Review : Jeshi’s ‘Universal Credit’ – Debut Album & Sold Out Show at Oslo In Hackney
3 Jun 2022
Growing up in a deprived area in Walthamstow, East London, there’s no doubt that Jeshi is one of the most exciting talents to come out of the UK in recent years. Heavily renowned for his lyrical prowess, electric flows and unique beat choices, the last week has seen the 27 year old not only release debut album ‘Universal Credit’, but also sell out his headline show in Oslo, Hackney last night.
Maintaining such a high level of lyrical substance isn’t an easy thing to do by any means. By shining raw and honest truth on the angles and perspectives captured through the brutally normalised way of living with deprivation in the UK, Jeshi seems a fitting spokesperson for those who may struggle to have a voice in modern day society otherwise.
Testament to his craft, Jeshi has grown his fanbase significantly through a flurry of releases building up to his debut album ‘Universal Credit’. Having worked with the Brit Award Rising Star of 2020 Celeste previously, as well as the very talented Vegyn, Jeshi has an impressive discography stretching back to 2016. He is no newcomer – and having moulded his own genre-defying sound through the disection of British culture in his music, ‘Universal Credit’ is in my opinion one of the most important and relatable albums to come out in recent years.
‘Universal Credit’ Album Review
The whole album feels unique in terms of its production choices. The project seems as if it has taken inspiration from the sounds of artists like The Streets or Slowthai, rather than fading into the middle ground by picking generic beats. This style is heavy hitting, and helps to elevate the anarchic, anti-establishment sentiment of the record. ‘Universal Credit’ is also comparable to The Streets, and ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ in that the whole project feels based in British culture. All three acts expose the hidden underbelly of working class Britain, painting pictures of poverty and the narcotic-fuelled mundanity of unemployment.
Jeshi’s project is held together by skits, which help illustrate the contrasting recklessness and boredom of the artists life whilst living on universal credit. The visceral sound at the start of the album of someone throwing up, followed by the intense, angst-driven track, ‘Sick’, tells you what you need to know about the unadulterated journey Jeshi is taking you on.
The artist however does manage to balance the darkness with some brighter moments across the record. ‘Coffee’ features a hauntingly beautiful vocal sample with a silky guitar riff that Jeshi flows over expertly. Elsewhere, Obongjayar brings a groove to the laid back, summer banger ‘Protein’, as well as bringing somber falsetto vocals to ‘Violence’. These moments break up the project well, as they offer something different sonically which helps to maintain the freshness of the warped instrumentals that Jeshi articulates his frustrations on so brilliantly. ‘Another Cigarette’ with Fredwave for example, feels like an anthem for a generation that have become numb to the right wing politics and ideals of Conservative Britain.
The rapper has an ability to cut through with his brutally honest and tormented lyricism. ‘Generation’ is quite a simple song on the surface, yet the amount of topics Jeshi is able to touch on in his summary of his age group is sensational and makes for a highlight on the album. We can also find a perfect example of his unique, humorous perspective on the final track, ‘National Lottery’, where he raps, ‘Daytime TV numb my brain, sick of seeing Philip Schofield anyway’. Not only does he have a sharp turn of phrase, but the artist also possesses an emotive voice which helps to emphasise his desperation and frustration across the project. This is apparent on ‘Hit By A Train’, another stand out moment on the project.
‘Universal Credit’ is an outstanding debut project from Jeshi and is as culturally significant as anything that will come out of the UK this year. His unique sound and a perspective that does not have the arrogance or materialistic tendencies of mainstream rap have seen him create a project that feels like it could be the soundtrack for a generation. There are no airs or graces, and this is exactly why the artist has found success on the album as he navigates his way through his own frustrations and anxieties. Jeshi has shown on this project that he is one of the UK’s most exciting talents, and we can expect big noise surrounding him from this point forward.
Jeshi’s Sold Out Show at Oslo, Hackney
Having released debut album ‘Universal Credit’ last Friday, it only seemed fitting that Jeshi put on a headline event to showcase the project in the flesh. Selling out Oslo in Hackney, the rapper took to the stage last night in great fashion – and here’s what went down.
Support came out in their hundreds to make it down early for supporting acts Ray Laurel and Crash Tracy. On arrival, an aesthetically articulate downstairs bar made home for the early show goers to grab a drink before making their way upstairs to the main event. A former railway station, Oslo possesses an atmospheric and tight-knitted vibe about it – the perfect venue for such a milestone event. The excitement and anticipation of fans felt tangible; there was a collective sense of togetherness which is the best thing about intimate venues such as this one. The light’s dimmed and Jeshi took to the stage, picking up the mic to perform ‘Killing Me Slowly’.
That was enough to get the crowd going. Despite only being out for less than a week, I was impressed by the amount of people who had clearly paid great attention to lyrics, as well as the buzz and energy in the room. Following on, standout singles from the project ‘Sick’ and ‘Hit By A Train’ were next in line for the set. Having been the longest standing releases on the project – these tracks definitely sparked the most reaction, alongside ‘Protein’ and ‘Another Cigarette’, in which Fredwave came out to perform his featuring part.
Most of the album was performed on set – all tracks other than ‘New Hues’ and ‘Violence’. A special moment I can imagine not only for Jeshi but also the crowd was the performance of ‘Two Mums’. Pre performance of the track, the rapper announced his Mum was in the crowd and had come along to support, bigging her up before the audience erupted in applause and noise. This then fuelled the emotionally driven performance with the track starting “Two mums, ain’t got a dad, won’t see me moan ’bout the cuts in my hands” which I think speaks for itself as an artist who can honestly reflect on his past and situation.
Closing the set to the very popular ‘3210’, which also notably was remixed by British producer Ross From Friends, Jeshi encouraged the crowd to get as energetic as they can which was sparked when the electrically driven production reached the drop at the hook “dirty room one, 5 days passed, 3210”. What you can tell from a performance is when an artist reflects on their current position and how they are blessed to be in that position, which Jeshi thanked everybody for half way through the set. A humble artist, and an even better performer, Jeshi is only going to get better.
‘Universal Credit” out now on all digital platforms :
Words : Joe Simpson @joeygbucketz | Harvey Marwood @harveymarwood