In 2020 British emcee Montener the Menace released his debut album “I Have a Hidden Hobby.” One year later the full-time teacher and part time emcee would release his sophomore album titled, “Anyone Home?”. The Menace’s second album is sharper and more mature than the first, while maintaining his trademark sense of humor.
“Anyone Home?” is a 14-track album produced by Domingo, JL Beats, Lax the Monk, Keynotez, Jack Cliff, Wounded Buffalo Beats, Hank Venture, Plastic the Funky Mulatto, and Roccwell. The album features appearances by Masta Ace, Rah Digga, Wordsworth, Fatlip, Dixie Daye, Micall Parknsun, El Da Sensei, Guilty Simpson, A.G., Boodah, Cracker Jon, Jay Purpose, The Strange Neighbour, Edo. G, Craig G and. Keith Murray.
The Real Hip-Hop talked to Montener the Menace about his new album, “Anyone Home?”, what it was like working with legendary American rap artists, and why his latest album might be his last.
TRHH: Why did you title the new album “Anyone Home?”
Montener the Menace: Basically, it was originally going to be called “It’s Always Sunny in Croydon.” Croydon is where I’ve obviously lived all my life. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it, but it’s actually a five-minute drive from where Slick Rick was born in Mitcham. The reason why I did “Anyone Home?” in the end was because I went down the theme of taking loads of photos of derelict run-down buildings. I thought it was sort of an ironic way of calling the album. I’m in some old sheds and I had to jump over a fence to go and get the picture. Plus, everyone was at home at that time because it was during lock-down. I thought it was quite a nice, ironic title.
TRHH: How does this album compare to your first album, I Have a Hidden Hobby?
Montener the Menace: A lot better. A lot, lot better. The story behind I Have a Hidden Hobby is that was recorded in 2008. It was when I was still starting out being a rapper. I had some songs ready to go. I had a song with Blaq Poet who used the song on his own album as well. I had Copywrite on there as well. I had the album ready to go, but I was training to be a primary school teacher. I don’t know what you call primary school. Is it elementary?
Montener the Menace: Ten and eleven-year-olds. I thought there was some really risky songs on the album and it would have messed up with my teaching career, so I just shelved it. It just sat there collecting dust. Some of the songs weren’t even fully finished. I did the verses in one go. I had twenty minutes at the end of the studio time and did that sort of stuff. It was during lock-down and I saw all these people dying. I thought, “You know what? I’ve got all these songs here that I’ve spent all this money on studio time and writing the songs, so let me speak to Google.” I had to e-mail Google to remove any old pictures of my face. I got them to remove those pictures first, which took a little while. So, I thought, let me just release it. I know there are certain songs that my verse could be tighter and I could’ve been a better writer, but I was young then. I released it just because then I’ve got it off my chest. It did a lot better than I thought it would. I started getting a lot of messages. I got a hundred CD’s made expecting to sell maybe three or four and I sold out of all the CD’s in three weeks. The reviews were generally very positive apart from one. It was from UndergroundHipHopBlog. This bloke called Kevin and he absolutely slated me!
He went to town on me and I found it quite funny. I know I’m not amazing in some of these songs, but I know it still had a fairly decent amount of good songs. It’s still 8 or 9 really solid songs. He just went to town on me and that’s why I thought, “You know what? I’m a completely different person.” Back then I was a bit immature. I was still living at home with my parents. Whereas now I’m married with three kids, I’m a homeowner, and I’m the longest serving teacher at my school. So, I thought I’d have a go at writing some mature, even though there are some elements of my humor in there, a more mature version just to see how I did. I’m proud of this new one and I think it’s a lot, lot better. Whereas on the first album it was more braggish and battle lyrics, whereas nearly every single song on “Anyone Home?” has a concept. I really worked hard on my writing for this one. I think the beat selection is much, much, much better.
TRHH: You mentioned Kevin and you have a song called “We Need to Talk About Kevin” on the new album. Do you know if he’s heard the song?
Montener the Menace: Once he slated me I found him on Instagram and I messaged him. I don’t hold grudges anyway. I don’t mind constructive criticism, but he just went at me. I messaged him jokingly saying, “You just killed me with that review LOL.” And he just started speaking to me. I don’t think he got my British humor. I know the Brits are quite sarcastic and it clearly went over his head, a lot of it. When I actually started to explain to him about how the album was recorded so long ago, we started chatting from here or there. I had this amazing idea to write a song about him and that whole situation and make it very tongue-in-cheek. I thought it was quite a good concept. That’s the reason why it’s the second song on the album. It sort of bridges the gap between the last one and the new one.
TRHH: Do you know if he’s heard We Need to Talk About Kevin?
Montener the Menace: He’s heard it.
TRHH: What did he say [laughs]?
Montener the Menace: [Laughs] He was quite embarrassed. He said he loved the song and was actually honored that someone would write a song about him. He never wrote another review after that. He said one of the reasons that he was so critical was that he’d fallen out of love with reviewing and he obviously took it out on me. He never wrote another review after that, which is annoying because I wanted him to write a review to this one just to compare. He was fine about it. He was honest and said he would give this album a solid 8 or 9 out of 10 if he was doing it again.
TRHH: On the song “High Noon” you say “Been too long since we’ve had a new Symphony.” Was it your intention to pay homage to The Symphony with Masta Ace, Rah Digga, Wordsworth, and Fatlip on the same song?
Montener the Menace: Yeah. So, the producer of the track, Wounded Buffalo Beats, is actually someone who messaged me after he heard “I Have a Hidden Hobby.” He just said, “This album is amazing. I love it.” We just started chatting like that. He said, “Who would be the dream person you could work with?” and I said, “Honestly, someone I’ve loved who has been in my top three forever and is the most consistent and never has a bad verse is Masta Ace.” That’s where the idea popped in. He features quite a lot here and there, but I wanted to make a song with a concept that was really fun and have a nice animated video for it. I’m a big fan of his and obviously know about “The Symphony” and all of that. There hadn’t really been anything like that since.
So, I wanted elements of the album to be quite nostalgic as well, such as with songs like “Take it Back.” I thought it would be quite a cool way to come full circle from The Symphony. I actually did approach Craig G, who is on the album, about being on there as well, but he couldn’t commit to the time-frame. That’s how it started. I love westerns. I’m a big film buff and I thought it was quite cool to write about being a gunslinger. I always had the idea of someone right at the end being the sheriff tracking the outlaws down. It just went like that, to be honest. I thought it was a nice bar to put in to pay my respects to some of the greats.
TRHH: Who had the best verse on The Symphony?
Montener the Menace: Probably Big Daddy Kane for me. It’s one of the iconic beats. Originally during my part, I wanted to switch the beat and have the piano part but the producer just couldn’t get it to work. It didn’t sound right and the producer couldn’t mix it in well enough. Once Masta Ace was involved I actually messaged quite a lot of rappers to see who would want to be on it. Loads got back to me, I won’t mention their names, but it was a lot. Just because Masta Ace was on it. Rah Digga I wanted because I wanted a female on it and I never rapped with a female before. She’s up there and she doesn’t feature a lot either. A lot of my features, I try to get quite obscure ones where you don’t hear them left, right, and center. Some rappers feature all over the place. I wanted to get some quite cool features. There were actually two well-known rappers that sent me a verse for that song and I had to cut their verses because they didn’t stick to the concept as well as the other verses. I had to make a real tough decision. There were a couple of big-name rappers that I had to cut from the song.
TRHH: It came out right.
Montener the Menace: I’m happy with it. It’s a lot of fun and the video complements it well as well.
TRHH: You mentioned “Take it Back” and on that song you talk about your love for Hip-Hop, but who were some of the emcees that inspired your style?
Montener the Menace: You know what, style wise, I like people that are unique. Voice wise, I don’t think my voice is particularly standout-ish. It’s not like it’s Rockness Monsta or Chali 2na where you instantly know who it is. I try to go more of a comedy route. I use comedy to have an effect on the listener. If they leave the song laughing or find a bar particularly funny I’ve done my job there. The closest to it, not style, but I like the originality, was the first time I heard Eminem. I’m talking about the original Eminem. At that time, he was completely different to everyone else. He used that comedy route as well, and there weren’t really many out there doing it like that. I wouldn’t say style wise, but I like the way he got the audience laughing and falling in love with the storytelling. I’m talking about the older Eminem, not the latest Eminem.
Style wise, I try to stick to my British accent as well. There is nothing worse than hearing an English rapper rap with an American accent, in my opinion. I’m proud to be English. Even though it’s heavily featured with U.S. artists, I definitely feel I’ve got my English part of it as well, even with Keith Murray. That’s why I put on the whole thing, it’s a true story. I spoke to him on the phone. The first time we were on the phone for about an hour and he spent the whole conversation just taking the piss out of my accent. He put his daughter on the phone so she could laugh at how I spoke. He put his other daughter on the phone and she was trying to do a British accent to me. I was trying to have this serious conversation about the song and he spent the whole time laughing at me. So, that’s why I have that where he says, “It’s bloody marvelous, mate!”
TRHH: I don’t get why that’s funny, but it sounds like something Keith Murray would do [laughs].
Montener the Menace: It was funny for the first five minutes. Forty-five minutes in I’m still like, “Ha ha ha, I get the joke. I’ve got a British accent.” He just kept going with it for ages. I thought, “When is this going to end?”
TRHH: I’m sure he’s toured Europe before and been to England.
Montener the Menace: He has. For whatever reason he just thought it was funny. For me it was just weird being able to chat on the phone to him. He called me out of the blue on WhatsApp. He just called and I was like, “bloody hell.” You know when you’re nervous? I was sitting next to my wife and I said, “He’s calling me. What am I going to do here?” I composed myself and we just started chatting. We spoke a few times here and there and he loved the song as well. He didn’t stick to the concept, at all. It came out fine and he sort of he did his own thing on it. It is what it is. It’s Keith Murray.
TRHH: How did you wind up working with Certain Sound Records?
Montener the Menace: Obviously the first album, I just self-released that. I didn’t expect it to really do anything. It was more me getting it off my chest. What I did this time, I learned from all the mistakes from the previous album. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass doing everything yourself. Although it was unusual, I finished the album first before I even contacted any labels. I already had the three music videos done as well. I knew which singles I wanted. Haus Riot Studios did an animated video for, “I Have a Hidden Hobby” on the first album. I used them again because obviously I can’t show my face. You’ll even notice in the videos I’m hiding my face. He did the two videos for “Take it Back” and “High Noon” and they were all done and the album was ready to go.
I sent it off to about 9 or 10 labels. Four of them made me an offer. I did it just in case. If no one was going to come back I would have just self-released it anyway. One of them was quite a big label, Soulspazm. They wanted to sign me at a 50/50 split, but one of my big things was I wanted vinyls made and it to be sold worldwide instead of just sticking to England. They had a meeting with Fat Beats, because their physical side is all Fat Beats, and in that meeting even though Soulspazm wanted to sign me, Fat Beats didn’t feel I was a big enough name for them to spend money on making CD’s and vinyls. Soulspazm came back and said, “We still want to sign you digitally, but we also want it to be a multiple album contract, so, 3 or 4 projects a year.” I said to them, “I can’t do that. In my head this is my last album.” This is my final hurrah. I wanted to make an album I could be completely happy with. So, that one didn’t work out and there was another couple of smaller labels that made similar offers.
With Certain Sound, I liked the fact that they were a very, very small label. It was like we’re starting in this together. They had a couple of previous releases, but they showed a massive passion for the album. As soon as they heard it they absolutely loved it. They were straight down the line with me. There was one song that I really liked on the album that ended up being cut because they said it was too risky. It’s called “Group Therapy” and I ended up releasing it myself anyway. There were always straight down the line. Everything was a 50/50 split, they paid for all the vinyl and CD’s, they sorted out the distributor, and they pulled it off because it’s being sold in HMV in Japan, and Best Buy in the U.S., and places like that. That’s why I went with them. You know when you can tell someone genuinely loves the album? There was one other quite decent size label in America and they wanted to cut the album down to 8 songs. They said 14 tracks, 15 at the time, was too long. They wanted 8 songs and I said, “Nah.” I’m making this more for me anyway, so, I’m not going to start cutting songs left, right, and center.
TRHH: On the song “Imperfections” you speak about depression and a suicide attempt. Is this a true story?
Montener the Menace: No. It’s not me. I know of people who have committed suicide. I don’t think it’s spoken about enough, specifically amongst men. I just wanted to make a song where it told a few different stories of depressed people and how they go down that route of committing suicide. It wasn’t about me personally, but it was to bring it to light.
TRHH: Why is “Anyone Home?” your last album?
Montener the Menace: I’ll never say never, but it was a passion project for me. With the first one, there were certain elements that I wasn’t happy with. There are certain songs that I hear now and I cringe, where I’m rapping off beat and that sort of stuff. I can’t be too hard on myself, it was 13 years ago. I wanted to make something that I was completely happy with. I really thought about the beats. I got sent so many different beats. Being a teacher and having three kids, I’ve got a 4-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 1-year-old, my time is very limited. I will never say “never” because I’ve got ideas for other songs already that I want to do if I do another one. I’ll wait and see how this one does. But if I was to do another one I might take my time with it and do an odd song here or there and space it out. We’ll see, we’ll see.
Purchase: Montener the Menace – Anyone Home?