Mattafix, in case you didn't know, were a UK duo made up of Marlon Roudette and Preetesh Hirji. Their sound was a fusion of hip hop/rap, R&B, reggae, dancehall, blues, jazz, soul and world. (Cheers Wikipedia.) Anyway, 'Big City Life' was their one and only UK hit, and was, cleverly, about life in a big city. The lyrics are all rather universalist ('People in a show; all lined in a row; we just push on by; it's funny; how hard we try', 'Don’t you ever get lonely; from time to time; don't let the system get you down') but then that's what helps people relate to them, innit? It wasn't anything revolutionary (although Mattafix apparently had some kind of political delusions), it was just a lovely, autumnal (yes, 'autumnal') song. Somewhat accordingly, it's chart success in the UK was rather limited, reaching Number 15 and spending 5 weeks in the Top 40 in August 2005.
That all seems simple enough: another instance of a one (moderate) hit wonder. The full picture is actually a bit bizarre. 'Big City Life' wasn't huge in Britain but was elsewhere, hitting Number One in Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland and Italy. (Cheers Wikipedia.) Two years later, 'Living Darfur', the first single from the pair's second album, made Number 3 in Italy. As it goes, they're quite popular in mainland Europe, much like Hurts, or [Note: check Wikipedia for something funny that's popular in mainland Europe]. Best of all, Roudette, the group's singer, is the son of Cameron McVey - a producer known for his work on Massive Attack's 'Blue Lines' and both the Sugababes' and All Saints' debut albums - and the stepson of Neneh Cherry. Neneh Cherry!
Last year Mattafix split up (due to 'creative differences' or something) and Roudette is using some of the material planned for their third album as part of his own solo career, which is a bit cheeky considering a fair bit was probably written by Hirji. His first single is called 'New Age', and like 'Big City Life' is all very gentle and nice, meaning it will probably wash right over quite a lot of people. On the other hand it is, at this very moment, in the iTunes Top 10s of Switzerland and Austria, and heading the charts in Germany. Well done, Marlon Roudette.