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Friday, November 21, 2003

JEHST ANOTHER CHANCE

Some surplus quotes from a good interview I did over a cup of tea in a North London cafe last week with British rapper Jehst. Check the new album 'Falling Down' - UK hip-hop album of the year, just pipping Fallacy (Dizzee doesn't count).... (incidentally, what happened to that bwoy? Release a stunning album in 'Blackmarket Boy' then quit music and disappear up north? Very strange - let's hope he returns to the brood soon.)

OK, so here's Jehst...


On daydreaming:
“A lot of times when people say ‘daydreamer’, it’s like you’re sat there daydreaming and life is passing you by. In that kind of sense, I suppose I’m not. But put it this way – if I had the option to get up in the morning and not do anything apart from just go off into my own head and listen to music and make beats and write rhymes, and when I get tired go back to bed and wake up the next day and do the same thing – yeah, definitely. But, right now, I’m just doing the work side of things and hopefully I’ll get back to daydreaming in a little while, you know.”

On Eminem:
“Five years ago, hip-hop wasn’t household in this country, in terms of everybody’s mum understanding it. Things like Eminem, that’s just allowed Middle England to be able to identify what hip-hop represents to the kids. He’s such a blatant comic-book pop icon of, like, teen angst and fucking social displacement or feeling alienated from society in the sense of all the classic rock ‘n’ roll stars or movie stars. People can look at him and then identify with him.”

On the future of UK hip-hop:
“It’s just about talent now, and people need to invest in business, because the major labels are still not really ready to deal with hip-hop (in this country), they still don’t really know how to market it and stuff. I see a lot of mistakes being made all the time. People gotta invest in their own businesses and put out their own stuff and get management and get your artwork good and all that shit, do T-shirts, all of them things, man. Just be business-minded about things, ‘cos you’ve gotta look at it like you’ve gotta compete with Def Jam rather than the rapper next door, or whatever.”

On Britney:
“I’ll analyse anything I hear – if I hear the new Britney Spears record I’m gonna listen to it and I’ll have an opinion on it, like, I can hear a pop record and not like it but be like ‘that’s a clever pop record’.

On listening:
“I might listen to Kraftwerk and then I might listen to Tenor Saw or Gil Scott-Herron or Bob James. Even within hip-hop, I listen to Cannibal Ox and then I listen to Jay-Z as well. Nowadays people are either into one or the other, but it didn’t really used to be like that. When I was growing up you could listen to Big Daddy Kane rapping about being a ladies’ man, but then listen to Public Enemy rapping about breaking out of prison, or whatever, and you don’t make the distinction. That’s kind of gone now, but it’ll always come back to that at the end of the day.”

On feeling a part of the wider scheme of UK hip-hop:
“I’m like analysing it from that perspective so much it kinda does make me feel separated from it, but in reality, in the wider scheme of things, I probably am more in touch with the scene around the country than most people. I try to keep my ear to the ground and watch what’s going on in like, Manchester, Nottingham, Brighton, Bristol. Wherever things are happening I try to stay on it.”

On the Grind:
“In life you’re constantly like gaining experience to feed off, but it’s having the opportunity to identify the experience, ‘cos if you’re really trapped in the grind of your work and your everyday, you’re just automatic and you get up and you get on with it. It’s only when you have a week off and maybe go on holiday or something and put yourself in a totally different environment that you look on your life from outside and kind of go, ‘Fuckin’ hell!’ ”

On inspiration:
“Even just little punch-lines and references, they come back to you only when you’re really relaxed. Like, I was watching something on telly saying whenever anyone has an original thought you have to be totally relaxed for that part of the brain to function and I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s well true, that’.”

On monotony:
“Like ‘Monotony’ talking about just being stuck in the monotony of everyday life. Everyone’s trapped in that, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. You could be like some big-shot, big money tycoon up in an office and still totally disillusioned with life because you’re just trapped in this meaningless routine. You’re trying to tap into those universal emotions, I suppose – things that anyone can relate to.”

On dreams and madmen:
“It just comes from my own aspirations and stuff. Really, I just wanna be walking on mountain-tops and shit, but I haven’t really got the money to be doing that just yet. The way of life we’re trapped in is just mad. I look at society, I look at the world and look at the news and see what’s going on and try and guess at the next step and it’s just crazy, because it’s only gonna get more and more crazy. It’s like you’ve got a mad person and you’re just predicting loads of weird shit to make them even more mad – but then put them in a straitjacket, so that they can’t hurt anyone. That’s kinda like the world right now; it’s getting more and more psychotic but at the same time more and more straitjacketed, and that can only lead to all kinds of crazy shit happening.”

On falling down:
“I suppose that’s part of the concept of ‘Falling Down’. Like in the film, how he just flips. There’s only so long you can suppress all those little things that just build up, that just get into you – if you suppress it for so long it just takes one thing to make you snap. It’s like all this stuff in the newspaper about Frank Bruno and how everyone’s talking about mental health, ‘has it taken away the stigma?’ and shit like that. It’s like, there’ll always be a stigma attached to that because everyone’s mad. I mean like, everyone’s trapped, anyone can snap at any time. But if we acknowledge that, then we’re gonna start thinking about how to change the pattern of what we’re doing and what’s wrong and that’s not gonna be healthy for the economy. People are gonna start quitting their jobs left right and centre and knocking their houses down!”


On Mike Skinner and Dizzee:
“I definitely relate to what they represent to the rest of society. When The Streets blew up the initial reaction from most like MCs and people within the hip-hop circle was kinda like scratching our heads, like, oh my God, we shoulda just gone in the studio and just talked for like a couple of hours about sitting in the café and eating a char-grilled chicken sandwich and having a cup of tea and could have made ourselves a lot of money instead of trying to write all this clever lyrics and all these crazy flows and stuff. But that’s what makes him accessible, because there’s no barrier, everyone can understand what he’s saying. Some of the things he did on that album are really clever, like the tune where it was like the lager lout and the stoner, that was really clever, you can’t fault it. I’m interested to see where he takes it, because he can’t do another album about just going to the cafe.

“And Dizzee Rascal, as well. It’s good to see he’s getting the attention he’s getting and getting the Mercury Prize and that. But things like the Mercury Prize are a bit of a token. They give it to people to justify the fact that there’s no real money being pumped into that particular genre. Say like Roni Size got it, everyone’s like, ‘Drum & bass is gonna blow up and we’re all gonna be able to eat’. But then it didn’t really change what gets play-listed on Radio 1, it didn’t change who gets what record deals and what amount of money and what kind of advantage. More power to him, and I hope that he can use everything to his advantage and not end up being a casualty of the industry, ‘cos that’s what upsets me, when people are being put up on a pedestal like a mascot. The industry’s fucked up and will turn an artist into a puppet at the drop of a hat, so the artist has to be aware that that can happen with them in order to exploit the music industry rather than letting the music industry exploit them. I just hope Dizzee smashes it with his next album – puts it out on his own label or something like that, ‘cos that’s really what’s gonna allow him to bring the next generation of people through.”

On fame:
“There’s times I think about throwing TVs out of hotel windows to see if I can get in the local newspaper. I think if for my next tour if I do that in every town I can build up that kind of bad-boy image, ykwim. Without having to get shot nine times (laughs).” ///


Thursday, November 20, 2003

SOUNDMURDERER + SK1 'REWIND RECORDS' (REWIND/REPHLEX)
Well, blow me if this isn't every white boy junglist's wet bass fart fantasy - and hasn't everything this year been so very old school; acid, hardcore, jungle - everything moving very fast into the future now, and everyone grasping and clawing at the sonic fabric of past ages, tearing off strips of it as they hurtle into The Panic. This is jungle severed of a link to the present - a bunkered, isolationist sound created in Detroit by two electronica producers (SK1 being Ghostly International's Dabrye aka Tadd Mullinix); its a Terminator-meets-rudebwoy soundclash armagiddeon wasteland (or, should I say, burial ground) that can be best described in terms of violence - clashing, crunching, ripping, tearing, rupturing sound (hence Soundmurderer, also not coincidentally the title of the recent Remarc compliation). It's also an almost totally re-recycled mulch of hand-me-down rhythms and vocal textures - cassette-muddied voices from ancient soundclash recordings, breaks ripped and twisted from jungle in turn ripped and sped and mutated from original funk and hip-hop sources; the hands that actually held the sticks that drummed the drums, making it a chaotic, blood-spattered, time-twisting tapestry of mollested funk turned inside out, touched occasionally by the pair's original chords that seem to hum with despair. It's a fucked up, bruising adventure not without a sense of battle-scarred melancholy. ///

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