GHETTS: Ghetts to make a point
“At the time that I wrote “Ghetto Gospel” I felt like within the grime scene or whatever was happening in Britain, I found something that elevated the level of lyricism within the genre, so I think it's everything that came with that album.” Maybe that it's not necessarily my best work, I don't know, some days I feel different. But I do know that no-one was doing that at that time. It felt good to be responsible for a shift, an energy shift. Not to say that Dizzee or Kano weren't making conceptual tracks, but the way I was attacking it was very different.” Ghetts responds, offering a personal view on his now classic mixtape. It's been a decade since the release of “Ghetto Gospel” and to celebrate the milestone, he has planned a very special one-off performance, where each track from the collection will be accompanied by a live band.
In 2005 Justin Clarke was an aspiring rapper from East London, trying to grab the attention of an already fiercely competitive grime scene. Beginning his career under the moniker Ghetto, he quickly became an artist to watch, with his signature fast paced delivery, explosive energy and starkly realistic lyricism. After hooking up with the Nasty Crew which included Kano, Jammer and Marcus Nasty, Ghetts formed his own collective, The Movement, which featured collaborators from Wretch 32, Scorcher and Mercston. With the release of mixtapes of “2000 & Life” and full-length original projects including “Freedom of Speech” and “Calm Before The Storm”, Ghetts was finally ready to release his first official studio album, 2014’s “Rebel With A Cause”. The project saw him enter the mainstream with singles like “Rebel” and the heartfelt, “Fire Burning”
“Yeah, (I'm) definitely looking forward to it, man” Ghetts continues, regarding his upcoming gig at the Roundhouse. “It's something that I never had the resources to do at the time so to be able to revisit it ten years later means a lot, man. I'm stoked about it. We've got a band so what we've done is tune the live instruments with the tracks so everything's going to sound the same. Playing with a band is definitely a different element that I enjoy”.
Ghetts went into full-on rock-star mode for his performance of “Rebel” at the MOBO Awards in 2014, creating another stand-out moment on stage. “Yeah, I felt very good about that. I hope to do another show like that soon. I'm thinking Grammys. I'm thinking of that - 100%”.
While he finds reminiscing about his past music is enjoyable, Ghetts, always focused on progression and is already hard at work on a new album “It's going be a one-off gig because as I enter the new year I'm going to be releasing a new album, which I have no name for at the moment. I will definitely be releasing an album next year. (The new album) is one of the projects I've enjoyed making. It's been less stressful compared to some others. It feels like earlier on in my career when I was making music just for making music, that I can put on in my car and enjoy rolling to, so it feels good man. I've done so many songs for it, I’m having a hard time cutting it down to fifteen or sixteen. I think I recorded forty-five songs or something around that number. I always like to have that ‘story feel’ through my albums, even though this album's full of bangers. It's probably my first album to date that's going to be full of so (many) bangers. During this album, I've been in performance mode a lot and enjoying how the performances are going, so I really made this album for that capacity”.
Known to be a workaholic, Ghetts has admitted to writing an astonishing 150 tracks for his “Rebel With A Cause” album. So will any of those be considered for the new album? “Yeah, I made like 150 tracks (for the last album) I don't want to say they get discarded but they're just kind of floating on the laptop, just in the vault man. I believe I'm a good artist but at the same time, I believe in quality over quantity. It's weird because sometimes I'll be around close friends that listen to these songs and they'd be like “why don't you release this one?” but it doesn't feel right to me, whether it be the subject matter…it doesn't feel right and I won't release it to the world”
“I'm alright at skating, I'm not like super insane at skating,” he says of his retro hobby. “It's just something I like to do. I haven't skated for a long time, about a year but (incorporating it into the performance) is something that I have thought about doing”.
On his long-awaited album with Kano, he shares “We're very good friends so (doing an album) is something that we talk and fantasise about regularly (laughs). It's something that we'd always like to do, it's just about timing. When I'm ready he may not be ready and vice versa. He's just done his album and I'm doing my album, so by the time he's ready I could still be in promotion mode for my album. Hopefully, it's something that we'll do one day - I know a lot of people want to hear it. I want to do it while they still want to hear it and not put it out when we're old and grey!” (With The Movement) “because there's so many of us, we're not always on every tune together,” Ghetts continues. “But me, Scorcher and Mercston have just collaborated on a DaVinChe song for an album that's coming out called, “Towers”. We just shot the video a week ago so that should be coming out in January”.
Ghetts has become embroiled in various clashes over the years with artists including P Money to whom he dedicated the diss track “All Black Winter”. His track “Who's On The Panel” meanwhile, was inspired by his anger at being excluded from MTV Base's list of best MC's of 2010. These days, Clarke proclaims that he would handle a similar situation differently, “I would approach those situations very differently now. Some of the people, even 95% of the people that I thought I had a discrepancy with or some sort of issue, when we've sat down as grown men and we've spoken, they're cool guys - we shared a love for the same thing. It's just a competitive nature out of control, you know what I'm saying? But with most people we share the same love for the same thing, we've got more in common than we actually think. They're a lot of cool guys that I get along very well with now. Sometimes I think a lot of it was my fault as well! (laughs)”
Ghetts performs “Ghetto Gospel” at the Roundhouse, London, on January 30
You can read more from our interview with one of Grime's finest, GHETTS, in the current issue of Blues & Soul Magazine - click the link below to order straight from our shop or read on for high street retailer details.
You can purchase Blues & Soul magazine at all decent magazine retailers, inc; WH Smiths, John Menzies + selected Euro Foods, Cost Cutters and independents everywhere! ...If by chance your retailer does not stock Blues & Soul, just ask for a "B&S shop save" and they will order it in for you.
If you Tweet B&S and it's favourited at @BluesandSoul you could see your comments added to our print issue.
Words Karen Lawler