Tottenham Native and Boy Better Know CEO Jme has always been the least conventional of grime’s mainstream stars; he’s never signed to a major label, is a vegan and has spent the last year completely absent from social media.
That last one means that it was actually his big brother Skepta who announced Jme’s latest album ‘Grime MC’, due for a vinyl-only release on November 29th.
With over four years between his last project and this one, it’s easy to forget exactly why he’s hailed as one of the best MCs in grime history. With that in mind, we’ve explored his full run of studio albums, from ‘Famous?’ through to ‘Integrity>’...
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Despite releasing songs for years beforehand, Jme’s debut studio album only came out in 2008, and is a mix of material written for the album and fan favourites. This lends it a disjointed air, but also means there’s nearly six years of stone cold classics collated on one 45 minute project.
From opener ‘AWOH’ through to ‘Roadrunner’ midway through the album, there isn’t a single misstep, with a special mention needed for the dextrous lyricism of ‘123’, which starts every line with 1, 2 or 3.
‘Ghetto Superstar’ and ‘Famous’ slow down the pace and suffer for it as a result, coming across as lethargic rather than heartfelt. Follow-up ‘Power’ is an enjoyable, if throwaway track in which Jme gains the power to clone objects, introduced by Tim Westwood referring to Superman as a "pantyhose-wearing B*tch".
Closing track ‘Serious’ is the strongest on the whole album, and was also Jme’s breakout hit, leading to major label attention, which as he’s still reminding us to this day, he had no interest in whatsoever.
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Coming at a time when most major MCs had abandoned the genre to chase chart success, ‘Blam!’ can be commended for sticking to what Jme did best – pure grime.
Unfortunately the quality of grime on display varies wildly, from tracks that hold up with the best in the genre all the way through to mediocre songs which you’re likely to forget as soon as you’ve heard them.
‘JME’ is an early highlight, with an infectious chorus and lyrics which dextrously chart Jme’s life up to now, from his education (he “went Welbourne, went St. Paul’s, went Winchmore then went Greenwich”) right through to his business sense. Follow-up ‘CD is Dead’ is equally strong, with a boisterous guest spot from Tempa T gelling perfectly with Jme’s scattergun flow.
The backend of the album is where things start to tail off, with a real sense that Jme has run out of steam. Tracks like ‘I Love Music’ and ‘I’m The Best’ are solid and inoffensive, but struggle to be any more than that.
One song which didn’t draw attention on release is closing instrumental ‘Mario’s Flag’, but for anyone interested in the history of the genre, it’s a good example of the kind of tracks Jme was playing around with before he decided to first get on the mic.
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Five years is a long time between albums, but with ‘Integrity>’, Jme proved he was still at the top of his game. Far outstripping his previous two projects, it barely hits a bad note across its entire tracklist.
Opener ‘Pulse 8’ flips an early grime instrumental to serve as the backdrop to lyrics about how far Jme has come since childhood. Fan favourite ’96 F**kries’ swiftly follows, a track that was a few years old by the time it was put on the album, but still sounds as hard now as it did on release (especially when you consider the whole track was recorded in one take).
Whilst Jme more than holds his own when flying solo, it’s the collaborative tracks that really shine. ‘Man Don’t Care’, featuring Giggs, is the obvious example, proving to be the album’s biggest single and one of the biggest tracks in grime, period.
Cuts with Big Narstie (‘Break You Down’), D Double E (‘Again’) and the rest of BBK (‘Amen’) are also highlights, the seamless interplay between MCs sounding effortless. Lyrically, the album is incredibly diverse. Themes hop between the best ways to earn money, road safety, dance etiquette and a plea for people to stop @ing him on Twitter, as well as more standard grime fare.
More important than the range, though, is the technical skill that Jme employs on every track – there are no mediocre moments, or misjudged attempts to sing, and it’s one of the rare grime albums that’s worthy of listening to in full every single time.
A special shout out is also required for the Wiley guest spot on ‘Test Me’, in which the instrumental fades out and he says: “Hold tight the people who leave grime and think you’re gonna achieve something, it don’t work, I tried it way before all of you, bye.”
Truer words were never spoken.
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Jme will release new album 'Grime MC' on November 29th.
Words: Jake Hawkes
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