Every few years the UK scene is refreshed by the return of one it’s greats. Jehst is one of the most respected, influential and consistently brilliant rappers on the circuit, and in his later years he has grown much beyond the traditional hip-hop sensibilities he made his name with. ‘Billy Green Is Dead’ sees the legendary MC explore off-kilter beats and complex themes throughout this release, and Jehst’s penmanship is still as smooth as it was in the late nineties.
The album gets underway with ‘Billy’s Green Theme’; Jehst has developed such a stellar reputation due to his identifiable, incredibly relatable lyricism and sophisticated, ultra-calm delivery, and this opener puts Billy Brimstone’s skill-set in full display. Jehst fully embraces the futuristic, leftfield sound of the experimental on this release. Tracks like the intense, glitchy ‘Kennedy’, which features fellow YNR head Confucius MC, are hugely captivating; both the production and the lyricism shows such depth, and Jehst’s years of experience in making boundary-pushing, mature hip-hop make the quirky sound of this release another effortless achievement.
The synthetic, sparse ‘Household Name’ features Jyager, and the eighties-influenced production with it’s groovy bassline and swelling synths, is a great backdrop for the two lyricists to ask a number of questions to both themselves and the listener. They describe the mundane, celebrity-obsessed culture of our times with cutting detail and witty observations. ’44th Flour’ is a raw, lofi banger, and the muffled drums and distorted synth-lines allow Jehst’s complex writing take centre stage. The single has already had a hugely positive reception online, and deservedly so; the track still stands strong in the context of the album though, and the unashamedly weird sonic-direction of the album is endlessly entertaining.
The jazzy ‘Smoke Screen’, which finds Ennio Lion and Mr. Thing accompanying (alongside an uncredited Rag N Bone Man), is a return to the familiar smoky boom bap that Jehst is so formidable at. There’s a reason he has inspired a generation of British MC’s, and it’s the tasteful execution showcased on this cut that is so important in his reputation being so revered. The intricate, subtle ‘Eulogy’ is a definite highlight from ‘Billy Green Is Dead’; Jehst’s lyrical prowess is on full display as he drops witty punchlines with an impeccable flow and experienced delivery. He’s one of the most consistent MC’s in the game, and he’s as strong in 2017 as when he first burst onto the scene.
Another year, another quality album boxed off from Jehst. The catalogue is increasingly impressive, and ‘Billy Green Is Dead’ finds Jehst sounding more mature, diverse and thought-provoking than ever. The LP is sonically challenging, but it’s well worth the effort to fully appreciate the talent on display here. The loose-narrative is enthralling, but the story told through Jehst’s channeling of Billy Green is one we can relate to, and it’s this characteristic that makes the YNR founder one of the finest lyricists around.
By Sam Bennett