I’m gonna say it here and say it clear – Jeshi is the new champion of UK hip-hop. The London-based emcee and poet has been making waves in the independent scene, with punchy and vibrant projects such as BAD TASTE (2020) and The Worlds Spinning Too Fast (2017). His sound incorporates sounds from jungle and modern hip-hop, combining it with punchy beats and introspective lyrics from Jeshi about his own experiences growing up and as he solemnly says, inspired by “a series of unfortunate events“. He has arrived yet again with his official debut studio album, titled Universal Credit, and it’s quite a powerful statement of intent, with stories that are varied and vivid, as Jeshi takes you into the journey of his mind, painting pictures based on his own experiences, and bringing to life some of the troubles many families have due to poverty, and their reliance on universal credit for survival.
The 13-track album is an energetic one. After the moody and eerie opener “1st of the Month For the Rest of Your Life…”, the album flows into “Sick”, an early standout, with a dark, rumbling and growling beat produced by Kelvin Krash, with Jeshi flowing effortlessly, stating bluntly “Middle of December got chaos in a vile / Another day another L I go throw em in the pile”, with the whole chorus of the track. The way he proclaims that he’s “Sick of late nights / Sick of tryna sleep close the blinds from the light / Sick of seeing colours every time I close my eyes / /Sick of things going wrong and never going right”. On “Killing Me Slowly”, he seems to confess to having a drug problem, at least the disorienting picture he paints seems to suggest so. His situation seems hopeless, and we hear small skits at the end of tracks that illuminate his story. “Another Cigarette” featuring Fredwave is another phenomenal track produced by Earbuds, SAMO and KIKO & JONAH. The thumping beat is complemented by Jeshi’s fuzzy and paranoid delivery, with vivid lyrics that really paint this urgent, hopeless reality him and the people around him face. “Coffee” is a lighter, more soulful song, at least in it’s colourful, melodic beat, produced by Fredwave. The lyrics about his mom being concerned for him is relatable, and the sweetness of the song itself makes it a good break from the hard-hitting, energetic and melancholic sound. “Hit By a Train” is an excellent track, with its heavy beat by JONAH and Jeshi’s incredible storytelling about his anxiousness to pay rent and the mental impact that had on him. The dynamic “3210” is dance track produced by Cadenza & Tev’n. It’s definitely one I’d be excited to hear live, if he performs it. “Generation” and “New Hues” are somber tracks about the hopelessness of this generation, with the latter one being more focused on the financial struggles of keeping a relationship going and handling losing jobs and unemployment. There is absolutely no shame in this, as Jeshi just accepts it as the blunt reality of his own life. “Protein” with Obongjayar and produced by Earbuds & JEAN BLEU is phenomenal as well, as it adds so much character and colour to the album as a whole. “Two Mums” produced by Tev’n & JONAH (Producer) is an interesting one, describing his upbringing as like having “two mums / Ain’t got a dad”. His blunt portrayal of family life is revealing and vulnerable. The Tev’n-produced “Violence” featuring Obongjayar and Fredwave is chilling, with a depressing painting of pure desperation. “National Lottery” is a fitting closer, with a more uplifting sound, and hope that by playing the national lottery, he can win big and free himself of all his financial struggles and due payments. With capitalism and the driving force being a business nd profit-oriented and controlled world, money really is the be-all and end-all. Lotteries are the final condescending, manipulative piece of hope that does nothing but milk the profit for these businesses.
Universal Credit is a harrowing debut album, with a dark and disorienting undertone, studying the financial struggles of working-class families, with Jeshi’s own personal experiences being the thing that brings all these themes to life. His flows and effortless raps are incredible, and in the context of this album, makes it the absolute highlight. The production is varied and sonically consistent, and boy are the beats amazing. Jeshi is already at the height of his creative powers, and he’s only getting started! Listen to Jeshi’s new album Universal Credit below and support!