PAUL SMITHS - If you like hip-hop music blended with socially aware lyrics, look no further than Larry Montague, a recent Paul Smith's College graduate who performs under the stage name "Fluent."
Montague, who will turn 25 years old on Thursday, was born in Westchester County and raised in Queensbury. He earned his degree in forestry from Paul Smith's earlier this month, and he'll perform Monday night as part of First Night Saranac Lake.
An outdoors enthusiast, Montague often raps about nature and the environment. His lyrics range from reflective meditations about being in the woods to politically charged diatribes about the dangers of climate change and global warming.
Larry Montague, a rapper who goes by the stage name “Fluent,” started out writing poetry. Now, the Paul Smith’s College graduate puts his words to music; he has produced three full-length albums, and will perform at Saranac Lake’s First Night celebration next week.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)
Montague sat down with the Enterprise recently to talk about his love of hip-hop music and what it's like to perform in front of a crowd. This interview has been edited for content and length.
Chris Morris: You can sort of tell when you listen to a rapper whether they're freestyling or going off of something they'd previously written down. You sound like the latter.
If you go ...
What: First Night Saranac Lake
performance by Fluent
When: 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 31
Where: Saranac Lake Free Library
Cost: First Night buttons cost $12
Larry Montague: Yeah. I've never even really considered myself as a rapper. More as a writer, because that's how it started. I didn't have one of those beginnings where I was just hanging around with a few friends and freestyled ... it wasn't part of the culture I was brought up in. It was the writing: That's how it evolved.
CM: You've got three full-length albums available online. Who produces your beats?
LM: Most of the stuff has been produced by myself. I use Fruity Loops (a digital audio application) - it's a lot of sampling. When I first started making music in 2004, it was me and my friend. He would do all of the beats, and I would do all of the lyrics. And we were pumping out songs like crazy; I've probably made close to 450 songs. It's been my outlet. ... He would make a beat, send it to me, then I would finish it and put it online. ... When I got the Pro Tools (audio recording software and hardware) equipment, then I was self-sufficient. ... The newest album I have is with my brother (Nick). My brother did most of the beats, and I did the writing.
CM: How did you come to the name Fluent?
LM: When I first started rapping, I got onto this online forum called "Elite Spits" - just a bunch of people battling each other. It was usually just text battles. You would just write a verse and try to be as witty as possible, and someone else would write a verse back to you, and then you would have people vote on it. Then it morphed into doing audio battles. I didn't really have a name on there, and my friend said, "How 'bout Fluent?" There it is.
CM: What kind of music do you listen to?
LM: I listen to a ton of music. I like a lot of jazz, blues, soul music, funk music - as far as hip-hop is concerned, it's Digable Planets, De La Soul, Jurassic 5, J-Live, The Roots - I'm a huge Roots fan. And the socially conscious rappers - Talib Kweli, Common, those guys.
CM: When did you start performing?
LM: The first time I ever performed in front of a crowd was at Paul Smith's, about a year and a half ago.
CM: Was that nerve-racking for you?
LM: It was. But now I can't get enough of it. ... Once I decided that I was going to do it, I found the confidence.
CM: Where do you see yourself taking this music? Is it something you want to turn into a profession, or will it remain a hobby?
LM: I don't know what's going to happen. I've always believed in the music. But I've been doing things on the side, like going to school for forestry, getting involved in environmental education, things like that. But I feel like now, this is the most support I've had behind my music. ... With the help of (Paul Smith's professor) Curt (Stager) especially, I'm thinking that if I'm going to make a career out of it, it's going to be on the environmental front, because my music has always had that message weaved into it. I can capitalize on that with my generation: people who want social change, environmental change. ... But I'm still trying to figure out my purpose and what I'm here for.
CM: What brought you to Paul Smith's College?
LM: The area. ... I didn't even look into the college. I just looked at where it was on the map, and I said, "I know I love the High Peaks, and I know I love this area." The first time I came here was when I started class, and I know from that moment that this was the right place. It feels like it was definitely the best decision I made in my life, to come here.