Quite an anomaly this Montener the Menace; little to no social media presence and an album released in 2020 that was recorded twelve years ago! You heard right. Then again, there’s a lot about Montener and the album I Have a Hidden Hobby that gives pause for questioning. Is this all a persona? Is it all one big joke? The “Intro” had me in stitches and truly sets the tone for one of the weirdest rap albums I have ever experienced.
Rap from England hits a little different from what we’re accustomed to here in North America, and I’ve always been more appreciative of its charm and qualities than probably most people this side of the Atlantic. While American rap is often visceral, aggressive and lyricentric (is that a word? I’m using it) the Brits employ an interplay of wit, humour and a more balanced approach to melody and lyrics.
Montener drops in with “It’s over Now,” taking the opening verse and setting the bar really fucking high, “Ya I’m on time but the rhymes I assign are designed to combine with the back of your spine and sever each nerve as I spit each line and cleverly observe as you soul becomes mine.” First there was Lord Byron and then came Montener the Menace. That’s some real poetic flow. The track is full of features with verses from Blaq Poet, DJ Ike and Punchline each adding some flavour to the jam; what resonates through the entire album is that Montener chooses his crew wisely.
Time for jokes. The title track has Montener confessing that he has a hobby that involves murdering people he sees in the park. Recording a song confessing that you murder people and rapping about how methodical and cautious you are about it is so skull crushingly meta that I’m tempted to throw a ten on this album for that point alone. Oh Montener, you’re such a menace! The melody is malicious and Montener’s inflection brings to mind Roots Manuva or The Herbaliser. Those comps go doubly for “Agents of Rap,” which introduces chilled-out trip-hop vibes and throwback 90’s lyrical approach. The track is full of paranoia and conspiracy theories unveiling the truth about how the government is trying to eradicate hip hop. As always with Montener, you wonder how much is serious and how much he’s just messing around with us; either way, the track is fucking lit, with features from Inja, UnLearn the World and Wordsworth.
Sixteen tracks and just under an hour-long, absolutely packed with analogies and wit, huge crew, I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of I Have a Hidden Hobby. Hopefully, I’ve piqued your interest as I implore you to dig this one to its core.
Written by Lee Ferguson
*Edited by Dominic Abate