Available on: Big Dada LP
In grime’s early days, Jammer, aka the Murkle Man, was one of the nascent scene’s lynchpins as a producer, and one of its biggest personalities as an MC. Happy to pose in dimly-lit takeaways looking moody with a hood up, he also made music laced with a peculiar sense of humour – check his ‘Murkle Man’ video for proof – and it makes sense that in the midst of this period of grime gradually, awkwardly shifting out of the underground that Jammer is the one on the front cover of his debut album wearing yellow trousers and shushing an elephant. It’s a lot.
Get past the cover – which is difficult; it’s a startlingly strong look – and Jahmanji has a lot to offer. It’s not perfect, with Jammer’s rough vocal delivery still probably better suited to standalone singles, or indeed, live sets than a full album, but the production values and variety of sonics on offer mean the album’s 13 tracks pack a pretty hefty pop punch.
The Murkle Man has long been seen as one of grime’s key figures and this full length endeavour confirms his reputation of possessing one of the more versatile mouths out there, old comrades Newham Generals and Boy Better Know, new Ms Dynamite collaborator Redlight, and Mumdance and Toddla T dropping in to provide some of its most exuberant moments. The latter’s ‘Party Animal’, which samples house classic ‘No Way Back’ by Adonis, and ‘Back to the ‘90s’ are both massive stabs at the mainstream with cheesy rave pianos and sing-along choruses. Reminiscent of a cut-price, more idiosyncratically British ‘Bonkers’, this is grime at its cleanest, scrubbed up for daytime radio and Jonathon Ross. Which doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
‘Ten Man Roll’ through, is Jahmanji’s strongest pop crossover strike. Produced by Mumdance, Brackles and Shortstuff and catchy as Chlamydia, it details a night on the lash with Boy Better Know centred around the fact that they always roll to clubs in packs. Like much of his output, it’s evidence that Jammer’s at his best when acting up. Other tracks here though, such as ‘Bad Mind People’, ‘Max not Minimum’ and paean to being overly inebriated ‘One Too Many’, are signs of just how well-rounded Jammer has become. The latter incorporates rolling synths more usually associated with house music, while elsewhere his productions embrace reggae, funk, dub and broken beat.
Although it’s far from a classic, Jahmanji is a solid first album from one of grime’s greatest. And despite cleaning up his music for the charts, he’s still weird enough to fascinate; he hasn’t “done a Chipmunk” and lost the side of his personality that made you get behind him in the first place. Before Jammer’s tunes sounded great on a phone, now they sound big on radio. I can’t wait to see where he goes next.