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JME’s ‘Integrity >’ Is Proof That “Hard Work Pays Off” | Album Review

“Man bobbing their head like Churchill”

Source: Official Album Artwork

Over the last 18 months Grime has really started to make some huge progress. From Meridian Dan’s ‘German Whip’ smashing the charts, BBK destroying the stage at this years Red Bull Culture Clash, Dizzee Rascal and Chip both returning to their roots and, let’s not forget Kanye West having half the scene on stage with him at this years Brit Awards, it’s been an exciting time for the scene.

While most of the scene is buzzing with this growth, there is one MC that has been working so hard he has barely noticed. In fact, he is so confident with what he’s doing he didn’t even bother going to the Kanye West performance as he just really needed some food. JME is hands down the hardest working MC on the grime scene. With no label, no press agent, no publisher, no manager JME is everything rolled into one and has built up such a fanbase he is truly a one-man powerhouse. We are talking about a guy with 318K followers on Twitter who follows no one!

Integrity > is his third full length studio album and in true JME style is self-released, self-promoted and is probably one of the most exciting grime releases to ever reach our ears. Between the release of his last album Blam!, JME has been constantly releasing new tracks enabling him to continually up his game both lyrically and musically. This new album combines a selection of these already released tracks along with 12 new ones that really showcases the absolute peak of his abilities.

As we have come to expect from JME, this new album follows the familiar lyrical themes of working hard to achieve and a fair bit of rubbing it in to the people who have doubted him in the past. However, this manages to avoid coming across as egotistical. No guns, no drugs, no drink, vegan and one of the most successful independent artists in the genre, JME is nothing but inspiring and, despite everything, remains humble and true to his fans even when seemingly boastful. Integrity > as an album name is more than fitting.

Lyrically this album showcases JME at his very best. If there is any one area he really shines, it’s by far his wordplay and this album is full of it. “Good food will turn a fat boy slim”, “Man bobbing their head like Churchill”, “Now they wanna bite me like Charlie”; and these are just from the opening track ‘Pulse 8’. The whole album is full of these clever puns, witticisms and down right clever use of worlds. It’s like listening to a 45 minute Don’t Flop battle delivering punchline after punchline. JME also has an incredible skill when it comes to storytelling and his choice of phrasing and subject matter also makes him incredibly relatable. Even with the constant references to how well he is doing he still managed to seem leveled and not to ahead of himself – “One for the Bassbox Crew, Krispy Kreme, McD’s drive-thru”

With a whole mix of beats on this album ranging from upbeat grime bangers to tracks that almost sound like your playing Outrun on an old Sega Megadrive (‘Test Me’), JME has roped in a whole host of producers including Mystry, Rude Kid, Teeza, Joker, Swifta Beater, Tommy Kruise, Preditah and regular JME producer Deeco. Not just relying on these though, he also proves he can do the job himself. From ‘Amen’s head bobbing riddim to ‘No You Ain’t’s bouncy brass stabs, it’s clear JME can create a beat just as well as he can spit on one. His finest achievement here, both in production and lyricism, comes in the form of closing track ‘Integrity’. This dark and aggressive beat works to really pack a punch as he spits lyrical fire about those who have doubted him in the past. One of the albums highlights by far- “Been doing this for over ten years so anybody that was there from the start that only cares now, fuck you rudeboy”

Other track highlights include the lyrical wit of96 Fuckries’, the motivationalWork“The only day that I don’t put in work is the 30th of February”– and the real-talk of ‘Same Thing‘ – “Real talk, this is business, I don’t just chat, fam, I live this”

That only thing that really comes to mind when trying to look at the bad sides of this release is the addition of the features. While artists like Skepta, Wiley & D Double E add some flavour to tracks such as Amen‘, ‘The Money and Again’, some of the other features feel un-needed and you almost want their verse to finish to hear what JME has to say next. Big Narstie’s addition onBreak You Downfor example, as much as we all love the guy, just seems a bit overbearing and doesn’t compliment the beat as well it it could. Having Narstie on any track is always going to hectic, as we all well know, but it would have been nice to see him adapt more to the style rather than go in all guns blazing. I guess the issue here though is JME has set the bar so high that it’s actually hard for anyone to follow and so the features are almost unnecessary. I don’t think anyone would have complained if the album had contained zero features.

JME preaches how “none of these man can test me” and Integrity > may very well be proof of this. This album is solid evidence that “hard work pays off” and is one of the most honest, real and inspirational releases to drop on the scene in a long time. As a truly independent artist, JME is the positive role model the grime scene has been waiting for and let’s hope this album takes him to even bigger heights because, my god, he deserves it. JME, we applaud you!

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