Boy Better Know star JME, is often overshadowed when discussing the upper echelon of Grime. With the average listener’s top MC’s usually including the likes of Skepta, Wiley, Dizzee and D Double E, we’re left questioning why JME doesn’t always make the cut, despite his seriously crucial part in Grime history. The answer to this (we’ve figured), is not his ability when it comes to spraying bars, more so the fact he doesn’t play the obvious music industry game.
By this, we mean that barring some street posters, tweets, interviews and an album promo video on YouTube (which unsurprisingly ends up being invaded by the BBK loyalists), JME remains completely independent within his craft. As his Twitter bio says, “No label, No PR, No publisher, No manager, No PA, No stylist, No Instagram, No meat, No dairy, No egg”, and there never had been. JME’s unique approach to life, and stardom, explains quite simply the choice for the title of his brand new album Integrity>. That little symbol indicates ‘integrity over everything’, by the way.
1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
2. the state of being whole and undivided.
The timing of such an album seems overly relevant considering Grime’s recent slingshot into the global public eye, which has indefinitely been aided by his big brother Skepta. The new found energy and attention paid to our treasured genre has divided hardcore Grime fans as many artists have jumped back onto the hype, thus leaving us to question their integrity. You get it now right?
The BBK legend has kept things simple, if you’re expecting anything different from this album, move the cursor to the top corner and press the red icon. Enlisting usual suspects Rude Kid, Preditah, Deco and himself on production, with BBK, Giggs, D Double E and Big Narstie for features (all of which he has performed/collaborated with in the past), it’s definitely an album for the hardcore Grime fans.
The beats are made up of electronic instrumentals packed with game sounds and drum kits, you’ll be familiar with this if you’ve listened to any Grime extensively in the past. And no, this album is not another Trap-Grime hybrid like some of the tracks currently being presented to us on a mainstream level. The only track that has even a subtle hint of that compromise (which is undoubtedly unintentional) is the adrenaline pumped “No You Ain’t”, and it still bangs. There’s no point wasting too much of your time with a lengthy track by track review, instead, go on iTunes and make this the best £8 you’ve ever spent. Until then, here is a review of my personal highlights from Integrity>.
The “Rude boy, hush” vine has been circulating for a few weeks now, and rightly so, the Mystry produced track kicks off the album. As soon as you press play, a flood of nostalgia rushes through your head as you’re taken back to Culture Clash where it did a madness. “Pulse 8” is JME simply telling us about him, like a warm welcome. From mandem knocking on his door to lick cars, to joining Vegan gangs.
Whilst I patiently awaited the download from iTunes and saw D Double E’s name on the feature of “Again“, the expectation for this song was a lot. And you’ll be far from disappointed. With the catchy chorus, “they got me on the road agaaaiiin” you WILL be singing this one for the next two days, and the next month if JME can loop it for another addictive vine. The pair run through a couple of annoyances, and display via polished flows, why they are two of the best MC’s we have to offer as a country.
“No You Ain’t” is one for the moshpit, punch your boy in the face crew. This track just gives us another reason to buy another festival ticket where JME is booked, like The Great Escape and Outlook. The MC tells us why he’s that guy right now; his health is on point, his relationship is on point, his bars are on point and if you dislike him, don’t act on it or you might risk an old school alphabet beating. “No You Ain’t” also consists of one of my favourite lyrics on the album, “an 8 pound cesarean, now I’m a badmanarean, apologies to all aquariums I roll with some pescatarians, vegans and rastafarians”.
Although JME’s appearances on radio and media platforms are few and far between, the MC sprayed his first verse on “Man Don’t Care” for ‘Keeping It Grimy’ as he conversed with one of those annoying people who, like, talk to you about PPI. The highlight of this song is Giggs, a legend in UK Rap who single handedly shifted the attention away from Grime when he exploded onto the scene with “Talkin’ The Hardest” in 2007. The SN1 member has already featured on Grime previously, with Ghetts and Dizzee Rascal, on both occasions he’s had some of our best 140BPM MC’s on the ropes on their home turf and does it again on “Man Don’t Care”.
Integrity is the concept of the album, illustrated explicitly on the Wiley-featured “Money”. On “Test Me”, JME speaks on some of the benefits of maintaining your integrity, like loyal fans who will tail your car so close, you can make a whiplash claim (watch his album advert) and high fashion collaborations like Skepta and Nasir’s iconic tracksuit.
Whilst JME adopts a very diplomatic ‘each to their own’ mantra in life, there was a cheeky jab at those whose integrity may have gone out the window at some point in their musical careers. Jme ripped this snippet of audio from one of Wiley’s pirate radio sets; “Hold tight the people who leave Grime, and think you’re gonna achieve something. Don’t work, I tried it, way before all of you. Bye”. Whether this is a shot at anyone, or just a point that encapsulates the album concept, it’s an important lesson to learn.
With Grime going global and we thirst for Drake and Kanye West to shell down an 140BPM instrumental, it’s important to cherish some of the things going on back home, and more importantly have been going on for some time, despite fluctuations in support and attention from radio, blogs and award shows. JME’s Integrity> album is out now via Boy better Know, purchase the album here.
Words by Kenny Leavett