UK emcee Montener the Menace ended 2022 with the release of a 12-track album called “The Miserable Git Next Door.” Like the albums’ title its contents contain comedy, but the Menace made sure to balance out the project with vivid storytelling and heart wrenching rhymes over neck snapping beats.
The Miserable Git Next Door is produced by Jack Cliff, g-man, Domingo, Mighty Mindless Cartoons, Barry Manalog, Covert Pawns, JL Beats, Red Master, Da Vigilante, and Roccwell. The album features appearances by Skyzoo, A-F-R-O, Verbz, BVA, Sean Peng, Phoenix Da Icefire, Ramson Badbonez, Tesla’s Ghost, Genesis Elijah, Frisco Boogie, Cracker Jon, Mick Swagger, boodah, Cosm, Slippy Skills, Blade, Joe Publik, Skinnyman, Reks, and Guilty Simpson.
Montener the Menace talked to The Real Hip-Hop about the ups and downs of his day job as a teacher, his favorite movies from the 80s and 90s, and his new album, The Miserable Git Next Door
TRHH: Why’d you call the album The Miserable Git Next Door?
Montener the Menace: Do you know what, it’s couple of things. To me it sounded very British in that very British sort of moany humor. I don’t know about in America but do you even use the word git? I don’t even know.
Montener the Menace: It still sort of kept with the “Anyone Home?” sort of theme as well. I was just driving to work one day and then I spotted that house that you see in the cover and I thought, “I like the look of this.” I don’t know why I just like derelict sort of places, and yeah it sort of come about because of that pretty much.
TRHH: For those in America please explain what a “git” is.
Montener the Menace: Someone who’s a bit of a, I was going to say someone who is a bit of a git [laughs]. Someone who’s a bit of a fool, someone who is possibly quite moany, that sort of thing.
TRHH: A miserable person basically?
Montener the Menace: Pretty much, yeah, pretty much.
TRHH: The last time we spoke you said that “Anyone Home?” might be your last album. What made you decide to drop another album?
Montener the Menace: Right, it was a couple of things, one, I was inundated with messages from producers asking me to hear their beats and stuff. There were certain beats that I heard and I thought, “Wow, it would be a shame to waste this.” One of the first ones was when I did a High Noon remix competition and there was one beat in that competition and it was actually the beat for “Tomorrow’s Never Promised.” He sent it for that remix competition and I was secretly happy that Masta Ace didn’t choose that as the winner because I really wanted that beat. I fell in love with it like instantly. It’s like my perfect sort of beat. One, I had all these beats that I guess I was being greedy — I didn’t want them going to anyone else. And then certain beats I hear and I start thinking of storytelling ideas and what I can use those sorts of beats for. As soon as I heard the Miserable Git Next Door beat I started getting the hook in my head already. It just started fitting, so that was one reason, because certain beats sort of turned my head a bit.
The second one was, my previous label, Certain Sounds, I’m very grateful for everything they did and they got my music sold all around the world. I look on like HMV in Japan and it’s been sold there and Walmart in America and stuff like that, but I didn’t have full control rights. So, they cut one of the songs from “Anyone Home” called “Group Therapy” and they said it was down to the distributors, they thought it was a bit risky, and certain timings of things with the release. And then I’ve got this little idea and wondered if it would be fun or possible to maybe start my own small label and just see what happens that I’m in complete control. Whatever if any money gets made it’s all mine. I just thought let me just try another one and I still felt that I could still do better, even though I was very proud of “Anyone Home?” and to me it was night and day with the first album. Still sometimes when I listen to certain songs any on “Anyone Home?” I think I could have rapped better on that or I could have tightened that up. Even though it got very good reviews there were still some people that said “it’s a great album but was it pulled along by the features?” I also wanted to do another album, even though there’s still lots of features, but what you’ll see is that the majority of tracks are just me. The feature tracks are more posse cuts. I love a posse cut anyway, always have loved listening to them. So, I wanted my own sort of merit that yeah, I can do an album without relying on the features as well. So, yeah, those sorts of reasons, to be honest.
TRHH: You feature a lot of American artists as well as artists from Europe. Do you find that it helps you to draw in American fans?
Montener the Menace: I’ve noticed with this album even with the first single “About Love” I had a lot more American listeners and that’s where I think “Anyone Home?” helped, especially High Noon. And that was strategic for me because I knew if I had someone like Masta Ace mixed with Rah Digga and Fatlip as well, I tried to get features at the time where you don’t see them on many tracks. I even reached out to some really obscure people. I remember even reaching out to Bubba Sparxxx and just people like that just because I was thinking, “Wouldn’t people think it’s crazy to hear a Masta Ace with Bubba Sparxxx?” I was trying to pull people together just to get people interested in thinking, “What a weird mix on a song,” and it just happened to be that that that High Noon song did really well. I am quite strategic with the features that I end up using. Very well-respected people like Skyzoo, obviously I worked with Guilty before — I worked well with him.
What was quite nice as well is I’ve been choosing people that British rappers don’t feature. I get messages from people saying, “How did you come about working with blah blah blah ‘cause I’ve never heard him on another British rapper’s song?” So, that’s why I reached out to people like Reks as well, A-F-R-O and it all worked out pretty well. I still speak to Keith Murray from time to time and he sent me the voice note and he was happy to do it. He sent me a few versions of it, as he always does. Keeping in contact with people like that is good. For me it’s not just a feature. I genuinely want them to like the song, be invested in the song, and also help promote the song as well. I love American rap and I love British rap and I think they’re two completely different art forms. I like merging the two, so you’ll often hear like with “The Struggle” for example on “Anyone Home?” and what I tried to do with “Decisions” as well it interchanged, so British-American-British-American, that sort of order just to hear the contrast in accents and flows and that sort of stuff.
TRHH: When you write a song like “Sliding Doors” how much of that is from events you witnessed personally and how long does it take to write a song like that?
Montener the Menace: Yeah, there’s certain songs like that where obviously being a teacher and sort of living in London as well you hear a lot of these sort of horror stories where kids get sucked into that sort of gang life. It’s usually children who are living in an estate, which I think they call it the projects and that sort of stuff in America. Single mums — you know, being a teacher there’s so many children at the school who don’t have the father figure in their life. So, I’m primary school, so when they leave my school they leave at 11. You always hope to hear back from those children in years to come that they’ve done well, but there are children who end up in prison and stuff like that. You sit there and you think it’s easy for children in this area to be sucked into that sort of lifestyle.
There’s something called county lines and that basically means these children are recruited by these gangs at an early age. Once they give them praise and big them up and it’s like that family and then once they’ve got them in they then send them across what’s called county lines to different areas of the country on a train with drugs. It’s something that happens a lot in in Britain and it is called county lines. We get taught a lot about that as teachers, signs to look out for, and that’s where I just got the idea. It’s nothing to do with me personally. I was raised beautifully with good both parents, loving family, my kids as well got a nice house. It’s just something I’ve witness being a teacher and I just thought this story will resonate quite a lot with particularly people in London and stuff. It happens a lot.
I wanted that raw element to it where people actually sit and think, “Wow, this is quite deep and quite sad.” You’ve probably not heard Part 2 because there’s a Part 2 to that song which is only available on the CD. Originally it was one song with two different beats and once he steps off that train and then we find out that he was stabbed to death there’s a lightning effect and then the second part of that continues or starts again from him about to step off that train and then him changing his mind. It tells the story of how his life ended up from staying on the train and I’ve decided that I’d split it up a bit and have it as two separate songs just to keep more of the interest there and hopefully trying to get people to wanna hear that song, therefore buy a CD [laughs]. I prefer storytelling. Anyone can write about how big and tough they are and they’re the best rapper and all this sort of stuff, which was more my old lyrics when I was 18 on the first album.
This one I try and find unique songs that not many people or if anyone has ever rapped about. I don’t know about you as a listener, I love storytelling songs where you can see they’ve really thought about the lyrics and you can almost picture the story in your head, than anyone just talking shit really and talking about women and all that sort of stuff. It takes longer to write, and I really perfect it, and I always go to my brother as well, Boodah, who’s on all three albums. I always get his point of view as well and he’ll then say “You know what, I like this bit. I think you can work on this bit,” and I do. I just try and perfect it and try and get a story told, whether it’s a comedy element or a serious one like that. On my last two albums I’ve tried to have a mixture of humor and then the rawness as well, but then sometimes certain songs take me ages. The movie track took me forever to write. I was losing the will to live with that. Trying to fit in so many films on that particular decade and make them have a story within that, it took me forever. It was driving me nuts getting that finished.
TRHH: “Movie Decade Crusader” is a fun song. What’s your favorite movie from the 80s and also the 90s?
Montener the Menace: If I was to choose my favorite film of all time it would probably be Pulp Fiction. So, that’s 90s, but there’s certain films that I can just watch over and over again like Rocky. I’ve probably seen that more than any film in the world. True Romance, I love that. Anything Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese like Goodfellas. But then you’ve got those nostalgic films like The Goonies, and Back to the Future, and Die Hard and stuff like that. So, those two decades are my favorite film wise.
TRHH: I’m with you on Tarantino and Scorsese but I didn’t love their last films. What was the last one?
Montener the Menace: So, Tarantino was the Hollywood one with Leonardo DiCaprio
TRHH: Yeah. Not good.
Montener the Menace: So, for me it’s his weakest film, but I still enjoyed it.
Montener the Menace: Yeah, I still enjoyed it but yeah, I get what you mean from that.
TRHH: Was the Scorsese film The Irishman?
Montener the Menace: I like The Irishman. Was that his last one? I can’t remember.
TRHH: I think it was his last one, I’m not sure.
Montener the Menace: I really liked the Irishman but there was another weird one where there was like these Christian monks or something that they went on like this pilgrimage and got caught up somewhere. That one I wasn’t as into. That one you have to Google it, I can’t remember the name of it.
TRHH: Okay, so why is Pulp Fiction your favorite?
Montener the Menace: It’s a film where I think the cast are amazing, but I love the way he writes, and I love the conversations that the characters have. Even with like Reservoir Dogs, another one of my favorite films, just that scene at the start when they were in the café or what do you guys call it?
TRHH: Coffee shop.
Montener the Menace: Yeah, just their conversation between each other, it’s just hilarious. With Pulp Fiction I like the back story of it as well with John Travolta. He was sort of going nowhere. He was sort of going down the pan because he’d made a lot of flops and then all of a sudden someone as genius as Tarantino thinks, “You know what? I’m gonna use him as a bad guy. He’s never been that guy before.” I think his relationship with Samuel L. Jackson, Ving Rhames in it as well is brilliant. I just love that film. This is just a film I never get bored of. Have you seen True Romance?
TRHH: I don’t think I’ve ever seen that.
Montener the Menace: Watch it. Tarantino wrote it.
TRHH: Oh! I’m thinking something totally different, yeah, I’ve seen True Romance.
Montener the Menace: Christian Slater and Christopher Walken and that.
TRHH: Yeah, I’ve seen that. I want to go back to Rocky because that interests me. Why Rocky and what do you think of the sequels?
Montener the Menace: I’m a massive boxing fan. Other than football, soccer, it is my main sport. I’ve always loved boxing. Not that I boxed or anything like that, but I just love watching boxing. I think with Rocky and I still I don’t know why, in all of the end fights I still like might have a little tear here or there. I think it’s because of his struggle getting to the top, and no one giving him a chance, and him being the only one that believed in himself.
I also like the fact that Sly Stallone himself financed the film, he wrote it, and then the studio wanted someone else to play the part of Rocky and he said, “No I wrote this part for me.” I’m a massive fan of that film. I can always put that on and I’ll be hooked. My wife hates watching old films and I had been banging on her for years to watch Rocky and just give it a chance. I think we watched all of them like in the space of a couple of weeks. The only one I don’t like is number 5 with the street fight at the end. I don’t like that one.
TRHH: Same here.
Montener the Menace: Rocky I is obviously the best one, but then I love Rocky II, Rocky III with Mr. T and even Hulk Hogan at the start. Number 4 I know had more of a political thing in America didn’t it with Russia and stuff?
Montener the Menace: But then even the Rocky Balboa film was done tastefully and then obviously moved on to Creed as well. I like boxing films like Raging Bull as well, but yeah Rocky’s up there. I think it’s an amazing soundtrack as well. You sort of get into it.
TRHH: On the song “Teachered Artist” you talk about the difficulties of being a teacher. What are some of the positives? What keeps you going?
Montener the Menace: That song was very tongue in cheek. I genuinely really enjoy being a teacher. I teach all subjects and you do in primary school in England, but I’m also head of sport. My family has always been sport mad. I had a sister that played over 60 times for Wales football – soccer. I had another sister that played rugby for Great Britain, so we’ve always been a really sporty family. I get a lot out of doing the coaching and we’re a very successful sporting school as well and we weren’t before I took over. We didn’t win anything and now we sort of are the best school in the area.
The sports side of it I love, but then I like teaching. Teaching children something and it’s that light bulb moment where they’re like, “Actually, I didn’t know that before, but I know that now.” There is a lot of politics within. I don’t agree with certain things but just like being in the classroom, actually teaching, and being allowed to get on with the teaching. I sort of teach like a rap. I use a lot of humor, there’s a lot of jokes, and my style is if they enjoy coming to school they’re gonna want to learn. That’s how I do it.
TRHH: What do you hope to achieve with The Miserable Git Next Door?
Montener the Menace: For me each time it’s to better myself. I do look at reviews and I’m not the best at taking criticism. You know when you put a lot into it, and for me I make music that I’d like to listen to. So, going back to “Anyone Home?” there are certain tracks where I might even skip them if I’ve got it on now. Whereas this one where it’s more of a condensed 12 tracks — 11 actual songs — there’s none I would skip. I think it is just that recognition. I love getting messages from people who I’ve never spoken to and they will just say, “I loved your album. Thank you for blah, blah, blah.” It’s those little messages that make it worthwhile, and that’s what I do to artists as well.
If I hear an album it takes a couple of minutes just to send a congratulations message and you know sometimes they reply, sometimes they don’t. But if I genuinely enjoy something and it’s entertained me, then I will send whoever it is a message and just say, “Congratulations on the album, I loved it. My favorite track was whatever.” I think I just wanna get better each time, whether this is my last one or not, I don’t know. I’m not even gonna say it is because already I’ve been sent some beats and I’m itching already to see how it goes. As long as I can keep coming up with new concepts, with the tracks as well I don’t wanna get boring. Probably this album just people saying, “You carried the album. You could see that you’re a better emcee than you were previously.” And appreciate the writing because there’s a lot that goes into writing some of those concept songs. Even tracks like “Gunslinger” it’s still trying to use the correct terminology and putting in little references to like True Grit and trying to keep that story going.
There’s a lot that goes into it. I just feel like I could write a 16 about anything very quick. You get messages sometimes from people just saying, “I just have a 16, there’s no concept. Just be boastful.” I can write that very quickly, but I don’t enjoy that. I like trying to come up with some sort of story that would interest people, whether it makes them laugh. I had one woman message me three or four days ago about Sliding Doors and she said it made her cry because even though her little brother didn’t go down that route he was starting to hang around with the gangs and it got her thinking that that could have happened. It’s those little touching messages that you’ve impacted someone, it makes it worthwhile, to be honest.