Payday Monsanto, Hip Hop’s Red Pill
(Lin Sbordone) Though Payday Monsanto stands as a leader in political and conscious hip hop, very little biographical data has been available for his fans and those just becoming acquainted with his work. I, Lin Sbordone, received the honor of having an exclusive full interview with him regarding his life, his music, and his aspirations. We hope this interview helps give greater insight into this brilliant lyricist and leader in conscious hip hop, but more importantly, we hope it serves as inspiration for the youth of today to realize, in Payday’s own words, to “shoot for the stars and hopefully hit the moon.”
Born William W. Monsanto, Payday Monsanto was born January 19, 1976 and is of Cherokee, Irish, and Sicilian descent. He has two sisters and one brother and was raised in a two parent household until his parents divorced when he was ten years old. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Payday Monsanto started in music as a fan of classic soul, classic rock, Sugar Hill Gang, Run DMC, KRS-One, and classic R&B. In 11th grade, someone stole his hat and Payday almost stomped the kid. He was suspended and never returned to school following the incident.
Payday’s juvenile rap sheet is admittedly very long. He admits to being a very incorrigible youth who couldn’t be told anything. He ran with a wild and older bunch of kids. By the time he was 13-14 years old, he was court ordered to do a stint at St. Michael’s School for Boys in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Although this was a turning point for him, he still got into some fairly serious trouble afterwards, including grand theft auto, some robberies and some burglaries. Not having regard for personal property until he began working, he engaged in these activities. He states he had no sense of karma at the time. The last felony charge came in the form of arson, something of which he truly had no part. Since he was on the same block at the same time, he got picked up and charged. He was extremely upset that he was charged with something he really didn’t do.
Payday became immersed in hip hop when he was just 12 years old. Hip hop is actually formed of four parts: Lyricism, graffiti, break dancing, and DJ(ing). His break dancing began around age 10-12 through age 16, when he began as a lyricist.
KRS-One got him started in hip hop. What was it about KRS-One? Payday responds, “It was like truth on wax. It was 3 dimensional to me.” He credits KRS-One with his initial interest in truth versus deception. KRS-One means knowledge reigns supreme over almost everyone. KRS” music always encouraged gaining understanding, knowledge, and the likes. This started Payday on his own quest to find out the truth. For that, he gives KRS all the credit.
As an adult, Payday acquired no felonies. His post-adolescent poetry was always in the form of rhyming and started when he was around 17-18, almost the same time he adopted the name Mr. Payze. This was when he began freestyling to what he called “a plethora” of open mikes.
Around the age of 24, things began to change. Prior to this, he was just working regular jobs with his music taking the background. Now he began producing and recording his own material. He has what he termed a scarce audience as his music circulated through different areas of the city on cassette tapes. Through the advent of the internet and the burnable CD, things changed. Laughingly he states, “I made good use of the technology.” Though he was putting out mix tapes and adopted the name Payze Duez by age 24, he didn’t put out any albums until much later when Lambs to the Slaughter was released in 2009.
During this time period, his music began to spread more widely and he was offered three different record deals with major labels. One was for Rough House Records which was major at the time in 1999. In 2002, there was an opportunity with Sony who was “really gun ho” initially. When A&R asked for a larger catalogue of around 25 songs, Payday gave them largely political stuff. He never heard back. “I don’t think they wanted to touch it,” he proclaims. He goes on to say, “You have to remember that this was the time during which gangster rap was coming. We know gangster rap was no accident.” Big Daddy Kane and the Afro-centric material was being phased out and replaced. When he was asked for his gangster rap material, Payday replied, “I don’t do that stuff.” The man from Sony was as astonished as was Payday. Odd looks were exchanged.
The third major label opportunity came from Clive Davis with the label Jay Records. Payday received a contract and took it to an attorney who was a fan and also whom he considered a friend. The lawyer redacted the contract from 19 pages to 14 pages. He shortened the length of commitment to one to three years and allowed for Payday to retain the rights to his own music. The lawyer, Simon Rosen, really believed Payday deserved more than the general contract. Simon stated he changed the contract to what he believed Payday was truly worth and as a bargaining chip, stating the sound was already polished as to what major labels were already putting out. Clive Davis’ company responded, “It’s what we give or nothing.” Payday chose nothing.
From 2002-2009 Payday spent going to open mikes and sustaining himself in daily life through working a regular 9-5. Music was his hobby in his spare time. Though he still works a regular job, music came to the forefront as it is now around 2009 when he released Lambs to the Slaughter. This album contained material recorded between 2002-2009. He went about selling this independently through Sound Click. He did amazingly well, and even to this day, he still sells a copy every other day on average.
Itanimulli was recorded pretty much over a short period of 6 months. It was released on 1-1-2011. He had several months as CD Baby’s top selling record. He easily sold over 20k units. CD Baby placed the album on Itunes and allowed his work to be purchased through there as well.
The Patent consists of music all created post Itanimulli. It was released in November 2011 and in Payday’s words, “Kinda exploded right out of the gate.” Performance wise, it did much better than Itanimulli in the first six months. Payday states, “It was unbelievable. I was basically living off the album, and it had little to no press. It was only word of mouth and some interviews.”
Payday’s fourth album The Foundation: 15 Years In the Making is a compilation CD with no new tracks, just tracks mostly new to fans. Though he states it has done fairly well, Payday didn’t put it out so much with the thought of sales as he did for folks to have a better understanding of where he was coming from and for posterity. When asked how satisfied he is overall with his record sales, Payday responds, “I am happy under the circumstances with little to no press. I could; however, do better.”
Payday Monsanto toured only minimally. He did a truth music tour during Lambs to the Slaughter and Itanimulli time periods, but not full tours. When asked if he is interested in touring more, he states, “Absolutely.” Payday is willing to open for a larger headliner and is currently in talks with other artists regarding these opportunities at this very moment. He also makes appearances at political festivals such as the Liberty Fest coming up in October, 2012 in NYC.
Surprisingly, Payday doesn’t consider himself an activist in some regards. He said there’ll be no more days of yelling at people with a bull horn, although he admits he might like to bull horn the most widely known “truth” bullhorner! He states, “It’s really up to the listener to decide if my music is a form of activism, but I choose music as my avenue for activism.” He also looks forward to a time period where he can begin doing charitable works for people deeply affected by the banking and military industrial complex.
This left room for a few unanswered questions. I first asked Payday, “What are the biggest issues in your songs?” He responded, “They are primarily focused on a few different things. One is the cabal that is said doesn’t exist, but only exists if you like it, such as the NWO. Impending tyranny, food rights, health freedom, and the attack on the small organic farmer also comprise much of his interests and topics. Payday admittedly believes that organic food is priced out of the range of most consumers so that they are forced to ingest the poisons that are contained in the average American food product. He questions what major chemical companies are doing in the food industry, a question which definitely begs for an answer.
Another thing I had to know was how does a high school drop out write songs with such a rich vocabulary it stands out amongst almost all other music of the same type? Payday admits to being self-educated. He loves to read and learn, and claims his great and large vocabulary primarily stems from reading the dictionary.
Finally, I asked the question which begged an answer. “Payday, how far would you go personally to get this society back from the secret organizations you believe are now in control? How much would you participate in the so-called new revolution which is upon us?” Payday responds, “I would go so far as to spread the word to make people aware and have them investigate it themselves. I feel there is no America. Americans don’t have a monopoly on liberty and freedom, as this exists in most countries currently. I wouldn’t fight. I’d just make people aware of the situation.”
The most important thing to remember from this biography is that a disturbed, incorrigible youth came around to not only be a great member of society, but to take a risk by expressing through his music themes that might be unpopular to most but that take a valiant stand in the face of today’s trivial musical content. Payday Monsanto’s journey is just beginning as a full fledge solo artist. Stay tuned and pay close attention to this up and coming artist, as you will certainly here a great deal more from and about him in the next year.