J. MONTY FEATURED IN
LOOT & RIOT MAGAZINE
Ink Tone Swep
Images c/o W&W + TSE
Location Clay Co.
Talk to me about ATL, you grew up just outside the city. Describe your set and surroundings. I grew up in Clayton County. I got a record called Clay Co that really describes my hood. My parents were trying to get us in a better environment, so they moved us down south of Atlanta. It was a nice neighborhood for the first few years, but when the gentrification started taking place in the city, the gangs, violence and drugs moved down to us. From middle school through high school I was surrounded by gangs, mainly Bloods and Crips; having to worry about being jumped every day was constantly in the back of my mind. I was either in church or at home as a youth, but started to get influenced by that environment as I grew older… Around 18, I became fed up with the public school system, they had an agenda against us. When I was a senior, Clayton County lost its accreditation, so now you have over 150 thousand minority students who graduated with a worthless diploma and could only attend a local college. I enrolled at GA Southern.
You began to head down a dark path. What aside from your immediate surroundings influenced that? Did attempting to balance your hip-hop and church lives contribute at all? Hip-hop I had been listening to my whole life. I went to church more as a community thing. It wasn’t me out here trying to be a disciple. I was listening 50, Em, Wayne, Common, Lupe, T.I., Outkast, and if anything that brought me peace and clarity more so than having any negative influence. It was more the people I was surrounded by, the streets and that gang life. I was only surrounded by negativity. It felt like I didn’t have ready access to anything or anyone positive.
You describe them as “Prophetic Dreams”, your spiritual wake up calls. What occurred? Since I was a kid I recognized that at one point in every year there would be a date where all the numbers lined up and match, August 8th, 2008 (8/8/08) to give you one example. In ’09, this pattern fell on my birthday September 9th (9/9/09). For the first time ever in my life I heard a voice outside of my own tell me I was going to die on my birthday. By 18 I had joined a gang called SOA, dope dealing and making music were our main things, but we was into all aspects of the streets. On my birthday SOA threw me a big party. I felt somebody would come in and shoot the party up. I truly did, but thankfully it didn’t happen. But they started calling me Zombie anyway. I didn’t die physically but I felt like God was telling me I was dying spiritually. God had made himself so real to me at that point I couldn’t help but follow him. Wasn’t no denying the existence of God from that point forward, and there was no excuse to continue down that dark path.
How did you take those early life experiences and create the J. Monty sound? It’s the most organic thing that’s ever happened in all of music. Vikaden is my uncle, he came down from Cleveland when I was young, around 11 or 12, and started showing me how to make beats and write bars. He’s my main inspiration, he knows me musically more than anyone and I know him musically more than anyone, so we vibe and build really off of sheer energy and instincts.
Your musical style has a foundation in true hip-hop consciousness, production, and lyricism. How do you keep it classic and current at the same time? It’s a challenge. What you just pointed out is my main challenge, to maintain vintage qualities that originally attracted me to making music. I want to always, always stay humble and pay homage to the foundation of rap music. Then, too, I make certain to keep up with the times and current trends, especially with the production, because we don’t want to miss that young listener who mostly listens to trap. They are the main ones who need the message, so we sit down and balance it out.
On your song The Best Rapper Alive, you stated:
“Satan was a prideful, angelic musician. So don’t let your pride hide, but I’m telling you listen. He fell from heaven ’cause of pride, and rebellious intentions. And angels followed him through the sky, but he fell through dimensions.” How often are you seeing this reoccur? How do you intervene? Everyday. Not a day goes by that I don’t. And not just in the mainstream. That is directed towards Christian artists, too. Pride comes before the fall. I noticed myself when I think I’m going higher there’s always a stumble, a roadblock, some form of barrier that’s meant to deter you. Too many stop right then and begin to look for an alternate path up… I feel like the occupation of music is one of the most dangerous when you find yourself distancing yourself spiritually. You hear artists liken themselves to God and right after that is when they fall from the level they’d reached… So many artists are embracing Satanism. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist or dig for evidence to see that. It’s right in front of you. Beware of pride, the same way Satan led angels from a place of glory to a lesser place is the same way they will mislead you. By convincing you they are higher in status than they actually are.
Why is Victory Church home for you? I felt it with my bare hands. After I got saved, God led me to a random dude who was a former drug dealer and gang member; one who had nothing to show for himself except a home with no power. God led me to him and said build with him. I did. His name is Phillip A. Mitchell. What we built with our bare hands was Victory Church. Through prayer, blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of hard work we were able to make a great place of worship and community happen. We didn’t have any money to start with. I shot a video that promoted my music and the church at the same time. The mega church pastor saw my video and took up one day’s collection and extended it to us. That was enough to help us start our Church.
The “7 Nights” video is a family affair, all the way down to your baby son Cairo making his acting debut. How has fatherhood changed you? Man, it has changed everything about me. I used to be so spontaneous, one city to the next city moving around, I was in the wind. It made me more aggressive as an artist, too. Fatherhood has made me a savage beast when it comes to me going after my money! It’s made me a monster when it comes to providing and humbled me with regards to my parenting and love for my two boys. There is no greater pain than seeing your kids struggle. It’s one thing to struggle as a dependent, but when you are the actual provider… Fatherhood has made me the man I am today, it joined with my previous struggles and triumphs and brought everything full circle. I am about God, family, and music all at once. That is what I stand for, what I represent as a man, and as an artist.