GENRE: THE HYPE. ROCK! An Interview with Damon “Rocky” Montgomery

Full disclosure—I’ve known Damon personally for a few years now. We met working double—sometimes triple—shifts at a chocolate factory in Las Vegas, Nevada. No joke. Damon was always just on time enough to hear the meeting’s objectives and assignments for the day. His afro was blown up to the ceiling and his face carried a big ol’ grin upon it. Odds are, in the past five or six years, if you had a jumbo-sized Snickers bar, one of us may have had a hand in cooking it up. Damon was a hard worker, like the best of us working there, and he was the only one I knew with an alias stamped onto his helmet. Where mine said Tristan, his said “Rocky.”

One random year or two after this, I was laid off from the factory yet again (they would hire us and then let us go around Christmas, bragging to their workers that we could collect unemployment during the wait to be called in again), and was dabbling in photography and video work. Damon posted on Facebook that he was interested in instructing people within the confines of martial arts training and if anyone was willing to learn, they should hit him up.

Well, I messaged him. Not because I wanted training, but because I wanted to help get his pursuits out there and selfishly, I wanted to gain some experience behind the camera. I offered to film an advertisement for him. This seemed simple enough. Long story short, I was given the link to his SoundCloud (you can listen to Damon “Rocky” Montgomery’s music here: https://soundcloud.com/drockbbgzone2 ) and immediately after listening, I knew this was something special. That this “D-Rock” was something else that I hadn’t heard since the first time in the mid to late 90s someone gave me a box of rap CDs to listen to. And that was a welcoming entryway into someone’s soul, into their very life at that time.

I went on to direct and shoot Damon in multiple music videos posted on YouTube—hell, we even did a few of those martial arts videos—before I moved from Nevada all the way back to Texas to be with my wife, who was my fiancé at the time. These recordings may have been raw and all over the place (and edited from my phone of all things), but they had an edge and bombastic flavor that was more than facilitated by the irrefutable character Damon brings to the screen and to his voice. He is a true urban artist.

It is with great pleasure that I have Damon Montgomery as the first interview subject for my Genre: Urban Arts interview series, titled, “GENRE: THE HYPE.”

Tristan Drue Rogers: Let me get this out of the way first: Who’s in your Top 5?

The reason I ask this is because you are an insanely talented rapper—who I’ve had the pleasure of directing in a few music videos—and I’m sure your fans or those just discovering you want to know your influences since your sound is so distinct from the current era of hip-hop. 

Rocky Montgomery: My top 5 is pretty interesting. It consists of Tupac as my number one. His influence on the world at just the age of 23 was insane. He changed the landscape of music. He showed that artists can have many faces. They can be tough, ambitious, write songs for the ladies, and dedicate ballads to their mothers. And his revolutionary words impacted the youth then, and his words are still impacting today’s generations 23 years after his death. So Tupac is easily number one

From his first album “Illmatic” to his recent work in 2019 “The Lost Tapes 2” every single Nas album had meant something to me. From riding trains in New Jersey to New York playing “NY State of Mind” I envisioned every word Nas rapped. Even his “God Son” album with the song “Book of Rhymes” when I first heard that song it inspired me to get organized with my rhymes and finally write them down. There are so many songs and albums from Nas that could be the soundtrack to chapters of my life. His descriptive words inspired me to close my eyes and picture the words that I’m rapping. Just like I did when the first time I heard “The World Is Yours”.

Method Man has to be in my top 5 because his word play is just ridiculous—smooth, but aggressive. Hearing stories of him and the Wu-Tang in their early stages, when they first started, was super inspiring. All of those artists in Wu-Tang could be an honorable mention in anyone’s top 5 and 10 because they were all dope, but the one that has the bars along with the charismatic attitude that influenced me was Method Man. He once told a story about how all of the artists in Wu-Tang would spit their verse for each other and consider it a competition. With that type of competition, that’s a prime of example of steel sharpens steel. And in my opinion, Method Man was the shining star on a lot of those songs. With Raekwon right on his heels. To all you readers out there: go back and listen to the whole Enter the Wu-Tang: The 36 Chambers album. Then go listen to the song “Meth vs Chef.” Then you will totally understand why Method Man is in my Top 5.

Ice Cube in my opinion is one of the founding fathers of West Coast Gangster Rap. As a solo artist and as a part of the machine known as NWA. Without Cube writing lines for Eazy E, we wouldn’t have gotten a lot of classic songs from Eazy E like “Boyz N The Hood” and a whole bunch of others. I can remember the first time I heard Amerikkkas Most Wanted at 14 when I was in New Jersey and that changed the landscape of how I see music forever. I began to understand all types of music from all over the country. I was surrounded by amazing artists on the East Coast but never had the full opportunity to listen to West Coast rap until I got older and that was the first album I listened to, along with the first song being “The Nigga You Love to Hate”. I tore my dad’s cassette tape up from rewinding that song over and over and over again! But to me Ice Cube’s best album had to be Death Certificate. Now that’s the definition of an un-skippable album. From start to finish, with the last song being probably the greatest diss song ever made, “No Vaseline.” I rest my case. 

“I take 7 MC’s put ‘em in a line

And add 7 more brothas who think they can rhyme

Well, it’ll take 7 more before I go for mine

And that’s 21 MC’s ate up at the same time

Easy does it, do it easy, that’s what I’m doin’

No fessin’, no messin’ around, no chewin’

No robbin’, no buyin’, bitin’, why bother

This slob’ll stop tryin’ fightin’ to follow

My unusual style will confuse you a while

If I was water, I flow in the Nile

So many rhymes you won’t have time to go for yours

Just because of a cause I have to pause

Right after tonight is when I prepare

To catch another sucka duck MC out there

’cause my strategy has to be tragedy, catastrophe

And after this you’ll call me your majesty

My melody…”

That song was played over and over by my dad as kid. The Rakim and Eric B album Paid In Full was my first introduction into hip-hop. That is why I owe my love for music and hip-hop to my father, John Montgomery. Without him introducing me to Rakim at such a early age, I wouldn’t have the ear for what it takes to write a rhyme, hearing the correct cadence to flow and understanding at the age of 5 RAP stands for “Rhythm Artistry Poetry.”

TDR: How do you feel Tupac would view this current crop of hip-hop? Both underground and mainstream?

RM: I think Tupac would be so disappointed. Coming from his era where artists had something to say with powerful messages—whether it was talking about the government, race relations, to poverty in America, to drugs, to the overall landscape in the world. Now the entire world is influenced by the beat. Everybody wants to hear Trap instrumentals. Nobody is paying attention to the words being said on the beats.

There are a few artists Tupac would be proud of, but the “drug user in music” epidemic he would be so disappointed in. I encourage everyone to go and watch Tupac’s interview when he was locked up at Clinton Correctional Facility. He spoke on what’s happening now in music back in 1994.

TDR: What else informs your work outside of hip-hop itself?

RM: Definitely Kung Fu movies and old R&B music. In order to get me prepared and inspired to write music, I have to have a Kung Fu movie playing and music playing at the same time. It’s like sensory stimulation. Watching Kung Fu movies and the choreographed rhythmic dance between the two martial artists inspires me to catch the cadence and flow. It gets my mind working and I imagine myself in those types of situations that would happen on screen. It inspires me to think quickly. Especially when writing rhymes. Depending on the setting and situation you have to think quickly and write what you feel. Write what you see, and write what you hear. No wasted time when it comes to writing rhymes. Because if you do this, you can freestyle some of the dopest lines that come to your mind, but if you don’t write them down, they’re gone forever.

And one artist that always will have a major impact on my life would have to be the late great Ms. Nina Simone. Her artistic passion sparks flames in my soul when I hear her music come on. I would play her music a lot when I was depressed, looking for the answers and keys to life. It helps me get out of the funks I get in and helped me understand passion comes from the heart and soul, not just the mind.

TDR: You mention your mother and your father a lot in your songs and in person. Can you state how important, or in what way your parents informed your evolution as an artist and a man? 

RM: My mother and my father played a very important part in life as a child. With my father, I learned how to have stand up for myself and those around me. Understanding certain situations and to be a critical thinker and to attack hard with a fierce mind. Don’t take mess from anyone. And never bow out or lay down, you fight until the end in any situation. While my mother taught me what it was like to understand life. It’s ok to be sensitive and be a listener. It’s ok to care about other people’s feelings and to consider people before you consider yourself. I seen her do exactly that for the 20 years I had her in my life.

TDR: Do you make a move without first thinking what they’d want or prefer you to do?

RM: I like to say I’m the perfect balance of my mother and my father. Mentality wise and physical build. I go hard when it’s necessary and don’t take bullshit from anyone, but I also have the compassion to understand people and situations. My mother passed August 20th, 2011 and it made me believe in spirituality more than ever. The whole energy concept—how it exists in you and around you. I feel her with every step that I make. And while I still have my father here I call him every day to just listen to him talk. The wisdom, the understanding, and his level of patience now. Before my dad wasn’t patient about nothing but to hear him tell me to be patient is something special

TDR: How often do you feel pride in the way you participate in that?

RM: Unfortunately the way life is, I will be on this plain one day without my mom and my father. The only thing that resonates with me is, remember where you come from, who you are, and where you have to go. He’s with you now, but their DNA lives in you always

TDR: Whose idea was it to move to Las Vegas of all places? 

RM: It was my mom’s idea. I’ve always thought of this, even years after she passed from developing Multiple Sclerosis in New Jersey. She always complained that she hated the cold weather. My mom was born in Chicago so she knew cold weather all of her life and loved it. So for her to complain about the weather then should have been a red flag. But we all paid no attention to it. And we just moved farther and farther away from cold weather. We jumped from New Jersey to Mississippi to Las Vegas where it’s like living in an oven and she loved it! I just remember them looking at a map one December night in Mississippi and they called me in the dining room and they told me that we were moving, I just screaming out, “What!? We’re moving again!?” I was tired of moving at this point. And when they told me, we were moving again, and moving to Vegas. I completely shut down like a little kid. But I don’t regret it, and I can’t even get mad at it, I met some super dope and amazing talented people out here.

TDR: How is it trying to come up in Las Vegas? I’ve heard it isn’t exactly like other burgeoning music scenes out there.

RM: The Las Vegas music scene is an interesting place. I’ve seen people doing music for the love and seen people monopolizing the game to get paid off of other people’s talents only to leave ‘em high and dry in the end. Especially if you’re trying to push your movement alone, you will get seriously mistreated. That’s why I’m getting ready to devise a plan to take this city by storm. The Win City Crew coming soon

TDR: Are you aware of any hurdles you will have to overcome?

RM: The main hurdle is being heard. I’m going to have to get out here, get in front of the people of this city and just push. Push my music from all different angles. I have an idea of just passing out CDs and USBs full of music—free of charge. Just to be heard. I guarantee once they plug it up put the CD in their player, they will give me a shot. And on top of that, I plan on creating flyers to go along with the CDs and USBs with my social media information.

TDR: What will your group do to change the game for those coming up in your city?

RM: Whatever artist that’s part of the Win City Crew will do the same when they have projects out. It’s about unity and coming together for one main goal: to have our music heard and talents discovered by the people of this city from the people of this city.

TDR: Tell us more about this Win City Crew. 

RM: The Win City Crew will be a collective of artists from all backgrounds coming together to change the way the music landscape looks. People from photography, artists—like, painters, musicians of all genres, and dancers coming together for one main objective reason: to push the culture further out here. When people think Las Vegas they don’t think music or culture, they think gambling at the casino and on the strip. There are too many hidden gems in this city on the artistic side. They all need to have a light shined on them. 

TDR: What’s next for you as a solo artist, are you out there recording the new album yet?

RM: I am working on a new project. It’s an EP. It will be 8-14 songs depending on what tracks make the cut. It will be all industry beats which will be named the DAMON TAPE (Dreams Are Made On Nightmares) and the 2nd installment in the Duplicity Series will be dropping on my birthday of this year November 27, 2019. I will be naming it DUALITY. DUPLICITY was a darker tape, but DUALITY will be that transition from despair to hope. I will be releasing the DAMON TAPE on Halloween on SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and YouTube. I’m pretty excited about these upcoming projects

TDR: To have two projects released in one year is monumental. How are you going to build off of what you’ve done with your last album?

RM: Every time I go in the studio I try to at least record four tracks a session. The work ethic to me is something serious when it comes to music. It’s like I have to grind and grind and grind and get whatever I have to say out before it’s too late. You can’t get time back. That’s one unfortunate lesson I had to learn when my mom passed. I truly appreciate the concept of time. And this will just display my lyrical growth as an artist. 

TDR: Why do you think it’s the time to release these two so close together? How will they contrast with each other?

RM: When I made DUPLICITY, I was literally homeless sleeping on my homeboy couch. I had so much anger in me when I recorded that album. As people can tell when they go back and listen. The Damon Tape will just be all instrumentals I wanted to get on for the last five years. I just feel like it’s time to make something new and old at the same time

The DAMON TAPE Halloween 2019 and DUALITY November 27, 2019—Ain’t no pressure!

Tristan Drue Rogers: Thanks for taking time out of your day to do this interview with me. I want you to know that one of my big regrets is losing the chance to continue working with you. You’re a wise young man with great ambition and making those videos with you was one of the most prosperous times in my life. You were a true partner that left your ego at the door, eagerly awaiting any challenge to get the best image and story to emphasize your music and philosophy. It was a great honor working with you then and to have you as my first interview subject in this series is absolutely incredible. 

Rocky Montgomery: I’m built for this and world we’ll see! Stay tuned! Tristan, man, I appreciate you taking the time out and giving me this interview. You’re definitely one of the greatest minds of this generation and a real solid and caring dude. You have always kept it real and supported me since day one and I truly appreciate that. Until we link up again, my brother! I’m out! ROCK!

You can listen to Damon “Rocky” Montgomery’s music here:

Drockbbgzone2

Interview by:

Website: Tristan Drue

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