By Rob van Alstyne
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By Emily Weiss
It's apparent Monty Cold is capable of brightening any room, any time. After only two years in the Twin Cities, the 22-year-old Maryland-bred rapper has turned his affability and humor into friendships, regular slots at the Fine Line, and some propulsive records.
City Pages meets Monty at Cause in Lyn-Lake. Our conversation unfolds as women's curling in the 2014 Winter Olympics plays on the TV. He speaks slowly but evenly, and admits Cause isn't a regular spot for him.
"I'm still learning my way around here," he says, motioning to indicate the entire Twin Cities. Later, he mentions with a shrug, "I don't like to stay in one place longer than a month."
Despite being 1,100 miles away from home, the young man born Lamont Coleman — the same given name as New York legend Big L — plans to stick in the Cities for now. In 2012, he released his breakout mixtape, Diary of Cool, and arrived in St. Paul to study at McNally Smith College of Music. Though he dropped out soon after, the experience introduced him to the school's Hip-Hop Department program coordinator, Toki Wright. Monty also met Evan "e-Hall" Hall, who produced six of the 15 tracks on 2013's spastic King Cold, his follow-up project. This week, the young spitter releases The Diary of Cool 2, an album he started working on even before he dropped the last one.
Diary 2 is appropriately youthful and joyous. He's a party guy: bowl-smoking, Henny-sipping, with zero innate street cred, really — he says his mom works for the F.B.I. and his dad was a police chief. Class clown ad-libs and Juicy J samples lend the album its contagious humor and personality. Monty even refers to Chief Keef's clique like he's actually tight with the O' Block savages, and equates his hooks to an MMA fighter on the left-field sprint "Splash." "That boy nice, cold as ice/Hooks on Kimbo Slice/Dropped TDOC and blew outta sight, nigga dyn-o-mite."
When writing for Diary 2, Monty pulled bars from "things I know" and "things I understood." He stresses the personal nature of the project, which he thinks might be easily overlooked. "Vegas," for instance, centers on the life of a stripper, and the way the details of her story are woven together makes it the most lyrical song on the album.
From the single "Fish Grease" to "Got It," which Monty says is a "female" song, his personality is a big part of what makes Diary 2 not just his best project, but the one with the highest pixel count, content-wise. And who even thinks to use sizzling fish grease as an analog for his career, let alone build a hook from it?
"It's a really weird connection," Monty says of collaborating with the 22-year-old Virginia resident Jay Davis, a.k.a. Pvrp Zombie, who produced most of the record.
Monty talks about Pvrp (pronounced "purp") as if he's an off-the-grid mastermind. Thankfully, Davis's production on the album is anything but insular. Each layer is as important to him as the drums. Vocal samples more spidery than soulful, guitar lines approximating ambient music, and drops of piano all make the album slick but never expensive-sounding.
"We mess with each other so hard to have only met two times," Monty says.
The next move after this album lands? Monty will shoot a couple of videos and plans to tour more this spring, visiting New York at the beginning of March and appearing at SXSW in Austin a couple of weeks later.
He's already thinking about his next project too. Monty views all of his releases as distinctly different, and he envisions a record bringing together the heavier, trap-rap drums of King Cold — the ones that should be effective when he visits Atlanta in April — with the more animated landscape of Diary 2.
The business side of the music industry worries Monty because it "brings problems at times." But he's developed great creative trust with Pvrp. "Now, if he sends me beats," Monty says, "he knows I'll like them. And I know he'll like what I do with them."