By Lane Claffee
March 30, 2018
Rapper jaH-Monte, an Ohio native turned Charlottean, is an artist that’s been creating since age ten. Though he admits that he didn’t start taking it seriously until his teenage years, you wouldn’t expect anyone but a seasoned veteran upon first listen of his latest project, Real LiFe: A West Akron Story, released earlier this month. Real LiFe is a follow-up to jaH-Monte’s 2017 EP O MI G O D, which, according to jaH-Monte, served as all but a teaser for Real LiFe. Though he says that the production on O MI G O D was harder hitting, the main thing brooding in O MI G O D and returning in Real LiFe is the diverse narrative themes, which is expanded upon with the use of jaH-Monte’s alias King Callis.
The King Callis moniker that jaH-Monte uses has levels to it’s meaning. “I named myself Callis after a building [called] James A. Callis Tower [that] my great grandmother lived in, [in] the southwest Akron area,” he says. “This was an area where a lot of family grew up so I took the name, because that area made me who I am today.” The “King” portion is derived from information he collected during his study of the Hebrew Israelites. “My main goal was just to teach the information [that I learned] through my music,” he says. Rather than characters, both jaH-Monte and King Callis serve as narrative lyrical perspectives.
Sonically, Real LiFe is lo-fi, jazzy, and tough. It tells a vivid story from front to back about the daily life and hardships jaH-Monte experienced in southwest Akron. The opening track “Thornton Avenue Lords” is a laid back, sampled-laden, realistic musing on the everyday hardships experienced in the “poverty-stricken soil” that jaH-Monte was sprouted out of. Following is the similar, “MAWA (Make Africa Wakanda Again),” telling stories of jail sentences, traps, and the circumstances of such a life which can easily be affected by violence. Other stand out tracks include “Best Rapper in Charlotte Pt. 5” and “Aye Bruh Let’s Link I Fuck With The Vision.” As the project clocks in at about twenty four minutes, it’s over as quickly as it started, leaving you eagerly waiting for what he has planned next.
Since jaH-Monte is a transplant from Akron, he sees a lot of similarities, as well as differences regarding life in Charlotte. “They’re very different as far as the flow of the city,” he says. “Charlotte is picking up now, since there’s so much money being invested in the city, but Akron is small, so everything and everyone was close… things happened fast.” Regarding the local music scene, jaH-Monte feels that some people are more open in Charlotte than in Ohio. “Charlotte’s music scene has key players who hold the influence of our culture, it’s probably like ten people, I call them the Charlotte illuminati,” he laughs. “I think the scene is growing, we have great artists, models, designers, and studios… we just have to all come together and really work with each other.”