Jehst Hits Bristol’s Marble Factory Tonight
Few artists can be as ubiquitous with their respective genres as is Jehst, who plays the Marble Factory in Bristol this Thursday, with the UK hip hop scene. Following the release of his eagerly anticipated album Billy Green is Dead earlier this year, Jehst is touring the country, having already satisfied crowds in some of the nation’s largest cities.
The Sussex-born but Huddersfield-raised rapper has remained in the capital since arriving in London to complete a degree in social anthropology and law at the LSE. After dropping out to focus on starting his own record label, YNR Productions was born in 1999, with a host of UK talent, including Four Owls front man Verb T and supreme beat maker Chemo. Jehst came to prominence as a solo artist with a verse on the Task Force hit ‘Cosmic Gypsies’ (well worth rediscovering) and continued to feature on their records until his break out and full length EP Return of the Drifter was released in 2002. Featuring a host of genre defining classics, including ‘High Plains Anthem, ‘Bluebells’ and ‘Alcoholic Author’, it was not long before his first album proper, Falling Down, was released in 2003.
Though Jehst would release another full-length album, Nuke Proof Suit, two years later, this was to be followed by a six year hiatus. Seemingly out of the blue, 2011 brought The Dragon of an Ordinary Family. The album showcased his now trademark artistic range, with the light-hearted abstraction and wordplay of lead track ‘Starting Over’ giving way to the desolation and gloom of ‘England’. Whilst fans pined for more music, the enigma returned to the shadows for half a decade, popping up in 2016 with a feature on Loyle Carner’s critically acclaimed debut Yesterdays Gone, an appearance that has hopefully introduced the remarkable talent to a new generation of listeners.
The new album maintains the six-year gap between records, a phenomenon the rapper and producer insists is down to the organizational difficulties of assembling an album, via email rather than together in the studio, in the modern age. Aided by opening and closing tracks with names resembling the title, the album has a strong theme and a sense of continuity, despite the variation between tracks. The rappers own laid back style and creative lyricism across an assortment of beats and intriguing features ensures the work hang together effectively. The line between crippling, self-deprecating honesty and supreme characterization is blurred; whether Billy Green is real, or in fact the man himself remains a mystery throughout, but the balance between grit and humor that characterizes Jehst’s work is omnipresent. Though the tongue in cheek ‘44th floor’ comes in at a close second, the stand out track is ‘Smoke Screen’, a melancholy story tracing love, insecurity and deception, marrying Jehst’s distinctive style and wordplay with stirring production.
No stranger to Bristol, Jehst recorded a song and video for ‘Connect the Spdif’ with local legend Buggsy for the latter’s 2011 effort The Great Escape. Moreover, we were lucky enough to see Jehst perform in the city two years ago, at a bizarrely intimate show considering its setting (room 2 of club Lakota on a night of garage, grime and dubstep). Separated from the crowd only by a barrier, performing at floor level, he simply passed his mic along the hip hop purists in the front row to spit the bars for his show stopping finale ‘High Plains Anthem’. Despite almost bursting a blood vessel during my turn, it remains one of my all-time favorite moments at a gig.
Expect big things.