Album Review: Just B – Tales From The Pit

Just B is the best musician in the North East right now. Regardless of genre. I’ll fight anyone who would dare argue he’s not at least in the conversation. Indie rock bands have dominated Newcastle’s music circuit forever, but on the outskirts of the toon, Just B has been cooking up a storm in Ashington. Grime, hip-hop, trap; it doesn’t matter. The Stay Freezin MC has proved he can do it all. Who knows, maybe next he’ll start recording covers of James Blunt and Ellie Goulding, who’s he’s unashamedly a fan of.

Just B cemented himself as one of the best rappers in the SceNE duppying grime riddims on his own and as one half of HB alongside H-Man. Since the release of HB’s ‘The Perfect Storm’, the Ashington artist has been focused more so on hip-hop releases. The ‘Lyrics From The Villas’ series (currently two tapes deep but number three is on the way) has spawned a new admiration for B. Showcasing a new standard of lyrical complexity and storytelling ability with stand-out singles such as the DJ A.D.S produced ‘Vinnie Jones.’

With his first release of 2017, Just B has reverted to his grime roots. ‘Tales From The Pit’ is a nine track album with features from the likes of Rosko, Naughty40, Trinity Lo-Fi, King Hippo and aforementioned long term collaborator H-Man. Two months before the release of ‘Tales From The Pit’, Just B made his debut on Don’t Flop in a highly anticipated clash against Blitz. As consequence some of the bars throughout the tape appear as though they could be aimed at the Tees Grime Fam MC even before aptly titled closer ‘Fuck Blitz.’

Whether the target of the tapes bars is Blitz or in fact nobody in particular (the more likely scenario other than the aforementioned closer), Just B’s coming aggressive on ‘Tales From The Pit.’ At this point in his career as far as North East hip-hop and grime goes, the Ashington MC has nothing to prove. Yet throughout ‘Tales From The Pit’ Just B never lets up, rattling through each track with his devastating double time flows.

Many fans don’t care about structure of a project. As long as each song bangs, does it matter if the tracklist is set out with purposeful thought? In my opinion it does. The quality of each track warrants £5, no doubt about it, but ‘Tales From The Pit’ definitely feels more like a mixtape than a carefully constructed album. In the current era, the definitions for different projects have been blurred, but I’ll always maintain that if its free its a mixtape, if it costs even a penny, it’s an EP or album.

A pretty large portion of ‘Tales From The Pit’ had been previously released. Most of Just B’s solo tracks, HB collaborations and the track with Trinity Lo-Fi from the tape have all been heard before the album dropped making ‘Tales From The Pit’ feel like a case of having a load of loose cuts lying around and throwing them together for a pseudo-album.

That being said, what most people care about is how the music itself sounds. There’s not a bad cut to be found, but the highlight certainly comes in the form of a break from the mould. Whilst the majority of ‘Tales From The Pit’ is grime, trap-banger ‘All For The Lizzy’ is magnificent. With a verse apiece Just B and King Hippo craft a potential classic collaboration whilst balancing North East grit with out-of-this-world flows. Pair this up with another new cut in the form of Naughty40 produced and featured ‘Limitless’ and you’ve got to appreciate B’s ability to get such fantastic features from artists we’ve only heard bits and pieces from in recent years. Its truly a shame Naughty40 doesn’t rap as much anymore because his “North East accent (not a Geordie one)” is a true delight to hear.

If you’re someone who cares about the craft of putting together an album, you might find yourself a little dissapointed in ‘Tales From The Pit’, but that’d be a bit daft considering Just B is Just B. In other words, the music is good – as is no surprise when it comes to a new release from the Ashington MC. With a string of mixtape-like albums and EP’s under his belt now, I’d be very excited about the prospect of an actual album from Just B. Maybe after ‘Lyrics From The Villas Vol. 3’ we can mark a date in 2018 for Just B’s debut LP? Either way, Just B has become one of those artists in which I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to hear something new – and it’s worth every penny.

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