“Amerikkkan Muscle II” exists in the same divided world as its predecessor, but as a guide and critic Montae Montana is wiser, sharper, and sicker than ever of the injustice around him.
“People invent new ways to divide each other every day” says California’s Montae Montana on “World of Lines”, the interlude from his 2018 EP “Amerikkkan Muscle”. His tone is hopeful but struck by quiet acceptance. Despite a megaphone-esque filter evoking protest, Montana seems to understand that nothing is going to change as his words echo unheard. As his speech winds down, an ominous chorus fades in; “Best believe you better face that shit” demands willing resistance in a prejudiced world. It’s a standout moment of a project of fluctuating quality but grand ideas, one that conflates success and happiness with police oppression and racist preconceptions. The project recognises the permanence of the struggle, and it’s this prediction that “Amerikkkan Muscle II: The Extra Mile” revisits.
Institutional racism is probably the most obvious plague sickening America right now. Where “Amerikkkan Muscle” took on this massive concept with too little time, “Amerikkkan Muscle II” takes a detailed approach over eighteen songs. It is a deeply specific experience; Montana is the protagonist and his hometown of Bellflower, California is the setting. Out of this compact setting, however, come illustrations of larger issues. On “BTW – Remix”, Montana raps “My father look at me, his thoughts is he feel just like I did, he look like he surprised or something” before seeing the track out with “Feds wanna take a n—- rights away, 12 wanna take a n—- life away”. “Fork in the Road” opens with a blend of anecdote and metaphor; “Tank on a quarter, police right behind me, tryna navigate through life but ain’t no GPS to guide me” at once tackles police oppression, deprivation, and fatigue.
“Amerikkka the Beautiful” appears in the album’s second half as one of the record’s most descriptive tracks. The song grapples with materialism, nihilism, and of course racial oppression. “Are you proud of who you are or just the stuff that you got?” is the initial sentiment, though Montana goes on to sympathise with those who show off what they can by taking the perspective of the United States’ economic system. “Even if you get past the systematic racism, you are just a cog in the working class slave system, we control your livelihood, you don’t have a say system” gives some explanation to the need for material goods, they become proof of survival and overcoming the unfairly stacked odds. This is best represented by the motif of “Muscle”, as in muscle cars, powerful and often expensive vehicles. The mobility offered by the muscle car Montana speaks about in “Super Sport” and at length in “5 Speed” is allegorical to social mobility; in having a car he can access new opportunities in education and employment. It is no coincidence that throughout the album the police tail him on the roads, seeking to push him down and take these opportunities away. There’s also myriad other topics touched on – immigration (“Emilio’s Smile”), incarceration (“Incarcerated Scarred Faces”), and media (“When They See Us”) amongst others.
Talking about musical proficiency almost feels redundant in the face of “Amerikkkan Muscle II” and its mammoth lyrical content. Nevertheless, the musical content ranges from satisfactory to decently engaging, with producer Tone One providing a selection of comfortable 90s style beats. Montana’s delivery serves as one of the screws keeping the album in place, he is weary but assured in the power of his words. Although the project edges on overlong, Montana’s California flair and occasional ad-libs keep things fresh enough. Realistically, a rapid or processed flow would be of no help here due to the lyrical density, though a pause is sometimes needed to let the listener process what’s been said. Overall, Montae Montana has delivered a competent project, and one that lives up to the potential set on the first “Amerikkkan Muscle”. Though others have discussed these problems before, Montana’s take is modern, proficient, and distinctly his.
Listen to “Amerikkkan Muscle II: The Extra Mile” here.
– Jamie (@youngjade1216)