“Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, hip-hop was never really an option for me. It was one of those things that just is. Similar to the sunrise and the air we breathe.”
Through the keys of his older Brother’s Casio keyboard at the young age of nine years old, Jamal Monstano, who goes by the stage name of ScienZe, discovered what would be the initial stages of his endless affection for the art of hip-hop. A life-long Brooklyn resident raised in the neighborhood of Crown Heights, Jamal who is now twenty-seven years of age, grew up ingrained in the hip-hop culture listening to his older brother who performed with a local crew called Profetik Souljahs. His brother spent precious moments with him showing him the basics and essentials of hip-hop and how to construct beats. Within that initial phase of time, he knew that making music is what he wanted to do with his life. After years of honing his skills and maturing as an artist, he then in 2009 decided to take what had become his passion, and turn it into his livelihood. He started rocking shows throughout New York City and eventually released a couple of mixtapes between 2009-2010. Going hand in hand with the excellent online reviews he was receiving on the projects he was dropping, Jamal was also building a growing buzz around some of the most well known online hip-hop forums. Through constantly grinding in pursuit of his passion, he had firmly implanted his name in the graces of hip-hop fans, as an emerging artist with sizable promise.
ScienZe is a profoundly insightful lyricist who once you just briefly listen to, can clearly tell wears complex emotion on the sleeve of those lyrics, almost as if it the microphone was a verbal diary. With three full length albums, a handful of mixtapes and some select features, there is a wide variety of content that he touches on throughout his catalog. The base of his lyrics though, are mostly all rooted in the simplest of things that matter so much in life: Faith, family, friends, love and the search of happiness.
I talked with him yesterday about that and the general message of his music, asking him what he wanted the individual listener to gain and take from his lyrics. He described it by saying “People will all get different messages from it. What I like to put forth though, is inspiration for people to be their best selves. I want people to feel good. As good as I feel when I listen to a song I love. I believe music heals.” ScienZe does such an exquisite job of depicting that intended message through his words. Constantly taking the listener to places that visit self-assessment and encourage self-betterment, which if music can truly do, is the essence of what he meant by it being able to heal. This approach is best demonstrated on the track, Welcome, from his 2012 album Divine ScienZe, where he asserts: “Every second that passes, an inspiration is born. Don’t be wasteful with time, wasting time trying to save. Maintain and be present, while embracing the change. Keep it simple and clean, keep it clean and be fresh. Don’t be quick to say no, change your life with a yes. We too blessed to be stressed.”
It’s always interesting to hear an artist touch on some of the music they grew up listening to, which in his case is the likes of Bob Marley, KRS-One, Wu-Tang Clan, Redman, and eventually taking a hiatus from hip-hop during high school and going through a rock phase embracing bands like Incubus, Jimmy Eat World, and Brand New. These influences are alluring because while his specific style doesn’t necessarily incorporate a lot of those artists’ characteristics, it gives you an idea of why his musical balance is so adept and diverse. While all of his albums are loaded with lyrically engaging tracks, as his career has progressed, his albums have increasingly become more in tune with assessing the subject of love. His most recent full length album, Ella, which was just released a little over a month ago, is essentially one long love story that takes you on an expedition of a relationship and all of the ups and downs involved in it, with each track displaying a separate chapter of the relationship’s evolution. While he speaks about what seems to be one particular female throughout the album, he adequately delivers the emotion to the point where the listener can then apply it to their own relationship with that someone special in their life. It is a tough concept to successfully tackle on a hip-hop record (which he precisely does), but as Jamal says, “I don’t identify with one genre alone. I don’t just make hip-hop. I make music.”
In talking about things he’s had to overcome and the idea of “making it” in the music industry, which really has a different meaning to every musician depending on what success means to them, Jamal said something that really summed up what I feel not only perfectly describes his character and style of music, but also applies to every single human being’s pursuit of their own individual ambitions. He said, “Just getting to that place where you want to be in terms of this music… although it can be seen as an obstacle, the grind is a beautiful thing.” Being able to take a step back from the ups and downs of everyday life and objectively grasp that both the highs and lows are equally as important, is essential to anyone’s personal growth. For the past few years I’ve tried to concoct the proper way to describe his music to anyone who I’m about to introduce it to, but hearing him say that, was truly the best possible description that I never would have been able to render. Scienze’s music simply assists you in finding the beauty within the grind.
Scienze’s last three projects, When Skies Fall (2011), Divine ScienZe (2012) (which is my personal favorite), and his most recent release, Ella (2013), can all be found for streaming or download by clicking on the album title. He is currently rocking shows in the New York area and you can keep up with his scheduled dates HERE, along with following him on Twitter. Below are a few select videos from his recent albums.
No Pressure (When Skies Fall)
Happiness Is.. (Divine ScienZe)
AUTUMN (When Skies Fall)
The Quest(ion)/The Answer (Ella)