Lee Hawthorn

Review: Jister & The Lion Ranger's Absurdism EP

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In 2014, James Russell, better known by his pseudonymous hip-hop persona, Jister, has grown exponentially in terms of his approach to music and his popularity level. The Middlesbrough man is looking to capitalise on the recent sky-rocketing rise of his fan base with a collaborative EP working alongside The Lion Ranger – who solely produced the project in its entirety, providing an excellent backdrop for the emcee to express his tantalising rap talents to his new-found listeners.

It’s becoming less of a rarity in recent years for lesser-known rap artists to work with one single producer for EPs, with the dynamic duo of Killer Mike and El-P becoming overnight superstars as a result of their Run The Jewels collaboration and Freddie Gibbs and Madlib linking-up with one another to offer the hotly tipped album of the year in Pinata, but it’s of particular surprise for a rapper from the North East area to use this technique.

It’s much more popular to use beats from pop-hits and remix them, just like the pre-EP single in which Jister gave us his own take on the Arctic Monkeys’ Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?, due to it being convenient economically, so-long as it’s a non-profit release as there are limited copyright issues.

The decision to rhyme exclusively over The Lion Ranger’s boardwork for Absurdism is a respectable move from the emcee, especially considering the consistent quality captured by the sounds caper, with the only pitfall of the producers contributions to the EP being that despite the excellence of the beats individually, as a catalogue, they lack in coherence what they make up for in being distinctly perfect for the vocals of Jister.

In terms of the thematical approach taken by the Boro bar-smith, the title of the extended play lends itself to the philosophical and literary doctrine that human beings live in essential isolation in a meaningless and irrational world. As such, each of the six songs seamlessly blend into one another from a lyrical perspective, with a cohesion that more-than makes up for the lack thereof in production, but never meanders close to monotonous sameness due to the atypical references littered throughout.

With an obviously hallucinogen-inspired, vividly painted imagery, Jister ejects us from our seats on the bus, walks to the corner shop or the ever-lasting scrolling through social networks and takes us to an exciting, exotic world, showcasing the sublime weirdo-genius oxmoronic binary which is his mind.

With an improved delivery and continually impressive flow, Absurdism is archetypal of an up-and-coming artist in his lyrical prime. Stand-out song Super Ridiculous is exemplary of such. Using a plethora of off-centre references to the rising number of household name superheros and twisting them to brag about his self-professed brilliance is a breath of fresh air in a time in which braggadocios bars with any sense of originality are proving few and far between.

Pass this phenomenal extended play off as simply a bit-of-fun at your own peril, because this soon-to-be fan favourite of the UK’s underground hip-hop is stacked with substance of herculean proportions. Take it as a more sophisticated articulation of the annoyingly over-stated YOLO acronym. Absurdism as an EP is encouraging a loss of seriousness, and not simply living life, but enjoying it, because in the end, your existence is insignificant.

That said, Jister and The Lion Ranger have collaboratively conducted a philosophy lecture that is anything but insignificant. With a Scroobius Pip co-sign seeming less surprising, and the invitation to join the Speech Development Records’ national tour looking more deserved than ever, Absurdism exceeds expectations on every level, and I’m tipping it to snowball into a landmark in the North East rap scene’s strive for recognition and respect. The project picks up from where L&S’ Sorry We’re Late left off in 2013, as the best hip-hop release the UK has to offer in 2014.

Absurdism by Jister and The Lion Ranger is available now for digital release for free, or physical copy for £5, on Bandcamp.com.