JME Integrity> Boy Better Know
‘No label, no PR, no publisher…’ so goes JME’s Twitter bio, ‘no meat, no dairy no egg.’ He’s an independent artist who abstains from the spoils of hedonism. A 16-bar grafter, he’s grime’s tireless lifer with the ethical mettle to safeguard the genre’s integrity. And it’s with this stringent teetotalism that we begin to understand the MC’s steady ascendancy. Rooted in his Boy Better Know enterprise, he spits like the educator of reason; “If you want something, work towards it.” JME works hard, and as Integrity> attests, hard work pays off.
Yet while JME preaches over the fruits of veganism and the toils of A&R depravity, there is a storming vocal aggression that uppercuts the purls of his production. Behind the computer console accreditations, the Nazir Mazhar citations and internet meme quotes is an unquenched ferocity fuelled by the desire to be self-sufficient in an unforgiving social climate.
In Work, JME belittles the luxuries of debauchery while celebrating his own morality over a trap-rooted warble and industrial clinks. In Man Don’t Care, his verbal physicality is pitiless, swearing to box anyone in the mouth with his BMW X6 key if they try to violate his lifework. By all means, this is all just hyped up trash talk, but his bars are sprayed with such brute professionalism that we can allow ourselves to suspend disbelief.
JME’s plucky berating of industry naysayers is Integrity>’s primary objective. During an awkward period in grime where some aim to monopolise on the false idea of a genre’s resurgence, these 16 songs play out as a razor-sharp recoil to such a pretence. And while the zeal is infinitely refreshing, there is enough familiarity to appeal to purists.
Appearances from the scene’s mainstays including D Double E, Jammer, Frisco and JME’s brother, Skepta, act as a sign of camaraderie. The inclusion of longtime collaborator Deeco, along with eski-tinted mixes from Rude Kid, Teeza, Joker, Swifta Beater, and Preditah provide the homespun devilry for JME’s playful mischief. Much like previous albums Famous? and Blam!, the Lord of the Mics charm and schoolyard slander is ubiquitous: “I came to this planet, a 8lbs caesarean/ Now, I’m a badmanarean”, “Smiling ear to ear/ Revving hard like he’s got a Dark Charizard.”
With Skepta’s Konnichiwa a swift album leak away, Integrity> plays as the perfect precursor to a year that will see the Boy Better Know brand’s longevity solidified. All of those years constructing flatpacks for reasonably priced snapbacks, hosting impromptu rap battles and denying a commercial stigma accusing the genre’s innovators of encouraging gang violence, grime is now reaping the benefits it is duly owed. And JME’s Integrity> is the end product of grime’s militant immortality.