- Words Elle Evans
An iconic name within British Rap, known for his dynamic flows and exquisite wordsmith, Ghetts is a staple figure that has played an integral role into the UK’s championed sound.
Paving a lane for many of the new generation emcees, the Newham native, over the years, has excelled above and beyond the Grime barriers he was once boxed into, and proved his versatility like no other. Delivering a slew of impressive projects, all whilst maintaining his indisputable quality, Ghetts is no stranger to tackling an assortment of politically and socially charged topics and in turn has become a powerful testament to British Rap.
Stepping onto the scene back in the early 2000’s when Grime rose to prominence, Ghetts went from being a part of grime collective The Movement, to becoming an artist in his own right. In boasting his dexterous approach, projects like ‘Ghetto Gospel’, ‘Rebel with A Cause’ and the 2018 release of ‘Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament’, have only certified his position and trajectory in the game. Collaborating with the likes of Kano, Chip, Wretch 32, Giggs, Youngs Teflon, Devlin and Skepta to name a few, Ghetts has harvested a legendary status that will go down in the history books. Posing as an inspirational figure to many across the world, the heavy-weight emcee hopes to inspire the masses through pushing artistic boundaries and amplifying his timeless sound.
Notion had the chance to catch up with the Grime pioneer and ask him all about the meaning behind being a real lyricist, his latest track ‘IC3’ with Skepta, his forthcoming album and more.
How have you been? How have you found this pandemic period?
I’m ok you know! I’ve been counting my blessings really. This year has been tough for everyone in the same way and in different ways! So, I really am just counting my blessings.
I remember watching the ‘Newham Talks’ you did with Kano, you mentioned you built a studio in your house but had barely used it. Did you end up using it?
Nope! I made it back to the studio! I am back! *laughs*
How have you found it creatively?
I have been working on my album and shooting a load of videos, so I guess creatively, it’s been alright for me! I haven’t had any pandemic blocks or anything like that so it’s been okay!
There have been a few conversations over the course of the year about quality over quantity, and the return of real Rap. The word lyricist or wordsmith can get thrown around a lot.
It gets thrown about! *laughs*
I can definitely hold my hands up from time to time! *laughs* What to you is being a proper lyricist?
It’s somebody who is able to paint a clear picture and make it seem like you were there whilst it was happening, without the repeating of words you may have used in the same 16 or 32. Also, to be witty, to have metaphors and explain things that have layers – double or triple entendre’s. It’s very technical but I guess music is very subjective, it’s always up for debate!
Yeah! When people think of the word lyricist or wordsmith, they tend to jump straight to techniques and punchlines, but I also think it feeds into creating timeless music and actually doing something, rather than just saying it?
Yeah! I agree, 100%!
You’ve mentioned previously that you prefer to build relationships with producers or artists prior to going to the studio, it’s always stuck with me because in our current soundscape or even landscape, everything is so fast paced and in some cases you can be shoved into a room with someone and are told to make a tune or are told to ‘hop on’ something. Why is it so important for you to build a relationship prior to creating something?
For me, I’ve always made the best music that way! I guess when somebody knows me on a more personal level rather than just a working level and actually knows what I’m like, it makes the studio experience a lot more comfortable. I always perform at my best when it’s like that, so it’s great when I build the relationship! All the producers that I work with, even the new ones, I’ve been building relationships with them from before I worked with them.
How do you get to know them? What do you do, say “Come for dinner?” *laughs*
Yeah! *laughs* Literally! If I’m going out somewhere, I ask them to come along and just see how people react to music and what they’re reacting to. We could be going to a rave or someone’s concert, we can just roll man! Just roll for a little while, it’s better like that! But to be fair, sometimes you do have instant chemistry with people!
You’ve dropped a string of singles this year, and you did your ‘Mad About Bars’ which was sick by the way!
Thankyou! I appreciate that!
We can’t not mention ‘IC3’ with Skepta – a hard line up! This song carries with it a very important message, for people that aren’t aware of the what the title of the track means, could you explain the meaning and message behind this track?
‘IC3’ is a code for Black people, ‘IC1’ is a white male and ‘IC2’ is a dark European. ‘IC3’ is definitely a Black male, because of the stop and search situation we’ve gotten accustomed to over the years, with that we made the track and Skepta said a line in the song that made me think about it in that direction – that’s how it came about!
So it wasn’t planned at all then? You both just went to the studio…
No! I reached out and then we just went to the studio!
We love an organic link up! Over the years, you’ve really proved your versatility and broken out of the Grime barriers you were once boxed into. Going forward, in the coming years, where do you see your sound going?
Thankyou! I’ve been more involved in the production on this album, if I have ever made tailor made to who I am and how I am as a person, then it’s this album 100%! I feel like it’s so me, from the production to everything new I have learnt, it represents me well!
You recently joined forces with Puma for the Puma Suede Music campaign that recently launched! How important was it for you to be a part of this initiative?
You know what, I really like Puma man! Puma always seen to want to level up and I like the way they move. I like the trainers as well; the new designs are cold – these are my favourite shape!
Watch the music video for "IC3" featuring Skepta below:
You’re a happy man then! You’ve got some new kicks! *laughs*
When you think of Puma regarding Hip-Hop or even Grime, what comes to mind? I know Puma has played a staple role especially within style…
It’s an authentic brand, it’s been around from the start for what we like call – well not the whole of culture, but one side of the culture!
I read that you recruited both Villz and Myers to join you in the studio to make the track at the Suede Music Studio. Even you yourself said that it was three generations of Newham – what was it about these emerging artists in particular?
I like what Myers and Villz are doing at the moment in terms of music and what they’re representing – I really like them both! They are two guys that are ready to make the transition, I thought that they would be good for the Puma campaign!
You are known for being one of the UK’s best emcees, having over a decade of experience in the game, and being championed the way you are, in what ways did you help mentor and guide these artists when you were in the studio? Did you give them any tips for going forward at all or?
One thing about advice, it’s weird because I feel like everyone’s journey is unique to them. So, if I’m asked something, I’d usually say that this is what worked me or I found it easier than doing that, or I tried that, but everyone is different. Something that worked for me, might not work for you and vice versa!
What can we expect to hear from you this 2021?
The album! All I can think about is my album right now, I’m literally in the studio adding the finishing touches as we speak!
Ahh okay! Adding the sprinkles! *laughs*
I’ve been the adding the sprinkles!