Widely regarded as one of the top grime acts to ever do it in the North East, H-Man and Just B AKA HB have raised the bar once again with their new album ‘Overcast’.
Kicking off the nine-track project in top gear is title track “Overcast”, a 100mph introduction to the lightning in a bottle style that’s helped cement HB’s reputation as the best grime emcees in the North East. Just B’s razor-sharp enunciation acts as the Ying to H-Man’s frenzied, animalistic Yang, both delivering with that unashamedly Geordie twang to create a sound that’s truly unique – no one sounds like HB.
This uncompromising will to stay true to where they come from is often what the duo are criticized for, with the most common issue being the accent. H-man addresses this on “Shaolin”, spitting “They’re like what did he say, doesn’t matter ‘cause they don’t understand anyway.” Now, I get your average Joe grime fan might have a hard time understanding the Geordie accent, but that’s their problem, not HB’s. The authenticity of the accent, the lyrical content – not a bar about guns or gangs in sight – and the phrases used, like H’s now infamous ‘HERE’ (pronounced he-ya) ad-lib, are what make HB so original – they’re pioneering Newcastle’s grime sound, giving the city an authentic voice within the genre.
Dark themes run throughout this album, with both H and B regularly referring to death in their bars – whether that be their own deaths, deaths of friends or deaths of those that oppose them. The track “Dead Mates” is the most obvious example, “when I die I wanna see al of my best mates, carrying my body when I’m dead weight / difference between heaven and hell’s gates, still feel the spirit of me dead mates,” H-man raps with a palpable expression of both aggression and sorrow on the hook.
Despite ‘Overcast’ being dominated by eerie production, melancholic lyrics and aggressive flows, HB change up the script now and again, showing some surprising diversity. “Just For You” sees Just B take a more laid back delivery when addressing his past indiscretions and a relationship that played a part in changing him, rapping “I shield myself away from love, she came to break the armour / when the days were harder she came and calmed down a crazy charva.” H-man also gives us some uncharacteristic delivery on “Froze Nothing”, flowing with a melodic, almost whispering cadence at times.
As far as grime in the North East goes, this album is nothing less than seminal. HB are pioneering what it means to make grime music and come from Newcastle; everything from their lyrics down to their delivery is authentic, not compromising a shred of individuality in the hopes that it might appeal to the southern tastemakers. However, it’s not just authenticity that makes this album standout, it’s the entire gloomy atmosphere it captures, as well as the Jekyll and Hyde-like sonic contrast from Just B to H-man that makes each track so entertaining.
‘Overcast’ walks the line between raw and refined, with some tracks sounding purely momentum-fuelled and others master planned – it’s nine tracks of expertly-controlled chaos.