He’s flying to New York to meet with producers and to hype his album there with influential people. It’s the fulfillment of a dream that began while he was stuck in the Indiana Department of Corrections system.
“My plan, when I got out of prison, was to record an album,” the 20-something Montez says. “I was sitting in the county and I was like, ‘You’re really messing up.’ All I could think about was these jail bars. ‘Jail bars closing in on me so slowly, slowly. I’m in a 5-by-7, feeling so lonely, lonely.’”
The song “Jail Bars” is the centerpiece of Road II Riches and an outline of what Montez sees as a profitable future in hip-hop. Based on his own life on the streets and his experiences with the corrections system, the album sets out a go-for-broke agenda.
“With Road II Riches, you’re dealing with a guy who’s just speaking from inside the jail bars,” he says. “It’s not glorifying prison but it is telling people to keep their heads up. If it’s the Lord’s will, you’ll be free one day. It’s telling people about the ups and downs you go through when you’re incarcerated.”
He says, “When you’re in jail, everything seems to move in slow motion. First of all, you can’t really believe you’re there. It takes awhile just to deal with that. And then you’re in a room that’s 5-by-7-feet, thinking about all of the guys who have been through this situation. A lot of people have had experience with incarceration, so I think they can relate.”
The rest of the songs on the album deal with modern-day life in Indianapolis and Montez defends its authenticity in outlining the curses and blessings available here.
“This album is a collage of songs that deal with things I’ve actually been through,” he says. “Each song is some extension of something that’s going on with me. What I think it brings to the table is more realness to hip-hop. Rappers these days are jumping on whatever bandwagon’s out there and their topics are very limited. It’s either about the cars, the jewelry or the money. The gangsterisms.
“A lot of times, a rapper might have a song about love, but there’s no love in the actual lyrics to the song. In other words, they stray from what the topic is. If I’m reading the lyrics to a song called ‘Tap That Back,’ I’m expecting to hear a song about being in the club with honeys and tapping that back. Not something else. On my album, all of the songs stick to the subject. It’s almost in a story form.”
With the boastfulness inherent in all good rappers, Montez says, “The sound I come with is not the typical Indiana sound or even the typical Midwestern sound.”
And his album does stray from the twin camps of party music and thug life that permeate local hip-hop. He attempts to find his own middle ground in between the two, a sound more reflective of the life he’s living.
As part of his spiritual rebirth, he insisted that he keep his lyrics family-friendly.
“There’s no cussing on the album but it’s still street edgy,” he says. “Most of the time when you have an album with no explicit lyrics, it sounds all watered down, kind of bubblegummy. This is the opposite of that. People think, ‘He’s got to have said some kind of cuss word in there,’ but I haven’t.”
He sees his image as being one of the leaders in a new Midwestern hip-hop sound, a style he calls “Midwreckless.”
“Midwest artists wreck shop wherever they go,” he says. “When you think of how Nelly came in and sold 9 or 10 million out the gate, no artist had ever done that before from here.
“But what gets me is how these artists shout out ‘Dirty South’ or ‘East Coast’ or ‘West Coast,’” Montez says. “They forget about these 11 states that make up the Midwest. By the way, a lot of artists do the most business in the Midwest. The industry is not trying to put the Midwest out there.”
He says that listeners on the East Coast won’t listen to West Coast rappers and vice versa, a remnant of the Biggie-Tupac war of the 1990s. “But we don’t have a side in the Midwest,” he says. “We’re apt to listen to anything.”
He says he hopes that he can be successful and lift up local artists along with him. “But I don’t think local artists support each other here like they should,” he says. “And radio doesn’t support local hip-hop, at least more than one song at a time. Just because you play one song on a Wednesday, it’s not good enough. Once we pump up Indianapolis, all kinds of artists will want to come here.”
He says he’s been getting a lot of support from white listeners due to his album’s street-tough sound and style. “The fact is, 80 to 85 percent of the hip-hop music buying public is white suburban kids,” he says. “That makes me want to challenge my own people. We originally made this music for our culture and we’re not supporting it.”
People wanting to support Montez on his quest to fame should check out local independent music shops. Upon his return from New York, he hopes to start partnering with local rock bands and playing more nightclub gigs.
“I’m on the road to riches,” he says. “You can believe that.”