Making Monkier

So the concept for this group started in a hookah lounge in Casablanca, and the name "Monkier" simply came out of my inability to spell basic words (moniker). Robert (drums), Andrew (guitar), and I (other stuff) were in Morocco to play in a festival on behalf of Kennesaw State University, our undergrad institution. One night, when we weren't playing, we were chilling in this back alley hookah lounge trying to decide whether we liked the apple flavor or not. Eventually the discussion made its way around to our post-undergrad plans. None of us had immediately wanted to attend grad school, so we were all staying in-town for the time. So, we figured why not start a group that built upon the type of modern jazz we were playing in school. I volunteered the idea to include hip-hop elements... and, hesitantly, myself to rap.


Once we got back in the states and established that the name of the group would be Monkier, I began making artwork, a website, writing lyrics, etc. Around this time is when I started to establish the monkey imagery. It's just a way to impose an alternate persona for the group and create a cohesive image instead of a group of individuals (and distract from the white guy rapping). As a proof of concept, we initially made one track called "Stream of Consciousness". This track was meant to establish the sound and musical ideas of the group. Without getting too geeky, I wanted to make sure it included odd-meter rapping, interesting instrumental parts, and solo sections. From that initial recording we made, we essential decided upon the vision of the group and proceeded in making a whole album. Somewhere along the way, we got a bassist and four horn players.


Andrew and I wrote the music, with me doing the majority of the composition/arranging. All together, I was writing out the sheet music, making demos, arranging horn parts, and writing lyrics on top of that: it's the most work I've had to put into a project thus far. But, I like to think that work shows. I wanted to make sure that we went about this the right way in both the writing process and the recording process. So we enlisted the help of our friend Umcolisi Terrell (one out of three saxophonists on the album). In addition to being a great player, he's also an awesome recording engineer. I knew I could DIY it for recording a majority of the parts, but when it came to recording drums and horn parts we had to get his help. We recorded those parts at The Shed, and they turned out great. The rest was recorded piecemeal in various apartments, houses, closets, rehearsal spaces, and so on. Afterward, we passed what we had on to Marlon Patton to mix everything down.


Despite the fact that I've directed a lot of the creative vision in the music, largely because I'm  writing the lyrics, having so many people involved in making the music happen has forced the music to grow beyond what I could ever do by myself. The collaboration and musicianship from everybody is what made this album happen, and it's also what made the album any good.


This record, as a whole, is definitely about a specific stage of life. It's about that time in your early 20s when most people aren't sure about which direction they’re headed. It's the time in your life where you start making serious decisions about where to invest yourself, when relationships start getting serious, and when you start planning ten years down the line. The album charts the transition from feeling like you know which way your life is headed to a place of uncertainty. The resolution of the record comes towards the end in accepting that place of uncertainty and seeing what comes out it. Insert the   whole ape metaphor, and conceptually you’ll get what this album is about.


So, thanks to all that contributed this album. You’re all the best.

Check out the album when it drops on April 18th.


"Kamaal The Abstract": Hip-Hop? Jazz? Genre? Does it matter? - by Zac Evans

Recently, I read an article about an album that I listened to extensively about 2 years ago, “Kamaal The Abstract” by hip-hop guru and legend Q-Tip. The album was actually recorded in 2001, but wasn’t released until 2009, eight years later. The label didn’t think it had commercial appeal, so they shelved it. After a fan petition and the album being passed to a new label, we finally saw it’s release. 

"Kamaal The Abstract" is what Q-Tip described at one point "a hip-hop fusion album." The album incorporates elements of jazz, r&b, and funk; often the album places a rap verse, a heavy funk guitar riff, an r&b chorus of vocals, and a saxophone solo all into the same song. I think the album deftly accomplishes the idea of a fusion album without forcing the idea: it all sounds organic. It’s kind of a "Bitches’ Brew" for hip-hop. Sometimes songs will go on for minutes, without any vocals or a hook, and just rely on the groove, something that is rare from a "hip-hop" artist. "Kamaal The Abstract" doesn’t rely on a specific genre for its sound, but I think that’s why I like it. Despite the various ideas contained, it remains cohesive.

Oh yeah and did I mention that Kenny Garrett, Gary Thomas, AND Kurt Rosenwinkel play on this album? It’s tight.

So, I bring this album up to ask this question: why do we need genres?

I’ve always enjoyed various types of music, and I tend to side with Ellington’s thought that “there are two kinds of music; the good kind, and the other kind.” To me, it always seems that the most interesting music is the music that forgets about genre and just does what sounds right. When a bird sings, I doubt it thinks of what genre or type of song it wants to sing; it just sings whatever song nature places inside of it. Genre is a human creation, and I personally feel that people flourish when they reach their most natural state of creation, without any specific genre guiding them. Perhaps certain precedents can inspire and provoke new ideas, but I don’t think we should ever let precedent contain us.

Sorry, I had to get all philosophical for a second… 



"While growing up in the ’70s New York City, Fareed listened to CBS-affiliated radio stations that would play Joni Mitchell, Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin and B.B. King in one hour. “It was a correct mix of music. That’s the way it should be. Music is now so separated.” -Q-Tip