The world has changed, but JME hasn’t.
The grime innovator’s motive for releasing a physical-only album comes from a good place; he wants his music to be tangible. To that end, it’s been accompanied by a limited edition book of photographs, cinema screenings, and a pop-up pirate radio station on London’s Carnaby Street. His wish is for ‘Grime MC’ to be held dear by the people to whom it means the most. An album made for the culture, for his community.
It also feels like an album borne of a kind of musical Ludditism; a wish to preserve something pure and unique. It’s an extension of grime’s insular credentials – serving the very people who created it, and rejects anyone who tries to shape it into something it’s not.
The same could be said of the music itself; it’s a straight up grime album of exactly the kind the doctor ordered. Rarely straying from 140bpm, its beats come produced by Preditah and JME himself. His bars are as direct as ever, coming in hard and to-the-point. The best example of this is ‘Pricks’, on which JME takes aim at “music industry politics”: “Used to care about views and clicks 'til I stopped listening to all these pricks.” There are exciting moments of real brilliance too. ‘Knock Your Block Off’, ‘Nang’ and the frenetic ‘Dem Man Are Dead’ already have the potential to join the canon of grime staples.
The album’s list of features also reads like a who’s who of grime and UK rap royalty; P Money, Shakka, Giggs, President T, Wiley, Merky Ace and Skepta. It’s testament to JME’s influence that he’s able to pull in such heavy hitters, but also to his talents on the mic that he’s never overshadowed. It’s also yet another reminder of JME’s resistance to change. At a time when others are looking to get the next big thing on a track in order benefit from the association, JME looks to grime’s forefathers instead.
Fifteen tracks in, we get ‘Change,’ a fascinating microcosm of the album as a whole. It opens with a hook, laying out the “simple fear of the unknown.” Verse one sees him ruminate on artists’ initial rejection of the term ‘grime,’ before embracing it and making it their own. He then dedicates the rest of verse to his love of UK drill: ‘Yeah man has to rep that still / Push that genre to the top of the bill.”
It’s an interesting contradiction; the whole album is a deliberate rejection of change, and yet JME encourages us to embrace it, before arriving at what could be described as the album’s central thesis: “History repeats itself / It will change again like it all changed before / Music is the reason I make music / I am the person that I make it for.”
It appears JME has gone full circle. Having been there from the start, he continues to make the music he makes because it’s the music he loves. Take it or leave it.
Words: Lewis Lister
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