Matt Monday breaks down the making of and meaning behind Filthy 2 

Song by Song

click to enlarge Matt Monday will perform at the Piccolo Spoleto Finale on the evening of Sat. June 10 at Hampton Park.

Jenna Jones; styling: Dalia Dalili

Matt Monday will perform at the Piccolo Spoleto Finale on the evening of Sat. June 10 at Hampton Park.

Charleston City Paper 2018 Best Hip-Hop Artist Matt Monday has plenty to say this year, with his new collection Filthy 2 — out today — being just one of the albums he plans to drop in 2018. And he's not just bringing his music to your ears via normal channels — he's 1) Dropping the album exclusively on filthy2.com and 2) Making a brand new Matt Monday boxset available online, too, and 3) Delivering, in person, the boxset to Charleston-based buyers. A treat for the Monday diehards, to say the least.

The follow up to 2016's Filthy, Filthy 2 speaks to everything from Charleston and North Charleston African-American youth and their daily struggles with self-esteem and misconceptions of masculinity to Monday's love for Black women and skating rink nostalgia. Here's the Filthy 2 breakdown, in his own words.

BY MATT MONDAY

"The Breaks"

This intro took me a few days to complete because of all the sounds. I wanted to paint a scene that begins with a morning in my neighborhood. Jonathan Lovett (Terraphonics) assists the opening of the instrumental, performing a crazy string arrangement that sets the tone of the album, followed by an abrupt guitar break played by Thomas Kenney (Terraphonics). The song quickly turns from serenity to urgency with lines like "There's a knock at the door, let me take a knee/ Turn the locks, hit the floor, momma pray for me" and "You alive? Are you well? Or just lying through your teeth/ 'Cause I'm trying not to bleed, but we're dying just to breathe." The verses are followed with an intense guitar solo performed by Kenney to contradict the mood in the opening of the song. The elements show how quickly a day in North Charleston could go from chill to chaotic.

"No Flam"

"No Flam" continues the intensity established at the end of "The Breaks." With co-production from BlackDave, it moves pretty quickly as I wanted to give examples of increasing stress with lines like "Me and my dad got seasons/ Me and my momma got agreements/ Everybody got their reasons" and "My granny told me beware the trolls, you know they're out here to try you/ I told you protect the family and both the people beside you." I think the stress of the young African American youth is often overlooked in my city and abroad. The challenges, adversity, and obstacles they face at home or school mixed with a dwindling social setting where they can be comfortable will plague any person with lack of self-esteem or confidence. Once the youth lose self-respect for themselves, it will soon translate into them losing it for any and everyone around them, and that's one of the most dangerous scenarios we can conjure.

"Look Ya"

This is one of my favorite beats on the album. It opens with the lines "Can she bake like Anita/ Is her skin like Lupita" to establish my undying love for Black culture, especially that of Black women. It also carries the energy from the previous track, diving more into the attitude of the unsettled youth with lines like "Do I have time for one more prayer or is the chapel closed/ Can I make time stand still, let that capsule close?"
click to enlarge JENNA JONES; STYLING: DALIA DALILI
  • Jenna Jones; styling: Dalia Dalili

"Tribal"

I was in Miami a few months back where I had lunch at a taco spot in Wynwood called Coyo Taco. Aside from having the best damn tacos I've ever had they also happen to play the best music. On this particular day they were playing a collection of dancehall and Caribbean music that sparked a conversation with some friends about what makes the music so unique. That day I ended up playing everything from calypso, dub, zouk, and soca to extempo, reggae, and dancehall. Later that night I wrote "Tribal" as a tribute to our islands in Charleston — James Island, John Island, and those alike. Ha!

"Charlio"

Several weeks ago I was having a conversation with my longtime friend KJ Kearney. We laughed at how his students would constantly make fun of him saying he wasn't a man because he listens to Drake and hadn't had any kids by the time he was 25. Although I thought the story itself was funny, the conversation quickly turned to what is identified as masculinity in the African American community, specifically when we are in adolescence through adulthood. This conversation birthed the song "Charlio."

This song is a story about the misconception of masculinity in the African American community and how as an adult I've realized that most things I considered necessary to be a man were quite absurd and couldn't be further from the truth. I also began to ask myself why I thought these things in the first place. In the song I tell a story of a friend who educates me on the art of trafficking narcotics. Although illegal and not an uncommon theme in many lower class settings, the lack of substantial opportunity combined with an abundance of responsibility to survive no matter the race, be it White, Black, Latino, Asian, etc, the reasoning always seems to stem from insecurity. I think insecurity plays directly into what we see as masculine.

click to enlarge JENNA JONES; STYLING: DALIA DALILI
  • Jenna Jones; styling: Dalia Dalili

The friend in the song is Slim, who says to me, "You don't want a few hoes, you don't want your wrist froze, you don't want new clothes?" And I reply with " I mean, I guess, I suppose." Like KJ's students, Slim has been directly influenced by his peers and men he may look up to in search of things (mainly material) to mask his insecurity. In his mind and in the minds of many lower-class youth, low self-esteem is established at a very young age where these kids spend most of their youth simply looking for any way to feel cool or the slightest approval from their peers, even if it costs them their lives. Which ties back into the line in "The Breaks:" "We're dying just to breathe." Somehow this is an issue that isn't addressed enough and the effects are continuing to be detrimental to progress in our community.

"Stardust"

This might be my favorite song on the album, even though that may change by the time this comes out. A friend of mine came home after being away 12 years and the first thing he commented on upon arrival was how much the city has changed. This made me realize that seeing the changes happen in real time are absolutely different from seeing the city from one perspective, removing yourself during changes, and re-introducing someone to said city. We covered many topics, too many to discuss in this writing, but one in particular was Stardust Skate Center. Those who grew up in North Charleston in early 2000s understand the staple that Stardust was on Friday and Saturday nights.

Everyone who was anyone found himself or herself crowded in that purple building on Rivers Avenue, and, if you were like me, waited until 10 p.m. when they cleared the floor so everyone could dance. This was during the "everybody rock up movement" that lasted until about 2005. The cool thing about Stardust is you had kids from all over the city and all walks of life under one roof just enjoying themselves. No matter what problems waited for us outside the door, we had a space where we could be comfortable and enjoy the latest Crime Mob, DSGB, or Cash Money/No Limit anthems. Stardust was closed and torn down in the summer of 2014 due to competitive market share. This then lead to the conversation of where do teens have to go now? What spot can they go to for socializing and mingling? It's almost as if their only means of social interaction is strictly through their phones and maybe a movie theater but that's a separate conversation that I wish not to digress into. Anyway, I made the production very trap drum-heavy but delivered the verse in a very playful tone to juxtapose the innocence of youth with the aggressive music we partied to as kids.

"Ozone"

Ozone was created when I was in full swing with Maschine and making beats. I want to say "Lingo" came out of this session as well but I'm not absolutely sure. It's really a party song that's a continuation of "Stardust" but the second verse addresses the No. 1 city tag that Charleston keeps earning year after year. Very often I go into the city and have an experience that makes me question the status of that title, because if you were telling me this is the No. 1 city in the world, I'd politely have to ask, "For who?"

"Free Sean K"

"Free Sean K" is a song I wrote when I had no idea if and when my albums were coming out, about the stress of being an indie artist. I whole-heartedly support indie artists who are doing this strictly on their own with little to no support or backing. No matter the medium or genre I know it seems stressful and, at times, impossible, but the only person who can stop you is YOU. You inspire me and I hope I can reciprocate the same energy in your direction. The title does not correlate with the song in any way but stands for more of a dedication to one my best friends serving an extended sentence in prison for a crime committed when he was barely 19. Although I don't agree with any crime whatsoever, I also find myself conflicted with the penalties of the prison system and the incarceration of young men for mistakes made as teens, holding sentences that carry into their 40s. That's not rehabilitation — that's enslavement. Thanks to Jonathan Lovett on keys for letting me float on this one.

"Is it Right"

click to enlarge JENNA JONES; STYLING: DALIA DALILI
  • Jenna Jones; styling: Dalia Dalili
"Is it Right" is about taking full control, accountability, and all-out seriousness for your craft. The chorus boasts, "If you gon' do it, might as well do it well," and I would hope every other artist shares that thought. I'm quickly and surely seeing an abundance of art and music but less and less quality. I see my culture being watered down by parody acts while true talent is overlooked or cast aside. We are in the times of trading quality for clout which creates an over-saturation of bullshit that stifles the positive progression of the art form. Basically, think as an individual and not as a robot. It's OK to say something is trash if you think so and the masses oppose you. I tell myself I'm trash at least four times a week as a means to never become complacent, to motivate myself to get better. Thomas Kenney also plays a nasty guitar solo and Martin Grooms assists with back-up vocals.

"Had A Thing" ft. Sunrhe

"Had a Thing" is a song about the different perspectives on sex between young men and young women. Sunrhe lends her beautiful voice for the chorus and delivers a soothing performance where she professes her desire to be with a young man who also feels the same but in a less sincere manner. The verses are similar in tone to the chorus but contrast in content to show the lack of seriousness with the man. Lines like "We made love watching Shrek 3" make it clear that women are far more mature than us, and there's really nothing we can say to oppose that fact.

"Find the Words/Anfernee's Interlude" ft. Anfernee & Poppy Native

"Find the Words" is about a bad breakup and the very awkward phase moving on from someone you have spent a significant amount of time with. I always think it's interesting the way we're able to view someone a certain way when you're in love and then view them completely differently when you no longer feel the same. It's almost like a shroud has been removed. How powerful is love that it can literally alter your vision when you look at someone? Interesting, creepy, and beautiful all at the same damn time. Thomas Kenney is back again with two sick guitar solos and, as I'm writing this, I'm beginning to realize how much I love guitars.

"Elaine"

I wrote about nine verses for this song, also maybe did six different arrangements. This one definitely took the longest to create. This song explores how men often overlook the lingering insecurities we sometimes create in women. In the song I tell a story about a guy confronting a woman who's recently been hurt and has now guarded herself from being vulnerable to love again. I think a detailed description would ruin this song in particular because of the conversational lyrics so I'd much rather you just go listen. Mike Quinn appears with a smooth sax solo that sets the mood during the chorus.

"Prophetz"

This song is about fear and being afraid to reveal the things we are afraid of. It's a very personal piece that almost became therapy for me during the recording process. I really wanted to be vulnerable with hopes that others who are also afraid will also find comfort and/or something they could relate to in the lyrics. Mike Quinn also plays sax throughout this song to substitute for an orthodox chorus.

"Deadly Octobers"

The finale of the album is a short freestyle of me describing where we've been and what's to come in the next album. It also serves as a Segway into Candy Paint Playground and exits with Johnathan Lovett serenading us with strings and Black Dave on bass.

Matt Monday will perform at the Piccolo Spoleto finale on Sat. June 9 at Hampton Park. 

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