If this is your first time hearing of Emcee Monte, I promise it won’t be your last. Emcee Monte was teleported straight out of the 90’s Hip-Hop era and dropped in our generation with a mission. While Hip-Hop is continually mutating stylistically, Emcee Monte has spent the better part of the last decade preserving the roots of conscious rap. He is consistently delivering classic sounding tracks that remain appropriate for the times; vintage enough for the old school heads and trendy enough for the new culture. Emcee Monte maintains the classic sound by frequently using funky boom-bap beats with the storytelling sophistication and social understanding of a skilled documentary maker. Over this traditional approach, the artist is able to keep it trendy enough for today’s market with fusion experimentalism. Specifically, the MC utilizes sparse interjections of electric guitar riffs and synths while tacking cultural references on top of cultural references.
Awakening to Political and Social Consciousness
Emcee Monte, from South Shore, Chicago, introduced himself to the world as an MC with his 2014 album, ‘Freedom Writer 2: I Am Real Hip-Hop’. Instantly, we understood that Emcee Monte was here to carry on the legacy of Hip-Hop artists to the likes of Nas, Rakim, Kurtis Blow, and Run DMC. What was instantly distinctive, however, was his enthusiasm and vibrance where many other conscious rappers come across as hardened.
Monte spent the following 3 years defining and refining his sound and style before releasing his 2017 ‘#blacklivesmatter’ album. Embracing the concept of awakening to political and social consciousness, the MC spits verse after verse of raw, emotionally gripping rhymes that capture the essence of the real world. In ‘Young Gifted Black’, Emcee Monte lays down a catchy and powerful hook, “Young gifted black I’m a king / young gifted black I’m a queen / young gifted black legacy”. The bars just as powerful, “Extract our culture like oil, black gold / and everything we pioneer gets resold / they call it ghetto and say it’s too much / then steal our packages and sell it back to us / but you cannot demean my creations / you cannot gentrify my genius / try it on like a costume and just like that / go back to white privilege when you’re done playing black.” Emcee Monte jumps from topic to topic pointing out infallible truths about black life, beats impacting your body as your mind swims in the density of words.
The following year, Emcee Monte took a risk that truly set himself apart from the rest. Monte released ‘Christmas in Chi-Town’, one of the very few Christmas rap albums to date. ‘Christmas in Chi-Town’ is the first time I’ve enjoyed listening to Christmas rap since the original version of Outkast’s ‘Player’s Ball’. This past year, Emcee Monte took another risk by releasing an album that took place in a live setting. ‘Jammin with the Boombox, Vol. 1: Birth of Hip Hop’ was recorded as Emcee Monte performed and interacted with a live audience. This risk was equally as rewarding as the last. ‘Jammin with the Boombox’ is a mix of party cuts hosting Emcee Monte’s biggest song yet, ‘Rock Steady’. ‘Rock Steady’ is an uplifting feel-good bop with an elastic, swing-cadence voice. Emcee Monte knows how to amp a listener up on the mic. What’s really special about this project though, is his tribute to those that inspired him to deeply connect with his roots and culture. The MC teaches fans about the origins of Hip-Hop while using classic samples such as ‘It Takes Two’ by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock.
Pride In His Heritage – Black Lives Matter
Throughout his catalog, Emcee Monte peppers in samples of live clips from current events in the news, motivational declamations, and iconic civil rights speeches. The MC returns to his focus on current events in 2020, releasing ‘Covid-19’ and ‘I’m So Black’. With insightful and thought-provoking lyrics, Emcee Monte describes life for a Black man in America – just a taste of his ‘Change Gone Come’ EP. Monte describes his new project saying, “My new record is about being Black in America, being proud of my heritage, having pride in myself, celebrating my blackness, and making the statement that black lives matter.”
The old-school new-age artist makes the superficial and insipid ideals that are consuming modern Hip-Hop, a lost art. “I am a positive artist, my music is clean and uplifting. I do not promote violence, drugs, misogyny, or any other negative images and stereotypes that have been associated with Rap and Hip-Hop culture in the past. It’s very important, now more than ever, that we use the forum and platform that we have as artists to bring positivity and progress to our community and to work toward a lasting change in perception and reality for the world as a whole.”, says Emcee Monte. Laying down tracks seems to be an almost spiritual experience for the artist.
What’s extraordinary about Emcee Monte is not only has he set himself apart from today’s saturated Hip-Hop market, he also set himself apart from the original MCs who paved the path. His wordplay and command are superior, dropping lyric after acrobatic lyric. He has an innate ability to weave multisyllabic rhymes around topics that are inordinately heavy, with tight syncopation. Being an authentic MC like Emcee Monte is an extraordinary accomplishment. If Emcee Monte teaches us anything, it’s that an emcee can be a rapper, but a rapper can never be an emcee.
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