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Famous? Adam Narkiewicz , July 24th, 2008 17:05


With Wiley and Dizzee flying high in the charts and Skepta's 'Rolex Sweep', er, sweeping the nation, the time is right from his JME to step into the arena. A formidable presence on the scene since at least 2003, the boy better known to his friends as Jamie has released four successful mixtapes and played shows all over the world, along with holding down the popular Boy Better Know T-Shirt line.

He also inadvertently invented Hadouken, whose lead singer blatantly ripped-off his (formerly) unique, simplistic style and sold it onto NME readers as his own. JME, like Mike Skinner, walks a thin line between rapping and, um speaking. Half the time he doesn't even bother to rhyme. "Microsoft Word, that's you, you're a nerd," he raps charismatically on the album's opener, 'Awoh'. "Stop emceeing, go to the shops, have a drink."

Dude pronounces his "T"s and everything. "I'm an emcee," goes the aforementioned song's hook. "When I'm not on duty / go home build tunes on Fruity."

Famous? is JME's debut album. Like many debuts, a good 70% of the songs on here have been knocking about for ages. Songs like 'Serious', 'Shut Yuh Muh' and 'Standard' are pretty much grime staples already. Some of these songs date back to 2002, giving the record something of an antique quality, weird for a genre of music that prides itself on being futuristic. JME's music runs at grime tempo, but deviates from the aggression prevalent in the genre, opting for a minimalistic, cold, soft-synth -lead feel. Some of the music is beautiful - the backdrops of songs like 'Ghetto Superstar' and 'Show' are truly moving. Lyrically, however, JME rarely gives the listener even a glimpse of his soul, opting instead for witty one liners and a somewhat narked tone.

When it works, like on '123' and 'Serious', JME's bitter, stacato spit kicks the listener in the gut with its clarity, but over the course of the album the tone begins to nag.

Given this is a debut LP, usually the testament of the artist’s life up until this defining moment, we learn little of the man himself. From a few listens one gathers JME thinks he's good at what he does, he doesn't smoke weed or cigarettes, he's been to college, he spends a lot of time online, he likes making money, and he's sold a lot of T Shirts. I counted seven tracks mentioning the T Shirts. About the deepest revelation is that he's only ever had one girlfriend, revealed matter-of-factly on the uber-sad title track.

For a rapper dismissed in some grime circles as merely a joker, JME's Famous? is a mourful, insular, depressing record. Most indicative of this, aside from that tragic title track, is 'Go On My Own', a terrible, bittersweet montage of lugubrious synths over which Jamie expresses a post-Thatcher, independent mindstate typical of many of his generation.

Famous? is a solid debut, with some wonderful moments, like 'Punch In The Face''s exasperated intro, wherein he spits "I've had enough of these fake gangstas... like they don't feel any pain... like they don't have any family... like they've never been in love." Overall it's an uncomfortable, bleak thing to endure. By the end of it you just want to give the dude a hug.