Brit-rapper maintains his cult reputation for introspective, finely-weaved wordplay.
Adam Kennedy 2011
If a career path map to clichéd rapping fame and riches exists, the bets are that nomadic Kent-via-Huddersfield-via-London MC/producer Jehst hasn't studied it. Leaving five years between releases isn't in many industry manuals, certainly, but with this semi-comeback, he maintains a cult reputation for introspective, finely-weaved wordplay.
While many peers let their weed-smoking habits cloud any chance of motivation to leave the underground, Jehst has funnelled his fug into paranoid rain-stained depictions of native lands. He picks up where his last proper discography notch left off, too: there may have been a mixtape and producer set since, but it was 2005 mini-album Nuke Proof Suit, circa 7/7, that best showcased a low-key knack for capturing the mood of a nation.
He's back at it here on standout England. Having arrived as a fresh-mouthed, deep-thinking youngster over a decade ago, there's a sense that the man nicknamed The High Plains Drifter is still to find contentment or belonging, gazing at home territory with exasperation at what stares back. "I've still got love for the place where I'm living," he laments. "But right now there ain't nothing great about Britain." Thinking Crazy taps into recessionary troubles with some success, as well. Admittedly, personal enjoyment may hinge on whether you see a microscopically-detailed fret on money troubles morphing into bank robbery fantasy as lazy solution or metaphor for kicking the financial crash-causing city boys.
Elsewhere, he takes a verbal flamethrower to hip hop itself, sighing at "white boys blacking up" (True Intention), then somehow referencing Neil 'Art Attack' Buchanan before berating candy-coated 'confectionary' rappers on Zombies. A thinly-veiled jab at multiple Brit rhymers who have taken the dance-pop route to chart success? A fair chance.
With no guest rhymers, it's a genuine artist album in the old-school sense. Even if, after such a significant sabbatical between releases, the avalanche of material – 16 tracks in all – is a touch much to absorb in one sitting. Indeed, where Nuke Proof Suit excelled was its laser-guided brevity. For the most part, however, this dragon is spitting real-life fire.