[Written By: Jen Hughes]
The Menagerie is a hip-hop trio from Brighton consisting of rappers Professor Elemental and Dr Syntax, as well as producer Tom Caruana. The group made their debut in 2005 with their album Wild Kingdom, which is also worth a listen. After their second album, they took a long break for their own solo projects and collaborations – until they released Odd Beasts this September.
In their usual fashion, they invite along a variety of featuring artists, including rappers Clev Cleverly and Longusto, vocalist Sabira Jabe, and scratch-partial DJ Nick Maxwell. As well as these talented people, we can also hear a cameo from AI, the Native – better known as the rapping half of the Rizzle Kicks duo.
The album starts with a little introductory ditty, ‘Walking With Canes’, which, unusually, is the album’s only song with a music video to date. A rag-time-hip-hop sound plays underneath Dr Syntax and Professor Elemental, catching up with what they’ve been up to for the past decade. The last line of this song, “Make good art, that’s a hell of a statement” leads on nicely to the next track, “Make Good Art”, which acts as a kind of manifesto to all creative people over a smooth jazz funk track.
Set to a twinkling and unhappy 90s R&B beat, “Rappers Don’t Want To Be Our Friend” is a rap that acts as a confession from Syntax and Elemental of their insecurities and feelings of isolation. However, they do not dwell in self-pity too long, as “She’s Gone” is a frank yet strangely upbeat song about the everyday struggles balancing their relationships with their girlfriends
And that’s not all there is: there’s a groovy dance anthem or two (“Up” and “Mowing Lawn”), instrumentals, political commentary (“The Rain”) and a song questioning the popularity of football in British culture (“Only A Game”). They show a range of human feelings, without seeming overly dramatic or artificial. There is so much range and relatability within the album, that talks to you and includes you.
Considering the reputation of hip-hop, it is refreshing to see rappers who don’t lean into misogyny, take themselves too seriously and can be frank about their eccentricity. They are not deities, but approachable and human, which is an amazing thing to be able to achieve after decades in the ‘rap game’.
So, if you’re looking for something positive and different, you’ll find it in Odd Beasts.
Odd Beasts is available on Spotify and iTunes, as well as their websites:
Professor Elemental: https://www.professorelemental.com/home
Dr Syntax: https://drsyntax.bandcamp.com/
- Walking With Canes
- Make Good Art
- Come On (Featuring Clev Cleverly)
- Rappers Don’t Want to Be Our Friend
- She’s Gone
- One Minute Workout
- Only A Game
- This Much I Know (Featuring Al The Native)
- The Rain (featuring Sabira Jade)
- Do You Like The Rainy Weather?
- All That I Am
- Mowing Lawn (Featuring Clev Cleverly And Longusto)