by Paul Bowers
North Charleston-native hip-hop artist Matt Monday debuted a gutsy music video Monday for his song "Devils" that presents a loaded hypothetical question: What if African Americans dominated the Jim Crow South?
Atlanta film director Bank! helped Monday achieve his vision with some haunting imagery including a burning cross, a lunch counter sit-in gone awry, and a Klan hood made of traditional West African kente cloth.
"I'm just kind of using the symbolism. These are all symbols of hate through the eyes of a black person," Monday says. "If you look through the eyes of a white person or an Asian person or someone else of a different race, they may see different symbols, but I know these are the symbols, the things that, growing up, I've become familiar with."
There's no ignoring the timing of the video's release, less than two weeks after a white gunman killed nine people inside Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, but Monday says the video has been years in the making.
The song was originally called "PluTOH (Trayvon Oscar Henry)" and appeared on his 2012 mixtape Black Cradles. Monday says he wrote the song after the shooting of Trayvon Martin and started working on the video in 2013, but he delayed the video's release several times in the following years after other high-profile shootings of black men took place — including the Walter Scott shooting in his own hometown.
"It seems like a never-ending stream, because now we have, as soon as we put it out, now they have a Klan rally on July 18 at the Statehouse, and then the Baltimore case is starting to get more and more clues, and you have more and more churches burning down," Monday says. "When do we put this out without the exploitation factor? I just wanted to go ahead and put it out there, and we'll just push the commentary on the racial issues and try to move forward with the next visual."
Monday lives in Brooklyn, but he returned to the Lowcountry to shoot the video at locations including the Pitt Street Pharmacy in Mt. Pleasant, a dirt road on Johns Island, and his grandmother's church in the Accabee neighborhood of North Charleston.
And that burning cross in the opening shot? That was filmed in his grandmother's front yard.
"Having my grandmother there, having her see that was kind of weird, because for her — she didn't verbally say it, but I could tell it bothered her to have it in the yard," Monday says. "My grandmother's almost 70, so for her, she's lived through some of that stuff, and to see that had some connection for her."
Matt Monday plans to release a new album, Filthy, in late July or early August. He plans to have a show in Charleston in the fall.