A “Dude” That Believes in the Positive Power of Hip Hop
1st Amendment Media recently had the chance to sit down with Chicago-based That Dude Monsoon. He spoke about Hip Hop’s ability to influence youth culture, as well as its more reflective functions. That Dude Monsoon believes that hip hop is more than just cleverly structured words. Monsoon believes it is a conduit which allows an exchange of cross-cultural ideas. In Monsoon’s world, hip hop serves as a larger societal mirror. He dedicates himself to making sure his music portrays some of the city’s more positive aspects.
Monsoon’s work with at risk youth has imparted to him a sense of responsibility. He believes it’s up to him, and other MCs, to carry out hip hop’s original function. His music aims to serve as the voice of the everyday man. With tenacity, sheer will power, and determination, That Dude Monsoon just keeps on grinding.
His Special and Powerful Message
1st Amendment Media: The message in your music is really different from what we hear in contemporary hip hop. What sets your music apart from a lot of what we’re hearing today?
That Dude Monsoon: Just my life. I want to say that I am a working class dude [and] I try to stay on top of things. I like to have fun, [but] I also like to live a regular life too. I’m not really a club type of dude. So, the stuff I write about tends to be everyday things. I have a song called “Kesha’s Crib” It’s pretty much about how people have old fashioned get-togethers at someone’s house. We play Spades. Stuff that I know I can relate too. The reason I do that is because I feel like it makes your relationship with your audience more genuine. They feel like what you’re writing is sincere. You aren’t just trying to fit in.
1AM: What kind of relationship do have with your audience? How do you usually communicate with them?
That Dude Monsoon: I have a really good relationship with my fans. This is thanks to social media.I’ve been building a stronger relationship with them through shows, too. I’m starting to promote my own shows, rather than going through someone else, so the attendance and response to my shows has gone up. That’s all thanks to me getting out there and interacting with my fans.
How He Makes it All Happen
1AM: Being a one man band can be a bit difficult. How are you managing all of this?
That Dude Monsoon:”Not Sleeping! That’s how I manage it. I honestly have slept 8 hours this week. Working my day job combined with promoting my own shows, rehearsing, and everything else, it’s a grind. I love it though. My goal is to be able to do this not only locally, but state-to-state. I’m trying to build connections with owners of clubs in different states. I use Reverbnation and Twitter a lot to connect. I’ll politic with other artists who have performed in venues I want to work with. I’ll get contact numbers and send out my packages to booking agents. I try and use the barter system a lot. If I book shows here, I’ll let another artist from a different state know ‘Hey, I can put you on here, if you put me on out that way’. I just grind as much as possible.
1AM: Is your writing process affected by how much you have to work?
That Dude Monsoon: It’s been affected within this last month, because I’ve been focused on my album. We just finished it. We’ve been packaging it, promoting it, and just getting the word out so my writing time has decreased. Right now ,I haven’t been riding the train. I mention this because over a period of three months, I wrote the majority of my album on the train. Now, I’m more mobile, because I have to go to more places. I really haven’t been riding the train that much. So yeah, it’s been affected a lot. Thanks to technology you can create so much more in your free time. It’s great.
1AM: What inspired your most recent album?
That Dude Monsoon: This album, which is called Monsoon, was produced by Marc G and DJ ALO of Garden Music.This album is me growing and becoming more comfortable with who I am and how I fit in with this whole concept of modern hip hop. Especially Chicago’s hip hop. I have a song on the album. It’s about my daughter. It’s called “Jody’s Song”. I have a song on there called “The Network Crew”. It’s about my crew and how we went through so much together. I also have a song on there called “Everybody” which is pretty much about how social media makes us lose touch with our individualism. Everyone is being grouped. You’re grouped into this. You’re grouped into that. No one really thinks outside of the box any more.
One of the songs, named “Let Me Know”, talks about my relationship with my [Black] people. It talks about the importance of having a good relationship. If we don’t have one let me know. We’ll work on that. This is as far as we address each other as black men and black people. It’s heavy. It’s a lot. I put a lot into the writing. Take “Rules”. It talks about how a lot of Emcees have forgotten the rules we grew up on as hip hop artist and fans. People bite lyrics now. Some people don’t even write their own lyrics anymore.
Interplay of Hip Hop’s and Chicago’s Cultures
1AM: Do you think Chicago’s hip hop scene is a reflection of the city, or does the music impact the culture more than the other way around?
That Dude Monsoon: I think Hip Hop can really influence a culture. You know, that’s the gift and the curse of it. I have always thought the best and the worst thing to ever happen to hip hop was that people were allowed to make money off of it. Music is such a powerful thing. Here in Chicago, even that [music] is segregated. You have the backpackers or conscious rappers of the North Side. Then you may have the drill and trap rappers of the South and West Side. I think hip hop gets pulled into that because we’re surrounded by it [segregation].
I remember seeing a red eye article with Chief Keef on the front. That was before he really blew up. I went and I listened to his music and I thought, ‘ Wow this is really going to influence the culture’ and it did! I don’t want to say that it was bad, but it brought light to the situation in Chicago. The situation already existed. Now we can hear what he’s saying about it. There are two ways to approach it. You can say hey ‘This is a thing. It isn’t good.’ or you can say ‘Hey look what’s going on. I’m a part of it’ The situation has always been there. The thing is how will we address it? Hip hop has the power to address it. But how do we do that? How do we use the hip hop?
We have people like Common and Lupe Fiasco, even young Kanye. They used hip hop to address the Chicago situation. I think it’s very important. Chicago is definitely segregated, but there’s a flip side to it all. We still find a way to come together. Chicago is a very creative city and I love that.
Monsoon Loves Chicago and Chicagoans
1AM: Where does your passion for Chicago come from?
That Dude Monsoon: Just being here for so long. I’ve seen the good and the bad of Chicago. Our winters are messed up! We go through those messed up winter months, to get to spring and summer. When you go through the rough pockets of the city you see how people still find a way to get together. That’s where my passion comes from. People have a drive here. People can call Chicago artists haters as much as they want, but they have a certain drive. We’re not quitters. I mean look, we’ve been rooting for the Bulls for ages.
1AM: how does your day job as a mentor to at risk youth play into your music?
That Dude Monsoon: It affects it more than it used to because I’m working with older kids, now. I hear the kind of music they like. On one hand, it’s disgusting, because if you have artists that don’t understand the culture of hip hop, the reason it exists, or the power of hip hop, then all you have are the ones who grew up off of the cookie cutter stuff. I don’t want to put a negative spin on it, but you need people who understood where it came from in order to show people how to do it. Chance the rapper is one of those guys who gets it. I’m sure there was someone in his ear explaining it all to him.
About More Artists Stepping Up
1AM: Chance recently initiated a very successful coat drive called The Warmest Winter. Why did it take so long for a local artist to do something like this?
That Dude Monsoon: I don’t know. I think we need more people to think outside of the box. We need more creators. We need less people saying ‘Hey can I come work for you’ and more people with the ‘Let me work for myself’ mentality. You have to hustle. I think we get stuck in that mindset of wanting people to lay everything out for us. Then we just follow directions. You’re essentially always doing what someone else tells you to do. People don’t like grinding. Stop waiting for someone else to tell you how to do it; figure out the process and make something happen.