By Michael Shultz
One year ago, Momo Smitt quit school and his job working at the Animal House at Rogue Community College to focus on his music.
Today Smitt survives on his income by touring the West Coast and has a regular gig at Tabu in Ashland. However, the road he took to get to this point was not an easy one.
Born Morgan Smitt and raised in Monterey, California, Smitthas been interested in music from an early age. His father has a B.A. in music studies, and his mother was a singer and they both had an interest in musical theatre.
Initially, Smitt wrote and performed alternative rock. He was in his first band when he was 10 years old. His love of hip-hop started when he purchased Eminem’s “Slim Shady” LP when he was 12, although he continued to focus on alternative rock.
When he was 16, Smitt began to use — and eventually abuse — drugs and alcohol.
“I was drinking to the point of blacking out, and smoking every day,” Smitt said.
Smitt began to freestyle with the hip-hop community at his high school. Eventually, he said, he realized that he was better than everybody else he knew.
As time went on, his use of drugs and alcohol began to become a significant and destructive force in his life. Smitt said he had been robbed, injured and had problems with friends and family as a result of his abuse.
When Smitt turned 18, he decided it was time for a change. With the help of his girlfriend at the time, he became clean and sober.
At 19, Smitt moved back to Oregon to repair his relationship with his father. He started writing more poetry, and the lyrics he wrote began to shift from “gangsta wannabe” to what he called “pure, honest expression.”
In June of 2007, Smitt bought some recording equipment and produced his first album, “Love Raps,” selling copies for $3.
Then Smitt began touring addiction recovery centers, where his performances often morphed into motivational speaking and frank discussion.
“I am in recovery, and one of my main sources of inspiration is helping youth deal with substance abuse issues,” Smitt said.
Though his songs, Smitt says he tries to display human struggle in an honest, constructive way. Some have called his music “recovery rap,” but Smitt says his music is about more than just recovering from drug abuse. He tries to use the medium of hip-hop to foster consciousness about a variety of social issues – he has songs about the environment and domestic violence, for example.
By June, 2008, Smitt had saved up $2,000 in album sales in order to quit his job and tour recovery centers. Since then, he’s continued to write and produce his own beats. He’s even opened for Ralph Nader.
Smitt released his sixth album, “Meet Me at the Corner,” last March. All told, he’s sold over 1,000 copies of his alums.
Although he’s surviving off the income from his music, Smitt said he couldn’t be doing what he’s doing without the support he receives from friends who give him food and a place to stay when he’s in town.
For performance dates or purchase his records, visit http://www.myspace.com/momosmitt