REVIEW: Jehst – Return Of The Drifter

Return Of The Drifter

Artist: Jehst

Album: Return Of The Drifter

Label: Low Life Records

Rating: 9 / 10

Reviewer: A to the L

UK heads – unless you’ve been hiding in a cave somewhere Osama-style, you’re bound to have heard Jehst by now. As for the rest of the world, who are often slow on the uptake when it comes to UK Hiphop, Jehst may be the one who finally makes a dent in your listening habits – his work with J-Zone has already garnered much critical acclaim. But who is this mysterious cat who only really seems to have moved into the spotlight in the past year? Well, Jehst HAS been around for a while, collaborating with Evil Ed to drop his “Premonitions” and “High Plains Drifter” EPs, as well as hooking up with the likes of Braintax and Task Force, AND holding down a spot as a member of much overlooked UK “supergroup” Champions of Nature.

Now after a short spot of label-hopping, Jehst has returned to Low Life Records, and dropped this project which contains 2 songs from his new 12″, as well as several of his other best works, including the entire “High Plains Drifter” EP. The enhanced cd also contains footage of Jehst in live action – a nice added touch that also serves to illustrate (from the packed club) how much hype the man is generating at the moment.

What is striking about much of this EP, is how its simplistic construction becomes so head noddingly addictive. Take the opening track, ‘High Plains Anthem’ for example – over little more than a simple percussion break and one repeated piano loop, Jehst rips the shit out of the mic. (“Battling me? That’ll be an embarassing mistake / Like promoters who don’t get the ‘H’ in the right place / My mic stays in close range, I travelled the lone plains / But drift on a high like cocaine.”) For those who are new to Jehst, its the perfect introduction – “Hi, I’m the supremely confident cat from the UK who’s gonna entertain you for the next 40 minutes. Now sit over there and let me do my shit.”

And this seems to be the blueprint for the whole EP – the majority of the tracks are largely sparse arrangements – little more than one drum break and a looped sample flitting in and out of the mix as Jehst busts. This is NOT a diss by the way – I don’t think there are many who could pull off something like this so magnificently. The uncomplicated nature of the tracks focuses most of the attention of Jehst’s nonchalantly confident flow, yet at the same time, they retain enough of a kick and a hook to stop any thoughts of repetitiveness creeping in.

Highlights include the air of menace that Jehst, Ricochet and Tommy Evans emanate on the cold ‘The Trilogy’ – a surgically precise deconstruction of wack emcees that is also revisted, with additional verses from Chester P and Kyza on a later remix; the title track where Jehst pulls off rap’s first just-got-out-of-bed steelo on wax, managing to sound both half asleep AND dope at the same time over rippling pianos and sick scratched choruses; and last but not least THE killer track of the EP – ‘Staircase To Stage’. On this track, Jehst hooks up with J-Zone over one of the killer beats of this year – a flurry of Harry Love pianos and Raekwon lines on the chorus… its a sickeningly heavy track, and its suitably blessed by both Jehst and J-Zone, with the American probably coming off slightly better… “Picture me doing a backspin, or pulling a mack 10 / “I been rapping since the golden age man” – you were wack then…”

So is Jehst gonna be THE one? The first UK emcee to really crack open the US? Well, this is certainly a bright spot on his resume, and his work with the respected J-Zone also means that knowledgable heads stateside may well search him out. They definitely won’t be disappointed – file under “highly recommended”.

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