Hip-hop is a ripe source for comedy, with many of the things which make it so unintentionally hilarious becoming its most endearing traits. Hip-hop and comedy have a long, lucrative history and in the UK we are seeing rappers transition to stand-up comedians with alarming regularity, the most famous example being Doc Brown, who went from cyphers in rooms of musky UK hip-hop fans to tolerating Ricky Gervais. One such talent is the London-based rapper and comedian Jester Jacobs, who has managed to hit the right balance with his music and his tight fives. His new album, Grimefulness, released on Revorg Records, is a solid meshing of the two art forms he has mastered, legitimising the concern that multimedia artists will soon dominate, taking food from the mouths of inferior, single-media artists.
The album title is a solid indication of the subject matter to expect on Grimefulness, a double-pronged satirical ribbing of hip-hop and current quasi-capitalist wellness trends. Jacobs effectively skews some of the more problematic aspects of hip-hop, the misogyny, the drug glorification, while slyly celebrating them as well. The wokest emcees in the game still rap along to every word on a Biggie album. The album is entirely produced by Formz, who brings a series of spacious, cloudy, trap-inspired pieces with enough atmosphere and room to allow Jester Jacobs to run rampant with the concepts. The album intro, “Bricktop,” shares the winking insight, “My flow in the session is a micro-aggression” over an unsettling synth melody, secretly revealing the whole plot within minutes of the opening credits, for eagle-eared listeners.
“I’m A Man” and its accompanying video, are spot-on sendups of the UK rap freestyles filmed using an additional self-serious filter and brimming with toxic masculinity. He hits us with the chorus instantly and the chant “I’m a man, angrily rap into a cam” sums up the whole intended scene shockingly succinctly. He goes on to further explain to tragedy of the Western male, ending with the natural conclusion to any such exchange. “Live on set, got to shout/Try calm me down, bruv I’ll knock you out.”
“Angling” features cold-blooded Bad Taste Records titan Sniff, and he is not playing, to no one’s surprise. Over a blunted 8-bit production, Jacobs and Sniff are medicated to the eyeballs and surprisingly reflective in their sedated states. The track depicts the general sense of unease rippling through the first world and its subsequent attempts at eradication through prescriptions. Sniff takes a typically direct approach and hits the target with trademark sledgehammer panache. “I’m a vandalist, take drugs but can’t handle it/Sinking ship, abandon it/Sometimes I don’t know what my angle is.”
Jester Jacobs brings in Revorg Records founder Big Toast and Moose Funk Squad’s Mnsr Frites on “Tinny”, a delightfully English colloquialism for a tinned beer, to be consumed in multiples of four. The three rappers take delight in lampooning the image of the stereotypical Brit, made courageous by the golden, intoxicating elixir on offer at the shop and unfortunately highly accurate. Each rapper details their drunken exploits and preferred drunken cuisine with intimate detail. “Sip some more/Every night like Brits abroad/Drop cash, make a splash/Gang get gassed.”
“Pills” returns to the topic of prescription dugs previously touched on, this time with a serious message attached and a more painstaking exploration. The focus is less on recreational drug addiction and more on the kind needed for mental illness and its resulting side-effects. The shift into more serious territory is unexpected but executed perfectly. The beat is also a heavy tempo switch, driving the purpose home, snares cracking over growling bass and painting a pretty bleak overall picture. The track provides a polar counterpart to the current wave of rappers endorsing prescribed downers like Percocet and lean and making pharmaceutical companies a few Maseratis wealthier, opting instead for the harsh realities. One of the most affecting of these, “I’m off the pills, my dick’s broken,” is a cautionary message sure to rouse the heaviest Xanax sleeper.
“Web Content” delves into the process of internet self-promotion necessary for any upcoming artist hoping to one day afford cereal. The flow drops in bursts while the beat simmers away underneath, and Jester Jacobs paints himself as the plucky underdog, forcing you to root for him tooth and nail. He veers into more traditional rap braggadocio on “Do Nothing,” and at this point he deserves the indulgence, having been dedicated to the concept of concepts for eight tracks straight.
Grimefulness closes with its title track, which is, as suggested, the most straightforward grime track on the album. The beat and flow are as raw as the genre expects, yet the lyrics espouse self-care and personal growth in a calm and measured manner. I’m sure the comedic juxtaposition between the delivery and the message was intentional, as the suggestions of hydrating, visiting art galleries and studying folklore over a relentless war dub is just crazy enough to work. Presented in this manner, I’m sure every listener will take at least three of the tips into their daily regime: “Audio books, ambient noise/Intercourse with a partner of choice/Sweet tooth, dark chocolate, fudge/Clear the air, don’t harbour a fucking grudge.”
Ending the album on an aggressively upbeat note like this burns a lasting impression and caps the whole affair off nicely. I have always felt that no one without a true love and inside understanding of hip-hop should ever be allowed to parody it, and Grimefulness is a testament to that. The album plays with hip-hop’s public image and its reality, poking fun at lifestyle trends and self-destructive tendencies before landing the inspirational ending and peacing out. It’s a bold album for Jester Jacobs, as it keeps the sarcastic wit shown in his stand-up and his previous releases but imbues it with a darker undertone which gives the comedy the twisted edge it needs to work. Whether this is a new direction or a one-time primal catharsis for Jacobs remains to be seen. Regardless, it bangs and motivates in equal measure so buy it here and charge it as a health expense.