Harlem It Girl Journey Montana Is Ready To Disrupt The R&B Scene

G.U. chats with the R&B Starlet at SoundCloud’s Women @ SoundCloud event with The Laq Lab.

It’s safe to say Gen Z is taking over the entertainment space. Every day, there’s a new actress on the watch or a musician to have on the radar, utilizing social media to set themselves apart from the masses. 20-year-old Journey Montana, or Harlem’s It Girl, is disrupting the R&B scene one song at a time.

Wednesday evening, SoundCloud teamed up the Brooklyn nail studio The Laq Lab to pamper the diversity resource group, Women @ SoundCloud, and featuring Montana as an artist on the rise. GU got to chat with the R&B starlet over mimosas while getting a fresh set of gel x nails.

The story behind her success is owed to Montana’s three older sisters, who introduced her to music and historical Black music at an early age. She reminisces about being in middle school, listening to new-age R&B artists like The Weeknd and PartyNextDoor and alternative singer Lana Del Ray on the family computer. Being Gen Z, the SoundCloud era was in full effect, serving as the prominent platform for Montana to explore genres and experimental sounds.

“My journey started with my sisters,” Journey tells GU. “A lot of their tastes made a significant impact on my music. Listening to SZA and H.E.R. before she was H.E.R. introduced me to alternative sounds, but since then, I’ve enjoy more of the classics like Beyoncé and Etta James.”

While Journey is working on the main stages, you’ve probably recognized her from her recurring role on The CW series All American. Since starting her career in entertainment, she’s done a few voiceovers before her first official gig as Jenn during the series’ fourth season in 2021. Becoming a bona-fide actress is still an active goal for the rising star, as she hopes to land more roles in movies and get the chance to work alongside Zoe Kravitz and Zendaya.

“I’ve been acting since I was a little girl kind of the same as my music, but with acting, it’s in the background until it’s not. I’ve been auditioning and feel like I want to get more into movies than television in the future. It’s something that I pursue on the side that a lot of people don’t know.”

Journey Montana dove headfirst into the music industry, releasing her first project, In & Out, in 2021, which featured seven breakout tracks followed by a set of singles in 2022, including “Used To It,” “Bad Decisions,” and “Rich Girl.” The Journey Montana sound is described as Alternative R&B as the singer experimenting with hints of rock and creating a crossover of genres to evoke emotion in every song she cultivates. She’s also been heavily involved in the production, taking a few pages out of Beyoncé and Chloe Bailey’s book. In 2023, her latest project, Star Girl, cemented her as an artist on the rise. After living through a chaotic yet lonely period, she wanted to place those feelings of feeling bright and overwhelmed into her music. She mentions songs like “Let It Go,” written from a place of vulnerability, and the project track “Star Girl” serves as a gritty tell-all of who the real Journey Montana is.

“Star Girl ” really represented my 19th year,” Montana explains. “That was when my music shifted significantly, and things got fast-paced. I was in the clubs, and I was out every night. I was outside, and it got chaotic and a bit overwhelming, and sometimes, I was lonely. I felt like a star because although you shine and everybody can see you, you’re alone and feel far away.”

With an influx of sounds and artists shaping the music industry, the ongoing discourse regarding the state of R&B affects each artist differently. Montana’s stance on the particular topic is that R&B isn’t dead but that listeners must be open-minded to this shift within the space.

“R&B was never dead,” Montana insists. “If people feel that way, it’s more so a reflection on them, on society and where people are at. With music right now, everyday people are the curators, there are no more gatekeepers. You don’t need a label to have a hit record, it’s up to the people now. Whatever is number one is a literal reflection of where the consumers are and what we like. There’s so much music out that it’s literally impossible for there to not be good R&B. For people to say that they’re not looking.”

As we await what’s in store for 2024, we can expect Journey to continue disrupting her rooms of opportunity. She hints that she’s been traveling to Los Angeles working with major producers and artists who will help cultivate her new sound and upcoming projects sonically and aesthetically, but she always remembers who her music is for—herself.

“I genuinely use my music to express my feelings, talk about things, and just let my feelings out. I appreciate it when people understand, or give me critiques on how I should be or should sound, but I’m just being authentic to myself and my fans,” says Montana.

Photography credit: Carmel Berhanu

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