Lord Jah Monte Ogbon is acutely aware of who he is and where he stands in the greater rap landscape. He’s a very self reflective and thoughtful person, talking about how he knows who supports him, who doesn’t, and exactly why either way; As appreciative and reverential of the people who have helped him succeed as he is ready to crack wise about those who chose not to. While he’s loyal to his hometown, Jah Monte is all too cognizant of the Queen City’s rap community’s shortcomings that are preventing him and anyone else in town from rising up. Despite being the self proclaimed Best Rapper in Charlotte, Jah Monte laments the lack of solidarity the local rap scene has, often choosing to compete with one another instead of working together. And while Jah Monte credits Clubhouse for starting to help unite the rappers in Charlotte, he has found himself gravitating to the flourishing underground scene bubbling up in New York City and New Jersey the past few years, first connecting with like-minded artists trying to link and build online before making a number of fateful trips up to the Big Apple. During one of those treks up north Jah Monte started penning the rhymes and gathering the beats that would become his excellent two part album 75th and Amsterdam, staying on fellow musicians’ couches and taking the subway and PATH to convert his URL friends to IRL collaborators.
These two 75th and Amsterdam tapes feature highlight performances from many of the friends he made during those trips up north, and both tapes are consistent with the best output of Jah Monte’s career. Jah Monte has been on the rise as of late, making a name for himself with extremely memorable bars that often get flipped into even more memorable long-ass song titles, two of which even caught Pitchfork’s attention. He can make persevering through minor obstacles sound like massive accomplishments and can flip the most minute details of one’s life into the most cutting barbs. On “safe space for all my lit ones” for example he flexes that the “Gelato pack came shaky but didn’t break me / Platinum plaque and gold plate me” where “You shop at Old Navy.” Jah Monte raps about slices of life that most wouldn’t even think to mention, turning “Your OG sent you to run in the store,” into the harshest of disses on “safe space for all my lit ones”.
Much like how he knows who does and doesn’t fuck with his music and why, Jah Monte is all too aware of his strengths and shortcomings as an artist. While he proudly claims the Best Rapper in Charlotte moniker and fully stands by it, Jah Monte readily admits that there are better technical rappers in town, saying what set him apart is that that nobody had the complete package presented how he did. Jah Monte also talked at length about receiving and dealing with criticisms from artists he greatly respected. While he had his minor qualms with the advice given, more than anything he showed a deep appreciation that the people he looked up to and wanted to work with were emotionally invested in his art enough to give their honest feedback, and said that future work will reflect those changes. Jah Monte told me that his music will constantly change and develop with time, continuing to listen to those he respects offering advice, constantly re-assessing his place in the landscape, and emphasizing that he will always create the art that feels right to him in the moment. It was a mature and refreshing perspective that left as strong an impression on me as any of his bars.
I had the pleasure of hopping on a FaceTime with Lord Jah Monte Ogbon last week. We talked about everything from the trips to NY that formed the bedrock of 75th and Amsterdam to why Ronnie is both his favorite and least favorite member of the Jersey Shore.
GSC: So starting at the top what is your name and how do you identify?
JAH MONTE: My name is Lord Jah Monte Ogbon, I identify as a father first, a human, a Black man in America quote on quote, tryna get by and chase the American dream.
GSC: You said first and foremost you’re a father, you shout out your daughter in your music and I have seen her in some videos. What about being a father inspires you? How does she affect your music?
JAH MONTE: It’s something that gives me drive, my daughter absolutely drives me. In life in general, to work hard so I can provide something for her when I’m gone. That’s pretty much it, if I can’t do it through my art at least I can set her up early. I put her name on all my stuff.
GSC: You’ve been in the rap game for a while, at least longer than many people realize. When do you think you hit your stride as an artist?
JAH MONTE: I don’t think I hit it yet, I am still figuring everything out. I have a good sense of my sound but I feel like in the next year or so it’ll go even further, like I think I am going through it right now.
GSC: What specifically about this moment makes you feel like you’re hitting it?
JAH MONTE: I have more viewers now than I ever have had making music. So more people are tuning in and the right people are tuning in.
GSC: Yea seems like with these 75th and Amsterdam tapes specifically you’ve been getting a lot of great buzz. These two tapes were inspired by several summers spent in New York City, and you’ve talked about how you feel at home in NYC. What made you choose 75th and Amsterdam specifically for the name of the record? That corner isn’t far from my apartment.
JAH MONTE: That’s funny, I need you to get a picture of the street sign for me. I got the address out of a book I was reading. The author’s name is Lolita Files, she writes books about two women who go from Fort Lauderdale, their hometown, to Atlanta and New York. One works in the corporate world and one is a dancer, and the dancer was on a date, she hopped out of a cab and the spot she was going to was on 75th and Amsterdam and I was like oh snap that’s crazy, there I go.
GSC: And that reflects your journey going from your home to Atlanta to New York, I love that. What about New York City makes you feel at home? What about the vibe or people makes you feel so comfortable?
JAH MONTE: Did I say that in a past interview that shit feels like home?
GSC: Yea, I think somebody said you seem like a Flatbush guy.
JAH MONTE: Yea, yea hell yea. I think because I grew up on New York hip hop and the culture. The music that I grew up on as far as rap was east coast based. Once my music kinda broke through that was also all east coast based. My first show in New York was in Brooklyn, and when I was out there I was like oh snap a lot of people are coming through and showing love, it was just a comfortable setting. People were like yo we fuck with you, whatever you need let us know and it felt like a better network than where I live. That’s how it’s supposed to be too.
GSC: You seem well connected in the scene, you posted a picture with Sidewalk Kal and KeiyaA and you seem to be similarly minded to a lot of the artists coming up in New York right now.
JAH MONTE: Shout out KeiyiaA, I have so much respect for her as an artist. Kal was the one who brought me out to New York for that first show. He hit me up for this series of shows he had, Gotham Kemetiu, I did the first one with him and people came through and showed love. He let me sleep on his couch, booked me for the show. Every time I came up to NYC for the first three or four times I was sleeping on Kal’s couch, I’d crash there and link up with everyone in the city like YL and Starker, Roper Williams. Me being able to stay at Kal’s was necessary cuz I could go to other places without needing to spend money on AirBnB’s and all that.
GSC: Have you and Kal made music together?
JAH MONTE: Yea we made a lot of stuff together.
GSC: Kal seems to be a galvanizing force in the NYC rap community. He’s a good connector of people and really cares about the art and supporting people making great art. I am from New Jersey and you just mentioned the legend Roper Williams. You also had Brainorchestra on the last song of Side B. Did you spend any time in Jersey? I saw a tweet about a falafel spot in Jersey City.
JAH MONTE: I spent a lot of time in Jersey bro, when I was staying at Kal’s I’d hop over to Jersey for four or five days. I stayed over at Brainorchestra’s and cooked up with Brain. He made beats, we’d chill. He had a little shed studio type thing and had people come through, we all just cooked up, it was a really good experience. Just to see Jersey with Brain, see him make his moves and put me on to people. When we were able to do shows he was doing a lot of shows and put me on too.
GSC: Yea he was doing a lot of shows, he’s a workhorse.
JAH MONTE: Yea, and he rocked with Roper Williams so we’d take the Uber over to Jersey City and hit the studio with Pootie, Roper Williams, and Driveby.
GSC: I’ve heard Roper has a legendary studio, were the vibes as good as advertised?
JAH MONTE: Yea it was a great spot. I was able to put up a lot of stickers, his room is a great size. They got a flat screen with the Xbox, couches, movies, water. Whatever you need. A lot of records there, Roper’s got a lot of beats and loops. Pootie’s got a lot of weed rollin up, it’s a great vibe.
GSC: They’re a really fun bunch, high spirits all the time with them.
JAH MONTE: Yea it’s a great studio. I stayed at Driveby’s spot in Jersey for a few days.
GSC: He’s got a great spot, that’s where we did the interview with Fatboi Sharif and Roper.
JAH MONTE: At Driveby’s spot?
GSC: Yea, he was very hospitable. My buddy who I run GSC with, Josh, and I did stand up comedy and Driveby was the DJ at our first show, he’s a legend. I love all the music he’s been cooking up too.
JAH MONTE: I stayed with him and he was the one who took me to the falafel spot. He was like “yo I gotta bring you to the spot” and I was like man this is one of the craziest spots I’ve been to, I just got a falafel sandwich and it was so fire.
GSC: Do you remember which spot?
JAH MONTE: I just remember it was the end corner of a building. To walk there we walked through a lot of shit. We walked past people grilling outside, steaks and shit, hot fires. Everybody wearing red shirts. You know what I am talking about? I was like shit there are some bloods.
GSC: But for that level of falafel it was worth it. Any other collabs or work you did in New York that stand out whether they were on the album or not?
JAH MONTE: When I was in New Jersey I did an album with Buck Dudley, and I did a song with Crimeapple. We’ll put it out sometime this year, I gotta come back to New Jersey. I did an album with Brain… but he lost the files. Yea I got a lot of shit coming out.
GSC: I love this young group of artists willing and ready to work and make each other better.
JAH MONTE: I got an album with Zoomo coming.
GSC: Triple R! That’s hype. Gotta imagine you got a bunch of YL features on that one.
JAH MONTE: I got a lot of YL features in general.
GSC: He’s effortless on the mic, he was a great interview too. If you were going to move up to the NYC/NJ area where would you settle?
JAH MONTE: Shit. I wanted to move up there but I couldn’t do it financially, but if I could financially. I’d wanna live in Manhattan.
GSC: We’ll get you a place on 75th and Amsterdam.
JAH MONTE: I wanna live in Manhattan in the thick of it. Or Cobble Hill. Or I’d settle for Williamsburg. After Williamsburg I’d do Jersey City.
GSC: So the first song on the record is “Pitchfork Placements” where you flex about getting in Pitchfork. What did it mean to get that kind of validation from the premier indie music tastemaker?
JAH MONTE: It was cool because so many of my peers fuck with it and see it as popping. When that happened I was like okay cool. Now I can, not like relax but it lifted some weight off my shoulders.
GSC: It’s validating, a testament to how hard you’ve been working. Are there any other publications that you’d love to be in?
JAH MONTE: Where I grew up there was this shit the Beacon-Journal in Akron, OH. If they wrote something about me that’d feel historic in my opinion. The Fader, Complex. If I can get into those publications on the regular, like even when I release a single that’d be cool, but I am trying to build my fans because that shit is just a mind game. It messes with your head.
GSC: What I like about your work, you feel very self aware and have a humility to you. You were talking about being the best rapper in Charlotte, not necessarily technically but the full package. To that point who are some of those up and coming local rappers you think are doing a lot of good similar work?
JAH MONTE: I wouldn’t wanna make anybody famous *laugh* I don’t know who would shout me out in an interview. Nah, but I am not gonna be like that.
GSC: You were talking about how in Charlotte you need to pay people to get on or they can brush you to the side so I get it.
JAH MONTE: I got some homies. My Boy U’nik Flow. Everyone on Side B really, joe sig, Mike DiGi who produced “Pitchfork Placements”, Jay Plus, Cuzzo Keed, all of Muddy Water, Simon, CJ Chat. I’m more tryna work with more people in NY and LA right now though because they have the sound and mentality on point.
GSC: Yea its more about working together where it seems everyone in Charlotte is competing for the same small space.
JAH MONTE: Clubhouse kinda changed some little circles in Charlotte though, it’s been different lately. We’ve been able to link up and do stuff, talk about stuff. Kill assumptions people had. Especially because everything has been about people assuming shit about one another that’s unfounded.
GSC: Especially everyone talking on Clubhouse where on twitter things can get interpreted a million different ways.
JAH MONTE: Yea Clubhouse is real direct. You say something and the other person can just be like “Wussup, whachu doin, let’s link up tonight.”
GSC: You had me laughing on twitter saying you were not gonna talk about your bitch on records anymore after that kid saying you did it too much. Have you ever had a situation where a woman in your life or anyone has been like “Is this bar about me?”
JAH MONTE: Plenty.
GSC: Really?? Were they ever right?
JAH MONTE: They all wrong as hell *laugh* Only person who can really ask me that question is my baby mother and she don’t listen to my music any more so she ain’t heard any of it. The only person I talk about directly is my baby’s mother and everything else is like in the air. Everything else is if the shoe fits. I remember vividly I have a line on 75th side A, on a song RLX produced where I said “She want her nails done and her toes too, all my hoes love me love my hoes too.” And shorty asked me if it was about her because she mentioned getting her nails done one day I was like “uhhh…?” *laugh* I am like no I am not talking about you. But beside that people can kinda be like “aight bitch this bitch that.” One time I was with a shorty and we were doing what we were doing, she was on top of me and she started rapping like “My bitch this my bitch that” and that shit scared me bro. I threw her off me, I was like get the fuck off me. I tried to play like it didn’t matter but that shit did something to me, and she tried to play like she was playing but like she wasn’t playing. That shit struck a nerve.
GSC: You had me laughing too the other day when you asked if anyone was from Jersey I got a question for you, and then you were asking about Ronnie from the Jersey Shore.
JAH MONTE: Yo my boy Ronnie different bruh.
GSC: What was he doing that had you cracking up?
JAH MONTE: Bruh his life different. You know how they had the Jersey Shore vacation show where they’re in Miami? So after all he’s been thru with Sammie, after all that he comes back in 2020 in Miami with a baby momma cooking up with shorties at the club still, still fucking up, still bringing shorties in the house. And he’s lying to the shorty, he’s got Snookie and J Wow and all them lying, I’m like why can’t you get right bruh! It’s been too long. I just needed to know what was up with my boy. Come to find out he’s from the fucking Bronx, so that’s a question for Bronx people I gotta hit them up.
GSC: Who is your favorite on that show?
JAH MONTE: Psssh I gotta say Ronnie bro, like I gotta say Ronnie. His life is different, bruh.
GSC: It’s like he doesn’t watch his own show or something.
JAH MONTE: J Wow was like yo we got cameras in here bro, we’re all gonna see what happened. And he’s like I didn’t do anything, the door closed by itself, and then they got him on camera closing the door. I’m just like yo he’s the greatest ever, why he can’t get right.
GSC: I saw an old insta where you listed MF DOOM as one of your favorite rappers, rest in peace to the metal faced villain. What did you love about DOOM and do you have a favorite DOOM track or memory?
JAH MONTE: I really like everything about DOOM. His wittiness, his wordplay, his content. He comes from more of a, I don’t wanna say Five Percent background, I can’t put a name on his school of thought. But I like when DOOM was 19 going by Zev Love X, when he was in KMD that’s my favorite DOOM. My favorite DOOM verse, he got a lot of verses. My favorite DOOM song is off of Mr. Hood that song “Bananapeel Blues” his whole message on that song is crazy. MM Food is crazy too, he got a reference on there that I only figured out after my 30 or 40th time listening. He said “Study how to eat to die by the pizza guy, No, he’s not too fly to skeet in a skeezer eye.” So he said he studied how to eat to die from the pizza guy, like that really means something and a lot of people won’t understand. I ask people do you know what he’s talking about, my man said study how to eat to die like the pizza guy. Do you know what he’s talking about in that line?
GSC: Not off hand, tryna think it over now.
JAH MONTE: That’s what I’m saying! He said he studied how to eat to die, which is a book, by the pizza guy, whose the author. He flipped How to Eat to Live by Elijah Muhhamad. You ever heard of that book? That’s crazy how he flipped that shit bro, he just flipped it in an artful way. He’s the greatest ever bro. DOOM is the goat. I had to stop listening to Freddie Gibbs for a second cause he was clowning on DOOM too much, I was like nah I had enough.
GSC: He’s joking on everyone Freddie Gibbs, they should put his insta story in the Smithsonian. You and Freddie on a track together would be fire honestly.
JAH MONTE: *Freddie Gibbs impression* Cocaine had to rock with ya mane. Freddie Gibbs is fire. I used to rock with Freddie a lot. I used to listen like 2012 with Baby Faced Killa and all that stuff.
GSC: Yea he had a whole mixtape run people forget about.
JAH MONTE: Yea he used to rock with Curren$y and BIG KRIT and all them.
GSC: Someone was talking about “1Train” the other day which I forgot BIG KRIT closes out.
JAH MONTE: BIG KRIT the greatest rapper too.
GSC: Yellawolf being on that meanwhile didn’t age as well.
JAH MONTE: I ain’t never listened to Yellawolf in my life. My cousin used to listen to that song “buddaduddabudda get down” I was like bruh if you don’t turn this shit off. Shit sound like Twista but it’s not Twista.
GSC: He had that one “Don’t make me pop the trunk” I liked at the time.
JAH MONTE: That was Yellawolf? Nah wait Yellawolf had one song that was hard, my bad Yellawolf. He had that song “Your daddy lambooo lambooo” I still don’t wanna hear that, but I gotta give him his props he went off on that.
GSC: Any closing remarks you wanna tell the people?
JAH MONTE: Tell the people we all need to get off twitter for the rest of the year. I don’t know how we’ll stay connected, we’ll have to meet at the park every month, but everyone gotta get off the internet and stop taking shit so serious.
Follow Lord Jah Monte Ogbon on twitter and insta, go buy 75th and Amsterdam Side A and Side B on bandcamp where he has cassettes and vinyls available, and stream it on Spotify and Apple Music! Also shouts to our man Rich aka the cool lobster who smokes for the for gorgeous art at the top, go hit him up and commission him for something.