Travis Montez is a narrative savant and his glorious, danceable new album is a righteous collection of razor-sharp songs, full of spit and fury, a high-water mark for queer poets of color everywhere.
Travis, is a writer, poet, professor and juvenile rights attorney, representing children in the Family Court system of New York City. Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Montez came to NYC in the late 90’s to attend New York University where he pursued degrees in Journalism and Africana Studies. It was there that he was first introduced to spoken word poetry.
His poetry gives voice to those of us who have endured growing up in an era where being queer wasn’t cool or considered “good branding,” we who have endured sexual and verbal abuse; survivors of heartbreak. He intimately understands the pain of keeping secret the shame of abuse, having been abused himself in his childhood. He courageously faces depression but chooses not to be “a man who could spend a lot of time in his apartment with the shades drawn.
Give Travis Montez a pen and pad, because HE IS A WRITER, and he can play games with it, but he plays no games. There were too many men that have paved the way, like James Baldwin, Langston Hughes , and all of those really strong men who revolutionized the world with their words. As I sit and watch a beam of sunlight hit his head while interviewing him, it’s as if these ancestors are crowning him to be the one to carry this mantle.
We explored his painful childhood with him in the first volume of the Objects in This Rearview Trilogy “you can tell this first project was born of trauma, solitude and isolation.” Readers could have stayed there, trapped in the experiences of OITR: Vol 01 but Travis would show us how to turn pain into thirst-quenching love and passion with OITR: Volume 02: The Roads In Me, his debut poetry/R&B album.
Travis first conceived of this projects as a teenager. How would he know that journaling nearly two decades ago would make him the heir-apparent to the seductive style of Jill Scott?
OITR Vol 02: The Roads in Me is 43 minutes of love rising from the ashes like a phoenix with Travis and his partner It’s a beautiful invitation into their most intimate experiences. His partner, who loves the album, gave Montez the thumbs up to share the most vulnerable and seductive track on the album, First Time and Still. “The first time you made me cum was unplanned even though I’d been in love with you for years by then…” opens this 7 minutes of delicious thirst trap. There is not even the slightest bit of raunch. It’s more of an explicit exhibition of surrendering to love and the physical manifestation of achieving freedom through that surrender. “Don’t hold back from me, you demanded, you invited. ”
I want to first give thanks to the living room floor where this piece was born. Some of us fear this type of intimacy, but Travis has given us permission to explore it passionately in our own lives for 7 straight minutes. I’m even listening to it as I write this piece.
In the track called Just to Say/Stay, Travis shares with us that he tried to convince his therapist that he should end this relationship. The irony is that the entire album is 43 minutes of affirmation that his heart has found a heart that works with his. It’s what all of us are dreaming of having in this lifetime. Travis’s album finds more ways to express his love than Eskimos have words for snow.
More than twenty years have lapsed since the idea for the trilogy came to Travis. Each release catches him at a different point in his creative evolution. In the latest offering, he shows a new level of confidence and variety. The smooth, jazzy sounds of Summer Falls/For You comes charging out of the box with a vintage feel that climbs to a disco beat, anchoring Travis in the experience of longing for love from a distance. From there, the beats keep evolving, into the military thrum of “Choose 2” where he raps it out as if at an open mic at Nuyorican. That’s the vibe he’s giving and I can’t wait for part 3 of this epic trilogy.
Carry on Travis, carry on. Class is in session and he’s here to school us on what epic love gets to look like in this world.