MontyKong X THATLOWD
THATLOWD heads to the studio with MontyKong to record his new single “Black Tear Drops III,” a THATLOWD exclusive . Watch the making of video and read the interview below, where Monty talks about his Black Tear Drops series, his music, origins, and upcoming work.
How did you get into making music?
It started with me just playing around, writing poetry and freestyling as a kid. I never really saw myself making music, I would do it as a form of release from the things that I saw going on around me. Then my teacher told me I was a poet, I started performing, I saw how the people moved in the audience and just fell deeper and deeper into continuing this art form.
Is this your full-time job?
Yes, but I do Uber on the side.
How is it to balance the both?
The way I see it is that everything I do to support my music is part of my music career. The key to balancing both is willpower. It takes a lot of effort and a certain mindset to keep the faith and keep a hold of what you truly believe in. It takes even more effort to look at the numbers you gotta hit, the bills you have to pay, not let that get to you and just keep on pursuing music. Another thing that’s hard to balance is people’s advice. 95% of the time I’m not going get any great advice from anybody near me, but I’m alright with that because most of the people near me are not living the life I want to live and pursuing what I want to pursue with music.
In “Who’s Watching” you talk about following your passion, and how you hope to get a medal at the end. How much do you think that people’s opinion will help you get to where you need to in order to accomplish your goals?
All opinions are dope and they matter, but you have to keep in mind that anybody’s opinion can affect you. I saw a quote somewhere that said something along the lines of “compliments are actually distractions.” I think that’s true. If somebody tells you that you’re dope and you let that get to your head too much and too soon, you can loose touch of what you are actually building. You’ll also get people that won’t even look at you and that’s also important, especially for me. I don’t feel like there are many people looking at me at the moment, so I work twice as hard.
What is the origin of your name?
My first artist name was Monty J.R., because Monty is my nickname and I’m a junior in my family. MontyKong is an evolution from Monty JR. With Monty J.R., I have already proven my storytelling abilities. Through MontyKong, I’m setting the tone for myself. I’m showing you I have an aggressive side to myself that I need to have in order for me to get certain points across. “Kong” is also a way for me to show that I have mastered my performance skills, I have learned more. However, “Monty,” my storyteller part, is still there and it’s just as important as the second half of my name.
In a very big way. I’m from Brooklyn so, like a lot of artists in Brooklyn, it’s almost natural to have an aggressive side because of how I was raised and the things I’ve seen. There’s always a fight between which part of New York should get the credit from creating hip-hop, whether it’s Brooklyn or the Bronx. From what I have read and heard, I think it’s the Bronx. However, I feel like artists coming from both places were the gatekeepers for the music genre and emerging artists like me. As a student of this game from Brooklyn, the hip-hop history around my borough does affect me a lot because I care about it. At the same time, I’m not only defined by my origins. I have moved around the States a lot. So, while I may not have certain things that a Brooklyn rapper has, I can bring more stuff to the table because of the other experiences I’ve had.
You have just dropped “Black Tear Drops III” exclusively through THATLOWD. This is the third of a series of tracks. Can you walk us through the meaning of each Black Tear Drops track?
The meaning of Black Tear Drops originated from a curiosity as a kid. My dad is black, but my mom isn’t. She’s Puerto Rican. One day she was crying and I noticed her tears were black whereas mine were clear, so I asked my dad why that was. He proceeded to tell me it was because she had mascara on her eyes so when she cried it blended with the tears. Black Tear Drops also represents pain and everything that comes with emotion.
The objective of the “Black Tear Drops” is to define beauty. It has a jazzy feel to it and talks about how, when growing up, women are beautiful but don’t realize that. The story line is about a girl who is beautiful but doesn’t know that even thought everybody around her compliments her for it. That’s because the combination of her mom not being there and her pops not caring about what she was doing with her life prevented her to see her worth. This evolved into her becoming a stripper just to make herself feel beautiful.
“Black Tear Drops II: No Radio Play” talks about rape and at the end of it there’s an a capella expressing the feelings of a changed man. When I was in sixth grade, my sister almost got raped from one of my mom’s exes. This is not exactly her story line, but it borrows a lot from that and from a series of rape cases that broke out around the same time this happened to her.
“Black Tear Drops III” is about real art, whatever you define that to be. It’s about two people not knowing what to do after having had a one-night stand that resulted into an unplanned pregnancy. There’s a funny twist to it though. The rules to the game are usually to get with someone for one night and forget about them the next. However, they both secretly have feelings for each other. So, they keep on taking care of this precious art they have created, a baby: six hands, three hearts, a new start.
When will you know that you will make it?
I think it’s going to take me a lot to realize I have made it because I’m hardheaded with a lot of stuff. At the same time, I’m very simple, so I really care about the people around me, my family, and my good friends. When I know they are all right, I’ll know I have made it in a way. Deep inside though, I know I will never think I have made it 100%. I look at my music career the way I Iook at writing a verse: I may have a dope verse today, but, at the end of the day, tomorrow I’ll have to compete with that.
What are some of the best and worse parts of making music?
The best part of making music is when it comes out the way you really intended to. It’s also great to get feedback from people. Sometimes, after I’m done performing, people come up to me and cry because a certain story touched them. Creating hype on the Internet is dope, but getting a real reaction that makes you feel that you did what you intended to do with a certain song is incredible. That’s one of the reasons why I started making music as well: I want to make good music people can relate to. The worse parts of making music are the doubts you have before you actually start to write the music. You are questioning all the ways it can go and wondering if people will get your message.
Also, and I don’t like to think about this a whole lot because I am a positive person, the biggest struggle is financial and understanding who you are surrounding yourself with versus who you should be surrounding yourself with. Essentially, you have to constantly stay on your toes because, in this industry, the stronger survives.
In “Black Tear Drops II: No Radio Play” like in many other tracks in “First Step, Last Impression,” you break into spoken word. Why did you make the choice to incorporate poetry in your album?
I’m a poet first. I remember that, when my teacher introduced me to Langston Hughes’ poetry, I realized that poetry didn’t need to be Shakespeare, it didn’t need to be intimidating. I saw how he wrote and realized that he wrote like me, the way words jump around and all that. I then got introduced to Gil Scott and Talib Kweli’s performing styles and saw they used to do poetry over drums and that also sounded like me. All of that made me understand that there is a space for what I do and it only makes sense that I stick to my poetry roots and incorporate them into my music.
You are a very energetic guy on stage and in life. “Thick Skin” is one of the tracks off the album that shows your most energetic and toughest side. Can you tell us more about the process of writing this song?
Oh man, I remember this process very well. Most times I feel like I’m artistically better than most people. This is no game, this is hip-hop, it’s a competition. I feel like I’m the best thing out and I’m going to feel like that for a minute until I am the best thing out just like Ali, who was the greatest before he was the greatest. Thick Skin still has a story line, but it’s more of an “ignorant with straight lyrics” thing where I was going at everybody, including the people in the small town I was living at in that moment who didn’t push themselves to be better, let alone others. From the very beginning of this song, I make it clear I’m coming at everybody in that tiny town and let them know I’m trying to get my name on Madison Square Garden.
What are some of the milestones in your career so far?
Anything that I had predicted except for one thing has happened. I really started taking writing seriously when I was about 17 and I decided to put together a mixtape by myself. I saved up for a computer, took a mic I found somewhere and started to teach myself how to record and master. It wasn’t easy because I didn’t even know how to press a record button and at the time I was living in a very small town with limited resources, let alone people who could help me learn how to record music. Nobody took it seriously out there. I recorded that first mixtape and, even though the quality of it wasn’t great, I consider that my first milestone because I did that by myself. Funny story, I then bought a better mic to record my second mixtape only to find out at the end of the recording process that it was a podcast mic. I had to work so much harder with that mic, but it was worth it because I learned how to record in the least ideal of conditions. Another milestone was wanting to do a music video. That’s another thing I didn’t know how to do. However, I went to New York, recorded the music video for “When It All Falls Down (Where’s The Love)” with my smartphone, put it out, and got a good response. Crappy video, but I did that. Other milestones were participating in Team Backpack, performing in my hometown of New York, performing for Speak to My Soul whom I love and I’m waiting for the day they blow up, and moving to Cali and connect with artists I could make great music and shows with. The milestone I’m currently working on is creating a very professional sounding project that can really display MontyKong in all its parts: storytelling, knowledge, and aggression.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years, I’ll be looking for other underground hungry artists to sign. In 5 years, Madison Square Garden. In 5 years, owning a couple of businesses. In 5 years, investments. In 5 years, understanding the business side of music. In 5 years, more wisdom, more knowledge, more insight, more experience, and hell of a lot more stories to tell. In 5 years, recognition. In 5 years, thinking about this very moment right here when you asked me this question.
What’s next for you?
I have an EP titled “The Risen Son” coming out soon. I’m working with other artists and getting featured on their music as well. I’ve also been learning different singing notes and different styles to incorporate in my music. I’ll also drop an album after “The Risen Son,” which will take everything I have learnt from building my mixtapes. That album is going to have “MontyKong” in its title. I may drop another EP in between called “The Crack of Dawn,” but we’ll see about that.
You heard it here first.
“Black Tear Drops III” OUT NOW!