This rapper’s straight outta Santa Fe

December 5, 2018

Dylan Montayne, a rap artist whose debut video has nearly 9 million views and whose first album will drop this week, does not have what you’d call a typical biography for a hip-hop star.

First of all, one of his first gigs — as a junior high kid — was being a drummer in a bagpipe band.

Secondly, he’s not from New York or Los Angeles. If someone made a movie of his life, it might be called Straight Outta Santa Fe.

“I was born in California; we moved to Santa Fe when I was 3, so I don’t really have any memories of California,” Montayne said in an interview this week. “My earliest memory is arriving in Eldorado, where we moved. I went to El Dorado [Community School] and then St. Mike’s. I graduated in ’09.”

And there probably aren’t a whole lot of rappers who graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in finance.

But that’s the story of Dylan Montayne Walter.

Inspired by the 2002 Eminem movie 8 Mile, he used to drive his school bus drivers nuts by freestyle rapping with his friends in the back seats.

“Someone would be beat-boxing or maybe someone would have little speakers playing instrumentals and we’d be in the back of the bus rapping with each other,” he recalled. “Thinking back, it must have sounded really funny.”

Rapping on the road seems like a theme in the life of Montayne.

In 2016, while working as an Uber driver in Denver — his home since he graduated from college — a group of young women sharing a ride to a concert asked him what he did for a living other than drive. Montayne, who had long been pursuing a career in music, said he was a rapper.

They asked him to rap for them and he agreed — as long as he could do a video on his cellphone.

“I had never rapped for my passengers before,” he said. “I had that video on my phone for about two weeks. I sent it to my friend, and he said, ‘Dude, that’s going to go viral. You need to post that.’ ”

Montayne’s friend was right. The untitled rap, over an instrumental of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Electric Relaxation,” became a YouTube smash. It even got some reaction from celebrities, including rap star Lil Wayne, who tweeted a link to an online article about Montayne, wrote: “Damn homie! Hope he got those digits too!” (For those not up on the latest slang, that’s a reference to getting the phone numbers of Montayne’s female passengers.)

Montayne, 27, said he never really considered music as a profession until adulthood. But music has always been an important part of his life. And that credit largely belongs to his parents, his father Steve Walter, who owns a plumbing company, and mother Marita DeVargas, a banker.

Both parents came from entertainment backgrounds. His dad, who was a Hollywood stuntman, appears riding a motorcycle in Montayne’s latest video, Diablo.

His mom’s father was actor Valentin de Vargas, probably best known for his role as a heavy in Touch of Evil. And his great uncle, Don Alvarado, was a silent-film star in the 1920s who has a star on Hollywood Boulevard.

“My parents are my biggest promoters,” he said, adding they’ve encouraged his music since he was a tot.

“I was a drummer since I was young,” Montayne said. “When I was 5, my dad, he had a plumbing company in town … and he had traded some work with a friend of his and he brought home this old crappy little drum set. I had never played before, but I felt like I could play the drums right away. I just fell into that at a really young age.”

He said he “did the classic high school garage band thing.” But he also heard the call of the bagpipe.

“It was cool,” he recalled. “I was in junior high at that point and we got to travel around. We went to Scotland, where there was a big parade, and that was cool. We went to Colorado a couple of times and Arizona.”

Fast-forward several years, and the success of Montayne’s viral Uber video was immediate. But a big letdown quickly followed.

“I thought that was the break, right?” he said. “I always thought something like that would happen and the next day my life would be a lot different. But it was kind of rough, man, because you hit these highs and then everyone forgets. Real quick. It was like two weeks I was riding high. I got contacted by all sorts of managers and agents from the music industry claiming all their connections and all that kind of stuff. And within two weeks, all those people stopped responding to me.”

But with the encouragement of his parents, his friends in Denver and his YouTube fans, Montayne is pressing on. He launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund an album, Rebecca Lane — named for an old high school party spot southeast of Santa Fe — that is scheduled for release on Thursday.

While Montayne’s personal ambitions are high, he also says he has big hopes for the music of the whole region.

“Your region is so important in rap, like the East Coast, the West Coast, the South like Miami and Houston, but nobody has ever repped the Southwest,” he said. “When I’m doing shows, people are surprised I’m from New Mexico because nobody [in rap] is from New Mexico. So I want to create that Southwest sound. … I really want to represent my home state and my hometown. That’s a big driving force for me.”

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