Few people had heard of Dylan Montayne before he posted his YouTube video, “Uber driver raps for car full of babes,” on May 24, 2016. The video, which captured Montayne rapping for his Uber passengers, quickly went viral once blogs shared it, and it has since garnered attention from celebrities like Lil Wayne, Ashton Kutcher and George Takei, who, along with Young Money Records, praised Montayne's skills and chutzpah.
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Montayne was born Dylan Montayne Walter, named after Bob Dylan by his mother, a fan of the influential folksinger. Growing up in Santa Fe, Montayne was exposed to hip-hop at a young age by his older siblings. He started playing drums at the age of five, and by the time he got to high school, he was rapping in the back of the school bus, at parties and while hanging out with friends. When the rapper went to college at Notre Dame, eventually finishing a degree in finance, he made friends with a fellow student who had a kind of home recording studio in his dorm. That opened a new world for Montayne in terms of actually producing the music he was creating.
Right before the end of college, when his peers were getting jobs and moving on with their lives, Montayne was contacted by a producer in Denver who encouraged him to pursue his music, which he had planned on in either case, and move to Denver. While Montayne's relationship with that producer ended shortly after he moved to Denver, the Mile High City was a mere five hours' drive from his home town, and it felt like a good fit.
Montayne found Denver's music scene to be welcoming and supportive, something he'd been looking for but had not found in Santa Fe or Indiana. He fell in with a band called Aspen Hourglass and played some shows with the outfit before breaking out on his own. After playing the Aggie and the Fox with Aspen Hourglass, Montayne had his first Denver show as a solo artist at the Bluebird Theater in January 2015; he played a short set as part of an artist showcase. A year later, he and a band perform not just hip-hop, but also reggae-influenced music and rock songs that were part of Montayne's repertoire.
As a fledgling musician, Montayne worked for an IT company for a bit before musical opportunities took up more time. He then worked as a bartender to give himself more flexibility, but that interfered with his intended career trajectory and opportunities to perform music. So in January 2016, Montayne signed on with Uber and Lyft because he could work pretty much according his own schedule. That job also afforded him the chance to connect with people in a way that neither of his other jobs really had. However, until he filmed the popular video, Montayne had never directly combined his hustles by rapping for passengers — and he hasn't since.
“I did use Uber as a networking tool,” admits Montayne. “I talked to people about my music and gave them my business card. If they asked, I'd play it for them. Driving hundreds of people a week, and most of the time they would ask me what else I did other than Uber. I had sat on the idea for a long time to rap for passengers and filming it, but I was just waiting for the right group. When these six girls came out, I was like, this might be a good group to rap to if they're down for it. For the first half of the ride, they just talked amongst themselves, and I wasn't going to force it upon them. Then they started asking me questions about myself and what I did other than Uber. I told them I was a rapper and so forth, and they were like, 'Rap for us! Rap for us!' I said okay as long as they were okay with me filming it with my phone.”
“I had the phone on my phone mount and did it,” continues Montayne. “It really worked out, because the girls were super-excited about it and a really good audience for it. That's half the reason the video is interesting. The girls are good-looking and excited about what I'm doing, so it was like the perfect storm of elements. I didn't even want to put it out and sat on it for about a week, and I didn't have any of the girls' names to ask their permission to put it online. I showed a few friends who told me I had to put it out. So I put it on YouTube and sent it out around to a couple of blogs, and it exploded way quicker than I thought it would. The girls in the video eventually saw it and reached out and said they were so excited and totally okay with it. Once certain blogs picked up on it, it got really big really fast, and then celebrities started sharing it on social media, and that's when it got crazy.”
Lil' Wayne Sharing Uber Rapper video on Facebook
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Montayne sees the video as a jumping-off point for growing his audience. “The good thing about it, and the whole point, is I never thought it would go viral, and it has 750,000 views and growing and it's drawing attention to my other music," he says. "The plays on my other music have gone up. I've been contacted by industry people, too. I never expected it to be the thing to give me the boost I needed. In this day and age, there's so much content around that it's hard to contact with fans because everyone is making music and putting it out there. I think the video gave people something to connect to, because everyone relates to Uber.”
Montayne plans to ride this wave of attention wherever it takes him, and hopes to steer listeners to his new work. He continues to release music and was declared a New Artist to Watch by 303 Magazine in January 2016 — before the video was posted. You can find his music at dylanmontayne.com and his videos at youtube.com/DMontayneMusic. With a 2015 EP, Charade, under his belt, expect a full-length from Montayne soon.