Rhymes and Wisdom, from 23-year-old hip-hop writer-performer Anthonius Monk, came out on the first day of 2018, but it wasn't until his recent entrée into local arts and music outfit Outstanding Citizens Collective that it came my way. Now listen up, because here's the honest truth—this is the best local album of the year. Full stop.
The project of Santa Fe and Albuquerque resident Anthony Gallardo, Wisdom is a genre-defying powerhouse record created at local studio Kabby Sound that pays homage to Gallardo's East Coast hip-hop heroes like Nas and KRS-One while adding a dash of West Coast flair (a la Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar) and his own Southwestern style.
Gallardo paints a raw and openly emotional autobiographical picture of a young man's life and experiences as an artist and writer. Coupled with a distinct and effortless flow laden with clever rhymes and a surprisingly verbose level of lyricism the likes of which we don't often see from a musician so young, the way in which he completely puts himself out there is inspiring.
"MCs try to be like the reporters of the street," he says. "I just like to tell stories, about stuff I've gone through or my family has gone through—I think it has to do a lot with the culture of hip-hop; it incorporates dancing, rapping, making music with nothing—there's a beauty in all that."
Gallardo came up in Santa Fe, but vacillated between here and Albuquerque after his folks split up. He's a lifelong fan of hip-hop but, he says, it wasn't until about eight years ago that he truly believed he could do it himself. "I think I was about 15 when I started freestyling, because that's how I found out Eminem taught himself to rap," Gallardo recalls. "At first I didn't even want to become a rapper, I just did it for fun, but I fell in love with it."
His first solo release, Microphone Creature, didn't even drop until 2017 but, like Wisdom, it's a smooth affair of explosive beats and Motown-esque samples layered against Gallardo's lyrical prowess. "They say my sound is New York/They think that's where I'm from/I come from Santa Fe, New Mexico, son," he says with a slight hint of anger—repping for his hometown, sure, but also pointing out he can run with the best of them. Similarly, on Wisdom, Gallardo references his own style, announcing, "You have to read before you can write/I'm a new breed of hip-hop satisfying your needs." It shows growth from his previous works, but with enough of a cocky swagger to get them heads banging. We believe him. This is natural talent.
"He's ferocious on the mic and has that drive that really makes him stand out in the crowd," Outstanding Citizens Collective co-founder Zach Maloof tells SFR. "He is very lyrical and has that old-school flow, we appreciate that he carries on the old tradition of being an MC in a respectful way."
This includes work on mixtapes and upcoming projects, like an unnamed EP on which he's putting the finishing touches, with underground rappers like California's Doc Trinity and local artist Prismatic Soul, the latter a female MC whose name you may not know, but should—her old-school rapping skills are off the charts. "We're pushing each other to keep at it," Gallardo says of his collaborators. "A lot of rappers just want to rap about cars, clothes, money; and that's cool, but I feel like it's harder to write real stories."
Keep an eye on Anthonius Monk (a nod to jazz piano great Thelonious Monk, of course) as he appears this Thursday with his new crew at Second Street Brewery's Rufina Taproom. If this is how he starts out, we can't wait to see what he'll be doing a couple years from now.
Outstanding Citizens Collective with Height Keech and ialive:
8:30 pm Thursday May 17. $8.
Second Street Brewery (Rufina Taproom),
2920 Rufina St.,