Unleashing his Baker Street project, JSB’s smooth assault opens ominously with ‘Past Year’, a track that’s as much a declaration as it is a personal history lesson. Not one for easing the listener in, the Liberian-born artist starts running- showcasing a studio sound that shines without detracting from the raw emotion.
Sirens blare, ushering in ‘Hit List’- the clenched fist attitude keeps rolling, while a venomous undertone makes it one of the standout tracks.
Currently residing in East London, the rich influence of the area has given JSB’s sound some scars and bruises that only add to his skill.
Ten tracks long, ‘Baker Street holds enough variety and sway to keep the average listener hooked from beginning to end. ‘What I Live For (Ft. Sarkodie)’ and ‘Party Time (Ft. Steam 231)’ reel in the party sound while standing apart from one another. The former was made to turn any club into a collective body of movement, while the vocoder-rich latter holds an all together lighter touch, making it a soon-to-be dance floor regular.
‘Is It Really Luv’ breaks the fun feeling, but with good reason. Bitterness and lamentation play against a Bonobo-inspired beat for a complete sound that pulls the listener under. Certainly an album highlight, this is undoubtedly the track that best flaunts JSB’s lyrical prowess. There are certainly louder and more aggressive songs on the album, but few are as contemplative and subtly infectious.
Three quarters of the way through, and everyone from a casual listener to a hardened rap fan should know that their ears are bearing witness to a talent that the UK is lucky to have. Baker Street isn’t without its pitfalls, but it recovers from them organically. Tropes about ”the club” are more than overused in modern music, but for the sake of such flow and natural party atmosphere, it’s easy to forgive.
Striding towards the finale, ‘None Of That’ and ‘Take Control (Ft. Shi Star)’ dish out the romance, sharing themes on playful school bullying. We’ve witnessed anger, swagger and woe, it’s only fair that we see the raunchier side with a healthy dose of humour. Referencing Barry White, Shi Star’s contribution won’t fail to make ‘Take Control’ a closed-curtain classic.
Ending on ‘Different’, all the love in the air takes on a sour taste, while a realistic heartbeat beat brings the floating sensation back to Earth. Grudges are aired and painful truths are shared. To many, it will seem like a poor choice of closing track, but when they’re still thinking about the honest and all-too relatable lyrics later on, they’ll know that it was a wise decision.
To call Baker Street varied, and nothing more, would be doing it an injustice. There’s a track for every feeling, there’s a lyric for every mood, there’s a beat for day of the week. The UK is seeing a surge in stunning rap talent, we can only hope that those with eyes to see spot JSB, and offer him the credit he’s due.
Written By Mark McQueen