater towards Meth or anyone else’s style. Just pure poetry.
That poetry was originally done over a Wu Tang-inspired beat by MHB producer Mr. Cord with a funky as fuck bassline by acclaimed jazz double bass player Dezron Douglas, but the new remixes are all over the place. As Nickels’ focus tends to be on the lyrics of any project, it’s clear he loved the bars here enough to see them re-worked in a variety off ways. The Bizzythowed remix is a nu metal-style rock version with guitar by Brandon “Bizzy” Hollemon and scratch work done by Dj Keef Wookie, whereas the O.P. Supa is another minimal New York-inspired mix that’s smooth and gives the lyrics space. The Spotanola remix is heavier on the jazz vibes, likely inspired by Nickels’ own connection to jazz. Utilizing the theory that truly good lyrics can work with any genre, Nickels has not only re-introduced this hidden gem to the music world but re-vamped it to reach an even broader audience.
If three remixes weren’t enough, Nickels also commissioned a cool animated music video for the original track, released last month, illustrated by Charles “Ooge” Ugas and animated by Animo Studios. Set, of course, on the streets of New York, it’s a mini-anime with visceral compositional shots and a spaghetti western-style narrative that highlights those aspects of “El Matador” that tie into the track’s original concept. Obviously Meff and Nickels emerge victorious in the MC showdown, and the last shot is a “missing flyer” with DOOM’s logo on it, an homage to the original original that never happened.
With a personal lore so steeped in the NYC hip hop scene that his work completely embodies it at this point, it’s odd that “El Matador” sort of just slid into the Mic Nickels discography without many of his fans noticing, but he’s certainly fixing that now. A perfectionist of some measure, NIckels is known for waiting to really promote things and he may, in this case, have been waiting on this epic video being done, as is also his wont. That said, now it’s out and hitting hip hop hard, just like most of Nickels’ work, and with four different versions for fans to choose from. If you’re a hip hop fan and haven’t heard of this triple musical (quadruple?) threat, it’s time to get on board with “El Matador.”
“El Matador” is streamable on Spotify, along with his discography under this moniker. Check out his gritty hip hop memoir, also named Bars for Days, on Amazon.