So, another week, another NewBo hip-hop connection to check out. This time, the very guy who sparked the term "(Adventures in) New Bohemia", the hardcore UK heads’ favourite weed-addled word-abuser, Jehst… also known as Billy Brimstone, The Real Prince William, Jehstafairi, J-Star and probably a few billion other names he’s thrown out on freestyles I haven’t heard yet.
He was in town promoting the Mengibus mixtape and also has a new production album out, "Underworld Epics" featuring vocals by a heavy line-up of UK talent – Micall Parknsun, Verb T, Kashmere, Rodney P, Asaviour, Sir Smurf Little, Klashnekoff, Kyza and Supa T.
The night commenced with a mammoth two-hour-plus set by resident Andy H. He delivered the skillful and healthily eclectic set you’d expect from any DJ put on at NewBo and managed to get a good reaction despite being faced by a sea of hardcore head-nodding UK hip-hop heads in contrast to the more mixed audience that the night often attracts.
Next up were Sir Smurf Little and Conspicuous The Coroner from UK collective The Colony, backed up by DJ Tree. Smurf is Jehst’s tip to be the next big thing in UK hip-hop (alongside Dubbledge) and the set began strongly with his track "Training Day". The duo complemented each other with an ease born of familiarity, presenting a strongly defined, physically punctuated flow and working hard to involve the crowd. They also touched an emotional chord with Conspicuous’ track "Want Me Back", speaking about the experience of growing up in a single-parent family. The duo followed this up by encouraging the crowd to use protection when having sex "because you don’t want to have kids that grow up in the situation I’ve had to deal with" as I think Conspicuous put it.
Following on from this, Jehst‘s set was unfortunately marred by the fact that he seemed to be losing his voice somewhat, laid low vocally by the regular cold / flu thing that always follows the British weather’s descent into seasonal shadiness. On-stage support from regular rhyming partner Asaviour helped somewhat and DJ IQ rocked the 1210s fiercely at the back of the stage. His abstract wordplay remained intact and also making up for the slight sonic impairment was Jehst’s physical presence on stage, throwing shapes with his hood up and looking every inch the mind-twisted rhyme-fiend that his flows present. Towards the end of his set, his vocals did seem to pick up and the classic "High Plains Drifter" was delivered with appropriate punch and panache. A good set despite everything, but anyone with even a passing acquaintance with his back catalogue will be aware that he is capable of better.
As the night neared it’s end, Cons and Smurf got their hustle on and circulated with CDs on sale at a very reasonable £5 each or three-for-a-tenner. I picked up copies of The Colony Mixtape "Bootprints & Fistmarks" and Conspicuous’ LP "Backgammon" and EP "Dictionary Meaning Revisited" – also on sale were Jehst’s mixtape, DJ IQ’s "Champion Sounds" and a Tommy Evans CD, all no doubt excellent UK underground efforts. Check them now in a store near you!