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Hip-Hop Artist of the Year: Matt Monday

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Matt Monday discovered his lifelong passion for hip-hop thanks to church. Kind of. "There's a time before the actual service when I would run out to this basketball court eight blocks up to go rap," he says. "I knew the kids would be there — they used to rap on Sundays. They played ball, but they would rap, too. And I would hurry up and run to go rap. I'd be sweaty in a suit. They'd say, 'Why you so sweaty, where've you been?' I would never tell."

Since those early days, his knack for rap has taken the hip-hop artist to New York City, where he interned for a year with music mogul Damon Dash. But Monday's been back in action locally since the summer, and that's why last month, he was finally able to release his long-awaited project, Filthy. "My productivity went way down when I went to New York," Monday says. "I went from being a creative to learning the music business ... I came back because, at the end of the day, I'm an artist."

Now that he's here, Monday's seemingly unstoppable. Besides Filthy, he's working on another project with a new group called Apollo Rothstein. "It's like all melodic and live instruments," he says. "And it's completely different from Filthy. It's way less explicit; it's more calm."

But for now, there's still a lot of focus on Filthy. Not just an album, Filthy is a project complete with two yet-to-be released films and several videos, including last year's "The Lomax" and June's "Devils." The latter is a rather gutsy video that reverses the roles of African-Americans and white supremacists and is currently traveling the festival circuit, like Atlanta's A3C Hip-Hop Festival.

And there's more where that came from, with not only the films — which he can't say too much about right now — but more videos Monday will release sporadically over the coming weeks. "I kind of wanted Filthy to be a complete experience," he says.

If it were up to Monday, the record would have been completed two years ago, but due to various obstacles he had to scrap it and completely start again. And then he had to come home, because Charleston is where Filthy, an autobiography of sorts, had to be made. "The album is about growth in hindsight," says the 27-year-old musician. "This album isn't based on me now — it's based on me from like ages 12 to 23. I tracked it to be a story."

With the 38-second organ intro, "8:43," Monday's story starts with his childhood at, of course, church. "When you're a kid, it's kind of boring so you have to find something to do, like pick up an instrument," he says. "So most of the kids in church play drums or bass or lap-steel guitar or standing guitar or organ or piano."

But Monday says the world looked different in the years that followed, and that's where "L.O.T.M. (Land of the Mindless)" comes in. "It's like automatically you're thrown in the jungle, and that's what it was like for us as youths," he says. "The things we would see and experience, to us seemed normal — but to those from the outside looking in, they seemed surreal."

"Try Me" also speaks to some of the things Monday and his friends were exposed to, like police brutality. "A lot of the things you see in the media now, we've seen since we were young," he says. "It's just never been publicized."

On a lighter note, Monday captures the fun of his teenage years with "Mixx." He says, "We weren't into like phones or video games, but we would go out to Stardust Skate Center on Saturday night — and that was a big deal."

Filthy continues to travel through Monday's life, up until his time in New York with "Folly Road," which he wrote in Brooklyn. "It was the winter," he remembers. "There was a blizzard, and I just missed Charleston. I missed the beach; I missed the atmosphere. Brooklyn is all concrete and there's no trees, so I wrote that thinking about home."

And you can bet he's glad to be back. "I was doing trips the whole time I was there, either taking flights or taking the bus down — constantly, constantly trying to get that album done," he says. "And that's not a good way to create."

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