The conversation with Monk.E continues

The Montreal rapper and street artist, playing a free concert at the FrancoFolies fest tonight, drops knowledge on a range of themes reflected in his work.

Monk.E by David Leonard (640x427)

Monk. E. Photo by David Leonard


One does not simply “interview” pluralistically disciplined Montreal talent and rap scene fixture Monk.E.

A conversation with the cerebral creator never really begins or ends, if you’re lucky enough to be able to keep up with him on his many voyages and paths.

With a new LP, Esclavage, Exode & Renaissance (translation “Slavery, Exodus & Rebirth”) out last month, the prolific Quebec MC and globetrotting graff artist – a founding member of Keb painting/rap crew K6A – shifts to a multi-producer/collaborator format after two single-beatmaker records, 2012’s KenLo-orchestrated D3stin 3t B3yond and last year’s Initiatique collab with K6A hatchet man Smile Smahh (this writers choice for local hip hop album of 2014), a move he describes as “remedial,” in a sense.

Broken into parts by theme — Monk.E has a real respect for “threes” — the deft lyricist weaves his outlook on life, love and work into a concept that reflects the daily struggle of hustling, the joy of enjoying its fruits and the lessons in stepping back and preparing to do it all over again.

Monk.E brings his beats, rhymes and guests to the living canvas of the La Presse stage at the FrancoFolies tonight at 9 p.m. Rather than truncate this segment of our ongoing conversation down to snippets or give you the whole thing warts-and-all, here are some of the artist’s musings on various topics we engaged.

On evolution:

I do believe there is something remedial about it. It’s like the formula (of my second album) with the new learning from the third and the fourth, but in the energy of my first album, my first public exposure.

On collaboration:

Monk.E (1) (640x640)There’s something different, and I’d say surprisingly more organic, in the process of (working with a variety of producers for the new record), in the sense that when working as a duo, you’re always gonna go back to your musical partner to compare, to share, to build on and work on a vision that’s shared. On this one, it’s not it. (These are) songs that reflect me (now) but the concept was there before. I had the concept. Like, Initiatique, I had the concept and then I tried to do songs that fit the concept. On this one it was not the case. I had a concept, and then I made a lotta songs without caring about the concept, and then I made selections to fulfill the concept. So like instead of doing like, 14 songs and choosing 12 for the album, I have double the songs that I actually chose (for Esclavage, Exode & Renaissance)

On foreign exchange:

These are songs that have been written in different times, but also in different places. So some of them were just a capacity to grab a moment — a special artist that was in town, or I’m out there in a special town being welcomed by people, and then I want to collaborate with them.

Or for example, like on “L’intimte stellaire,” where I invited four women singing in four languages, the idea was that we often do posse cuts with rappers, but I see that I’m already rappin’, there’s already a lotta rap, and a lot of words and rhythm on the album, and what’s needed to counterbalance is melody and song, and singing. So I really felt that to do a posse cut of soul singers in different languages was new and interesting.

On fashion, style and substance:

Honestly, the image has to be authentic, and it has to have substance to it. But it’s like, the container and the content. You have to present the content in a magnetizing and appealing container. If not, people won’t be curious to see what’s inside.

So I really present myself like I present my graffiti — to me it’s the same thing. The matches of colour, the subtleties, the arrangement of how I match, but don’t match too much. The colours, the shading. It’s not a superficial purpose, but for the purpose of being a walking piece of art, to bring smiles to people, (like) to bring a spark of colour in the city. To me that’s how I see the way I dress, and the way I paint. It holds meaning and purpose.

It’s pretty funny because often it’s like the divine synchronicity of things. To be dressed the same colours as the painting I’m standing in front of, life is bringing me to these things. (I often receive) clothing as gifts, and it’s funny because I don’t believe in…like, just as I do music and I do it from an independent source of mine, same thing with fashion.

Fashion is not automatically in my head, and it’s not automatically wrong. Music is an art form that is amazing, but there is a counterpart that is controlling it. And fashion is the exact same thing. There’s a lot of capitalism and abuse and waste in relation to it, but fashion is not limited to these elements. ■


Monk.E plays the FrancoFolies’s La Presse stage (Clark & de Montigny) tonight, Tuesday, June 16, 9 p.m., free