About a week before the Frost Music and Arts Festival brought Fetty Wap to campus for an afternoon of music and sunshine, I receive an email from his publicist asking if I want to interview Fetty’s “musical partner and best friend,” Monty. I haven’t requested an interview with either Fetty or Monty, so this email is a bit out of the blue, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to meet one of the Remy Boyz himself. I am especially excited because Monty is, as another reporter at The Daily put it, “the definition of a day one,” a guy who let Fetty sleep in his car before the two made it big and who shows up all over Fetty’s music. Press pass in tow, I rush past the crowds and make my way backstage to the hospitality area where Fetty and Monty’s crew have set up shop.
The team member who greets me brings me up to the Remy Boyz’ tent and tells me to wait outside. The next moment Monty emerges, wearing a cream sweater with a boldfaced “WAVES” stitched on the chest and rocking plenty of gold, including an iced-out piece in the form of Fetty’s and his magic number, 1738. Along with a security guard, we step behind the tent to a quieter spot as Sage the Gemini finishes off his set on the stage below.
Not many people know that Monty’s full name is Montana Buckz; even fewer people know that my first two family dogs were named Bucky and Montana. On the way to the interview, I vigorously debate whether or not to bring this funny coincidence to his attention. Maybe I’ll show him a picture of my dogs — who knows, maybe we’ll have a laugh. In the end I ask about the name. “Yeah, you just call me Monty though,” he replies, “that’s what they call me in the hood. Remy Boy Monty. Monty is just short for Montana.” Cool, I think, just like my dog — although I keep that thought to myself.
As the dust settles following the delivery of my first piercing and truly journalistic question, Fetty Wap emerges from his tent. “Oooo! Check my boy out!” Monty exclaims, bringing my attention to the swaggering superstar making his way to the bathroom. As we gather ourselves I ask my first real question, about his recent mixtape “Monty Zoo” and where his own music is going.
“That shit’s gonna get there,” he replies. “We gonna turn up. We’ve got ‘Not Poppin” out there, spinning on the radio, on the waves and shit.”
“Not Poppin’” is, to date, Monty’s biggest single. With assists from Metro Boomin and Fetty, it’s a guaranteed banger, and probably the best track on “Monty Zoo.” While Monty’s following isn’t nearly as big as Fetty’s, “Monty Zoo” stands on its own and makes for a solid addition to the Remy Boyz canon. Since he’s not as mainstream as Fetty, though, I ask where to find his latest and greatest.
“Most of my shit is on Fetty Wap’s SoundCloud. Or, I got music on YouTube, I’m gonna be dropping videos. You know Monty Zoo mixtape was my first mixtape that I ever put out, like ever, so —”
“And you’ve been doing this for a while, probably like, 10 years by now?” I interject.
“Yeah, since like 2006 or 2007 I’ve been doing it. But I’ve only been doing it seriously since like 2010. I don’t even count them years, I was just playing with the rap game. I wasn’t serious until like 2010.”
Even discounting those not-so-serious years, that’s quite a lot of patience from an underground rapper waiting for the right moment to drop his first tape. So why the wait?
“I was just mastering my craft,” he replies. “I did verses for a lot of people around my hood, a lot of artists in my area. Like I was dropping songs, throwin’ up collabs, but I never dropped a mixtape. And I felt like it was time to drop, and I dropped ‘Monty Zoo.’”
In his defense, the timing couldn’t have been much better. By the time “Zoo” dropped last December, Monty’s fingerprints were all over the charts, thanks to his and Fetty’s explosive rise. And he’s not done, either: “This year we got more fire coming out — ‘Monty Zoo’ part two might come out this year. It’s gonna get ugly out here. It’s gonna be ugly.”
By this point, Monty seems distracted. His eyes are darting between the stage and the tent, and he keeps adjusting his chains to drape naturally over the mic we’ve hooked up under his shirt. But I catch his attention when I ask about his hometown, Paterson, New Jersey, which wasn’t much more than a blip on the musical map a little over a year ago, when he and Fetty started broadcasting its name around the globe.
“You know, it’s my hometown, it’s just — there’s no place like home. I go out, I go back home, you know, it’s just the people that knew me from when I wasn’t nothing. They’re still there. It’s that mutual love that you get from your city, that you can’t get nowhere else. You feel me? No place like home. That’s Paterson, that’s my hometown.”
Paterson is large, dense and diverse, and life there can’t be described in just a few words. Certain areas are plagued by drug violence and abuse, and these conditions obviously impacted Monty and Fetty’s lives. When asked about what Paterson meant to him before the fame and fortune, Monty’s tone changes: “Before? It was just like the nitty gritty! You had to figure out how the fuck you were gonna get out tha hood, and like —”
“You wanted to leave?”
“Nah, it’s just that it’s hard in Paterson.” He pauses to reflect, before continuing: “You know, nobody wants to live in Paterson. That’s how hard it is. But then sometimes you just looking like, that’s where I’m from! That’s where I was at! You feel me? I was just there, trying to find ways to get out of the hood, and I found it through music. And we ain’t really knew it would get this far, we just wanted to make music and put it out for the streets, for Paterson, for the hood to get poppin’. And it just went crazy and took over, I guess.”
Paterson roots run deep in Monty’s music, and it’s a clear point of pride for both him and Fetty. At one point I ask one of his security guards if he’s from Paterson too. It turns out that everyone around me has some Paterson roots, from the bouncers to the management to the entourage, and even then, the lines between these groups are blurred by a sense of brotherhood. When Fetty and Monty came up, they brought the whole hood with them.
By now, the strength of Zoo Gang loyalty is a well-documented fact — just check out the famous video of Fetty gifting Monty a BMW for Christmas for proof — but the depth of its influence still surprises me. In my review of Fetty’s debut album, I noted that he cut Drake (arguably the most marketable man in hip-hop) from the final version of his hit single “My Way,” using a verse from Monty instead. Since Monty appears on about half of the album’s tracks already, I have to ask what this decision means to him.
“Yeah, I thought that was cool,” he says with a smile. “I guess he just wanted to have his CD be all about where he started. He wanted to keep it among the people he came up with. All the producers are from our town, too — he kept it like a city thing. But shoutout to the Drake verse, that shit was cool.”
Monty’s gaze is still floating between the stage and the tent, where Fetty is now taking pictures with members of Stanford Concert Network who are working the event. He’s ready to go out and perform, but I catch his attention with my next question.
“So I know that the split with P-Dice is old news,” I begin, referencing the notable absence of the third Remy Boy, who publicly split with Monty and Fetty last fall and was more recently implicated in an attempted murder.
“Oh, nah,” he interrupts, “I’m not talking about that now.”
“Yeah, okay, but I know it’s because the fame and fortune came between you guys —”
“And so my question is, how come that hasn’t happened with you and Fetty? What’s different?”
“Honestly, we just try not to let it get to us,” he responds. “We know where we came from, and we know money’s not everything. Feel me? Money can’t buy you everything, money can’t buy you real friendship, you know?” He’s looking in Fetty’s direction again, and then he turns back to me: “We just cherish that, and we move forward, whether that’s good or bad, we gon’ still be there. Real talk.”
At this point I don’t want to push the subject of P-Dice any further, so I wrap up by asking where Monty sees himself in five years.
“Five years, damn. I don’t know,” he hesitates, before bursting out, “I’m already rich!” We laugh and he continues, “I just wanna be somewhere on an island, chillin’ on the beach, sippin’ Jamaican Me Happys and drinkin’ Remy! Ha!”
Remy Martin cognac has been the drink of choice for Monty and Fetty for a good while now. It’s the namesake for the Remy Boyz crew and their magic number 1738 is a nod to the French firm’s founding year. “You guys still drink Remy?” I ask.
“Yeah, always. Always drinking Remys, 1738, you know. He stopped though, he slowed down,” he says, pointing again to Fetty. “He drinkin’ Patrón now, you know.”
“I hear you guys do Remy and Patrón, half-and-half.”
“Yeah, there was a little point in time, a while ago, where we did 50-50.” Then he looks straight into my photographer’s camera and, making the gesture of two bottles pouring into a glass, sings, “Mr. Remy with Patrooon!” before cutting himself off and letting out another laugh.
That’s as good a note as any to end on. Monty’s a cool dude with some fire tracks, and he’s friendly to boot. At one point during our interview, he asks what school I go to, basically trying to figure out where he was on a string of tour stops. I tell him where we are and it doesn’t seem to register, and I think nothing of it. But the next day I look him up on Instagram, and something catches my eye. It’s a picture of Frost, with the simple caption “#StanfordUniversity.” Monty’s world is a whole lot bigger than Paterson now, and after Frost, it seems that we’re all a part of it.
Monty’s latest mixtape, “Monty Zoo,” can be found on most music streaming services and is free to download on hotnewhiphop.com.
Contact Benjamin Sorensen at bcsoren ‘at’ stanford.edu.