Monte Booker is here to prove he has the talents to hang with the big dawgs. Hailing from Chicago, the 23-year-old is a producer, beatmaker, and performer — putting out his own music and gaining fans daily. Aside from having worked closely with the likes of Smino and Ravyn Lenae, the “Interstellar” artist claims he’s “just getting his feet wet.” Read more…
Now, Monte returns better than ever following the Dreamville sessions. Not only was he an integral part of the Revenge of the Dreamers III, J. Cole asked him personally to come through. Young Cali caught up with Booker at Soulection’s 8-year anniversary showcase at the sold-out Shrine in Los Angeles.
Can you describe your sound and your ability to fuze genres?
I’m just experimental. I can’t really say what genre I’m in. I love trap music and I love electronic music — that can explain what I’m doing. I fuck with both sides. All music. I feel like that’s a good representation of my sound, some trap shit and electronic shit.
Being from Chicago, what was the household like growing up?
My mom always kept me out the streets. Chicago got this bad rep, but it’s really not that bad of a city. You can make the wrong turn early in life, into maybe gangs or drugs, but mom kept me in the house. Blessed to be making music and not being on no negative shit.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
You need to move to LA when it’s time. It’s not like a life clock where there’s a right time to come to LA. You shouldn’t come too early because you can get lost in the LA scene, the vibe. There’s a lot going on musically so you can get carried away, but it’s definitely important at some point in everybody’s career. It’s a hub of artists that you can always work with. It’s definitely important that you’re out here to just work. You can get hella work done in LA.
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
I was messing around and Smino heard my music. I was making beats but nobody was really rapping on ‘em. My beats were kind of weird. People were just like “man that shit’s weird, we not even on that.”
So you were ahead of your time.
I wouldn’t say that. They was weird fasho, but Smee was like “you know, I can rap on that shit.” When I met him, we was making music together and eventually just start rapping.
How did you meet him initially?
At my manager’s studio: Classick Studios in Chicago. We met at a studio session. He was making a beat for an artist and I hopped on a beat for him. We went to another room, I played him like 30 beats. He was like “bro you amazing. Let’s work.” I was like “hell yeah, you’re amazing.” He played me songs. From there, it was history. That was 4 or 5 years ago.
What was it like seeing his career blossom?
It’s dope. I seen my mans homeless, living in the studio, grinding every day. Going to work, coming to the studio and making like 5 songs. From where that was to him being able to take care of himself with music, it’s super nice to see. Super humbling. It confirmed “yo we gotta really do this shit. You gotta get focused, this shit real.” It was like “oh okay, a couple misses on the internet steams, that’s cool.” But to go out and play a show, and there’s actually people showing up — this music shit real. Seeing that was beautiful.
What was the inspiration behind keeping your name?
I was a big fan of Kendrick Lamar. At first, I thought it was corny, like “oh you got your name?” Because I’m a producer right — all producers got cool ass names. Timbaland, like why would he think of that? I was like “fuck it, I’m gonna just go about my name.” The biggest representation of me is just me, so I kept my real name.
Do you have a producer tag?
Not yet. I mean, Smino got me one. “Monte on the beat, you got it on repeat.” I’m going to start implementing that joint, but we still surfing around. We waiting for that ace. That one’s hot, but if he say some more shit and the energy crazy… because when that tag come on, it gonna put you in that element. Most people know, once that tag hit… you feel me?
None of your songs right now have a tag?
Nah. Some of Smi songs, he kind of did his own little tag on it. But I don’t have a producer tag.
You just released “Interstellar.” Talk about the creative process behind that.
It’s a movie starring Matthew McConaughey, about him trying to save the world. The earth was dying out, it’s a good ass movie. It’s one of the best movies I seen. After watching that, I was inspired to make some crazy shit. It’s not even that deep. It’s out of space vibes. And my bro Bari was with me like “yo bro, this beat is amazing let me hop on this.”
Talk about recording with Buddy during the Dreamville sessions, who’s from the West Coast.
Buddy, his energy. He definitely sparked a lot of energy at the Dreamville sessions. That man was on every song. He would go in one room, record a verse, come in another room, record a verse. We’re making a beat and he’d be like “oh yall not done with this beat? Alright I’m gone.” Go record in another room, come back and say “oh ya’ll done with the beat? Alright, I need that.” Buddy energy in the studio, it had me step up like “oh okay, you’re trying to work?” On God.
Where we at with the album?
We just waiting on features now. All the skeletons are done. It’s a lot of artists on tour right now so they finishing up. When that’s done, we looking for spring. Warm the summer up real quick, we gon’ be right back.
How many records?
I’m trying to keep it kind of small. How many skeletons? Probably 21. We trying to knock it down to like 10, but we got 21 ideas.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
I’m planning on dropping an album first. I was blending a lot of shit but it has a lot of features on it. It’s not really a full story because I have a beat tape coming out in the summertime. I’m just a regular dude from Chicago. Nothing too fancy, no musical background. Nothing too extra. If I can do it, anybody can do it. It’s music, just have fun.
Talk about the Soulection family. What are you most excited for today?
Soulection is kind of what started my whole sound. What’s backing the sound, there’s a lot of inspiration from Soulection. Just what they were doing in the SoundCloud era and still going ‘til this day with Apple Music. That was my foundation for the longest time. Helping me out, putting me in front of shows, that type of vibe. I been with Soulection for four years now, since 2015. Being here tonight, it’s a blessing.
What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
Become a better producer, a better artist in general. Whoever calls me — it can be anybody: trap, R&B, pop, any genre — they can call Monte and say “aye bro, we need that.” I can pull up and provide that. Better myself as an artist in general: shows, performance, all of that.
How important is social media for your career?
At first, I hated social media. I tried to stay off of it. But it’s definitely important to keep your fans and supporters. Seeing what you’re doing is inspiring for them. Even me, somebody that followed me for four years from the ground up, seeing me take a picture with an artist of J. Cole’s caliber — there’s levels. For them to see that, it’s inspiring. Like “aw shit, I knew about him since…” Seeing the progress, it helps them out too. Whatever venture they are aspiring. Too much of it is not healthy. Too much of anything isn’t healthy, but a little bit of social media won’t hurt you.
What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
The best encounter is knowing somebody a real fan. Everybody is a real fan, I’m not going to disown the level of fan. They supportive, I even hate the word fan. They believe in the music, they love it, they following it, they helping it. If it wasn’t for them, you couldn’t be where you at.
2014, I was working at Starbucks. Even now fans pull up on me, “bro I remember you was working at Starbucks pushing Frappuccinos, now you out here.”
What was your drink?
I’m not really a big coffee drinker so for the dessert wave, definitely a Caramel Frappuccino. 80 degrees outside, got to slap one of those, it was a good mood.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
That’s a good question. I was heavy into sports. All sports: gymnastics, basketball, football, soccer, everything. I wasn’t good at it though. I’m not about to sit here and act like I was a pro athlete, I just participated. It was one of the things my mom did to keep me out the streets. “You need to be doing something. You not about to sit in the house or be in the streets doing stupid shit,” so she had me doing sports.
Rams or Patriots?
I’ve gotta go for the Rams, just off strength. Because they was originally from the Midwest: St. Louis Rams. But they moved to LA not too long ago. My bro Smee from St. Louis so even though they kind of beefing because they left, we on the Rams side over here.
Anything else you want to let us know?
Zero Fatigue in the building. Go check out that new Bari album, MSTRGLSS. It just dropped yesterday. He’s an upcoming artist in Zero Fatigue so be on the lookout. You know my nigga Smino out here too, we got some more shit. We gone, Zero Gang in the building.