Jamie T: Sheila
Thamesbeat troubador raises a toast to drinkers of London
Just as his hometown of Wimbledon stands like a concrete buttress between the bustle of London and the sprawl of the home counties, so is 20-year-old Jamie T caught between worlds. His instrument is a stringed and acoustic tool of the storyteller; like Forest Gate MC Plan B, however, T narrates his tales in a brackish, rap-educated Landahn patois rougher than most UK grime MCs.
Meanwhile, should you fear a load of songs about Henman losing the tennis and how the local football team buggered off to Milton Keynes, fear not: Jamie, like Skinner, Strummer and Doherty before him, treats all of London as his playground. On ‘Sheila’, T plays humble narrator to a sad cast of boozers and ne’er do wells, soaking their personal tragedies in alcohol – Jack, whose girl left him for another man, drowns his sorrows in cider; Georgina, fleeing from an abusive home life, declared dead by paramedics after a self-administered drug overdose; and most prominently the titular Sheila, who gets tanked up and shouts, to no-one in particular, across the Thames. Sad scenes, but borne up on a rattling hip-hop backbeat in T’s croaked, Joe Strummer-esque patois, such tales become strangely uplifting.
It’s the incidental details that make it, though: the bellowed “Loondooon!” that interrupts the chorus, the passages of poet John Betjeman’s The Cockney Amorist inscribed between the crunching beats. “The blue-blooded murder of the English tongue”, declares a plummy English voice. “Brap!”, exclaims Jamie. And the spirit of London town finds its newest mouthpiece.