Matt Monday recalls the disturbing day that would guide him to a path in music 

With Growth Also Comes Change

Growing up off Dorchester Road, I can recall one experience that, to this day, remains a key element that led to my obsession with music.

But first, I have to introduce you to Billy. When I moved to Forest Hills, one of the first people I met was a kid named Billy. I was new to the neighborhood and my ability to be social hadn't kicked in yet. I was outside fixing the back tire on my bike one day when this scrawny little white kid pulls up on a scooter and says, "You look familiar." Due to my lack of trust for most white people at the time, my initial response was, "No, I don't, and get the hell away from me." But before I could get the words out he then says, "Goodwin right?" Goodwin Elementary was a school also on Dorchester Road that I had just transferred to from Mary Ford Elementary in Accabee the year before. I dropped my unnecessary guard when I realized I recognized this kid from the playground at recess before.

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I don't quite recall the initial conversation but from then on, Billy and I were damn near inseparable. He was an only child and my little brother was still just a baby, so eventually he and I became like brothers as well. What also made this relationship interesting was this kid had everything a young boy could dream of: paintball guns, a go-kart, a pool in his backyard (which he eventually removed and replaced with a mini skate park. Yes, a skate park), drum set, guitar — and his parents were extremely kind people; I couldn't have made up a better friend.

This was the complete opposite of my experience in Accabee, the lower North Charleston area where my family is from. Now that I'd met Billy, I was now living in what seemed like two different worlds. As we grew older, we continued to be best friends, but like anything else, with growth also comes change, and boy, were the changes dramatic.

After elementary school, Billy and I attended different middle schools and only saw each other in the neighborhood. While he went to Alice Birney and later Stall, I went to Charlestowne Academy and later School of the Arts. During middle school Billy began being bullied by students who also happened to live in the neighborhood. This carried on into high school, and I began to see the changes in his demeanor. The happy kid I once knew was slowly becoming this very dark figure who was sometimes unrecognizable. The biggest change was, throughout our friendship, I was always the aggressor, but I calmed down and took a high interest in girls right before puberty.

I enjoyed fighting, not in a tough guy sort of way, but the thrill of a fistfight was something I would always run into and not away from. If Billy was ever bullied in the neighborhood, I would be the first to defend him and, as this became more understood, he was bothered less and less. However, when we went to different schools it was almost as if the reset button was pushed with him having to deal with being bullied, and he began to deal with it in a different way.

He began hanging with the kind of guys who lived a lifestyle that was very foreign to Billy, a life that I myself had seen play out many times before, having the same results every time.

The day that everything changed was August 21, 2001. I remember because rapper Juvenile had just released his Project English album and I couldn't wait to listen to it, but I had to rake the yard first. While I was raking I saw Billy coming up the street. His shirt was slightly torn, and he was damn near out of breath. Some guys had tried to fight him, after "taking his money." Instinctually, I dropped the rake to go help him get his money back, but my mistake was that I didn't ask any questions. So we left and began to walk a few streets back.

As we're walking I ask myself, 'Why would someone rob him in broad daylight?' I mean, how much could they possibly expect to get off him? And why did he bypass his parents to come straight to me? Prior to this incident I hadn't seen Billy in months and had no idea what direction his life had taken. I was now in middle school and was spending most of my time there in the evenings, as we would always have extracurricular assignments to work on after school.

About halfway down the street Billy pointed and said, "That's the house right there." There was a guy there sitting on the hood of an old rusted car. He looked up and did a double take at me and Billy, immediately got off the car, and ran in the house yelling, "That's him right there, dem boy comin up he street!"

At this point I had no idea what was going on, but I knew that something was off. Three guys walk out of the house, all wearing Dickies pants and T-shirts that were far too big. One guy wore a durag under a hat, and the other guy, a taller kid, wore a headband (this was the terrible fashion we chose to go with in the early 2000s, for some strange reason). One of the guys was from Accabee and instantly recognized me. We'll call him P. He walks up and greets me and asks if I know Billy. I told him, 'Yeah, that's the homie,' and before I could finish my sentence the guy with the durag attacks Billy, so I turn and attack him.

We somehow end up in his living room fighting when all of a sudden I hear a loud "Bang!" that stops us dead in our tracks. One kid shoots a gun in the air to end the commotion and/or flex his authority and runs into the house to hide from the neighbors. Everyone comes in the house with Billy, and P shuts the door while looking out the blinds. The tall kid with the headband turns from the blinds and points the gun at me, telling me to get off his "brother." I quickly oblige and stand still as possible. This was the second time I've had a gun pointed at me and it wasn't any more pleasurable than the first. In fact, this was worse because the kid was standing no more than three feet away from me with the gun pointed right at my face.

I didn't even look at him; I just stared down the barrel and all I could think was, 'How in the hell did I get in this shit?' P tells the tall kid to chill out, but he just keeps the gun pointed at me, while another kid shoves me against the wall. P then turns to me and explains that Billy had stolen something from the brothers, that they only jumped Billy because he lied, and they wanted their stuff back.

Billy denies their story, so now the gun is on him. P decides to let me slide off the strength of my cousin from Accabee, who he's cool with. Next thing we hear is that the cops are outside and, sure enough, I could see the red and blue lights outside the window. Everyone scatters, while Billy and I hop the fence, running through several backyards before splitting up.

Eventually I make it back to my street and see Billy in the distance. As we approach each other it takes everything in me not to punch him in the face, but I don't. He begins to speak, but I cut him off and keep walking. I'm pissed, but that anger soon becomes disappointment. My trust in someone who I had been friends with for more than half my life had evaporated in a matter of minutes.

Billy and I never spoke again after that day. In fact, the next time I heard about him my mother sent me a news article that said he was arrested on a murder charge and soon sentenced to 30+ years in a federal penitentiary.

When I found out, I was down for while. I felt guilty, as if there was something I could have done to prevent him from his own demise, and those feelings sometimes resurface to this day.

After the incident with the brothers, I walked in the house with dirt all over me, grass in my hair. My mother made a comment about the yard not being finished as I nodded my head and walked in the bathroom to take a shower. Afterward I walked in my room and lay on the floor. I popped my Juvenile CD in the stereo and just laid there listening to music for hours, recapping everything that happened that day.

The more the music played, the more numb I became to the situation. It was also that day I believe music became a form of therapy rather than just music, and we — music and I — would begin a relationship that would pull me through many more situations.

What used to be a hobby became an obsession, my obsession with escape. I began to just come home and play music for hours. I'd listen to anything — you name it and I'd listen. This pattern continued all the way to the ninth grade when I enrolled in my first semester of classes. There was a class being offered called music tech. It was designed to teach students how to write, record, and produce music — the three things that, together, would become my passions. And from that point on, my obsession blossomed into a career.

As I've learned first-hand, sometimes our roots, the place where our art begins, aren't pretty. Often, they're painful. But that doesn't mean something beautiful can't grow from those experiences. I've channeled my own experiences, even the ugliest kinds of days, into something that I love and can be proud of, into something that others love and can draw inspiration from.

And that is the greatest superpower of all.


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