MISSOULA — Montana is known for many things — mountains, wildlife, even the TV show Yellowstone — but hip hop music is not one of those things.
A new documentary airing in 2024 will aim to showcase Montana’s hidden hip hop scene and the artists that make it what it is.
Titled “The Last of the Nobodies,” the film tells the story of 23 Montana-based artists creating an album in 10 days.
The “Last of the Nobodies,” or “LOTN” as referred to by the artists involved, was filmed in September at Finley Point on Flathead Lake.
Hip hop musicians from across the state — some as young as 15 years old — came together at the request of Shadow Devereaux and Colter Olmstead, who had a vision for this documentary.
“I woke up one morning at like seven o'clock, and I called Shadow, and I'm like ‘we're gonna make this documentary happen, whatever it takes’,” Olmstead says.
Devereaux and Olmstead met in Bozeman over ten years ago and have been collaborating ever since.
They started Nu Wav Studio in Missoula in 2021, with Olmstead providing video expertise and Devereaux overseeing music production.
When the pair decided to push forward with “LOTN,” they personally invited artists onto the project. All of the individuals called on for the documentary had an existing relationship with Olmstead or Devereaux in some way.
“Him and I just kind of sat down and formulated like a group of artists that we thought deserved the spot, worked hard enough to be there and were talented enough to shed light on like those people,” Devereaux says. “I think after the experience, they were like, ‘yeah, that was, you know, a once-in-a-lifetime thing’.”
The experience spanned a total of 12 days with ten days of production. Staying in Airbnb’s on Flathead Lake, the 23 artists collaborated to create over 60 songs.
“It brought that sense of community to the musicianship because a lot of musicians are creating themselves in their house in an isolated situation,” Joshua Edwards, a musician and engineer on the “LOTN” project, says. “So when you're in a place where there's potentially 23 different people that can add to one song or one sound, it kind of drives the creativity of what's possible.”
Many of the artists experienced a new level of music production and collaboration during "LOTN", but Devereaux says it wasn’t hard to maintain cooperation.
“Everybody left their ego at the door, there was no, you know, there was nobody knocking anybody,” he says. “It was super positive and influential. And it was very cool at the end to walk out of there with all the music that we did, and to be sure that everybody gave like 110%.”
The goal of the documentary is to put Montana somewhere it has never been: on the map of the national hip hop scene.
“We wanted to put this project out to shed light on all of the talent that exists within Montana borders,” Devereaux says. “When you think of Montana you don’t think of hip hop ever. When I think of Montana I think of cowboy hats and country music and bluegrass.”
Devereaux was raised in Montana and started to get into hip hop when he was just 15 years old. Immediately, however, he found it difficult to get far in the industry.
He didn’t find much support or reliable resources during his journey, so now that he has found success, he feels responsible to take other young artists under his wing.
“I feel like the position I'm in, kids look up to me a lot, and they have somebody with the same skin color or from the same tribe they're from and they see that and they want to be that,” he says. “A lot of these kids grow up, you know, in poverty and on the reservation and they don't have family, they don't have parents– they need guidance. And I was in those shoes too. So I like to, you know, play that person. I can give guidance because I can relate to them, and it's very important for those kids to have something to look to.”
While Nu Wav hopes “LOTN” will highlight Montana music, they also want it to help the music scene grow. If more people know about the state’s already present hip hop culture, more and more kids will be able to find resources to help their own careers.
Devereaux hopes to establish himself as a pillar of support for young musicians in Montana.
“I feel like providing this for the young kids and then also giving them a space to do it in and everything they need essentially, is very important to their success,” he says.
While the minds behind “LOTN” expected the project to be important to their artists, they were surprised to find the effect it had on themselves.
“I didn't know I needed that,” Devereaux says. “I knew it would be cool, but it was something that apparently I've been dreaming about, like, as a kid, as soon as I got into hip hop. It's one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. And it was very rewarding to bring all these people together.”
Edwards also got into music as a young teenager. Despite a decade in the profession, he was starting to have doubts about whether music was his true calling.
“I've been a very ambitious person in my music career, and in Montana, there's been a bunch of adversities I think we've all faced as musicians, especially in this genre of music, and it drives you to a certain point, once you do it long enough, to where you begin to question whether this is really the path for you,” he says. “After the project and experiencing that for 10 days… it became very clear to me once again… that this is what I was supposed to be doing. This is purposeful, intent in my life. And I think that was one of the highest rewards was getting that reminder and seeing the reminder on 23 faces around me.”
Although relatively unknown, the hip hop community in Montana is tight-knit, according to Devereaux, and the documentary will show that.
“What I hope people take away from Last of the Nobodies is a sense of camaraderie within our community, the hip hop community, but the community of Montana together as a whole,” he says.” I hope they take away a different opinion on what hip hop is and what this culture is about because it gets stereotyped a lot, and I truly think that it saves lives. I've seen it happen. You know, it helps me. It was my only outlet and I know it's the same for a lot of the kids that are around, and so I hope people can kind of strip back their preconceived thoughts and be open to what we're displaying.”
The entire project, from the Airbnbs to the production costs, was self-funded by a small group of people.
In order to compensate for the money and time put into the project so far, as well as to compensate the artists as they finish the album and premier it in the spring of 2024, the “LOTN” team created a crowdfunding campaign.
“With supporting this project, you'll be helping continue the community of growth with hip hop music and not only hip hop, but music in general in Montana,” Olmstead says. “Going forward with Last of the Nobodies, our goal is to continue to build that resource availability.”
If funding is secured, the project behind “Last of the Nobodies” will become an annual event for Nu Wave and artists across Montana and beyond.
“ ‘Last of the Nobodies’ seemed like this grand idea at first, and now it's done. And we're like, ‘okay, this is step one, what's the next step?’ We want to use it as a stepping stone,” Olmstead says.
Olmstead hopes to release the documentary in the fall of 2024.
More information on the film is on the “LOTN” website.