Ghetts was pivotal in early grime, and now he’s a key player in pushing the genre forward.
Starting out in grime collective Nasty Crew – known then as Ghetto – founded by Marcus Nasty and including big hitters like D Double E, Kano, Jammer and Footsie, he has gone on to be a big part of the genre’s development.
Penning tracks like Ivor Novello-nominated ‘Black Rose’ – a poignant tribute to his own daughter and black women everywhere, exploring colourism and fatherhood – and working with artists like Swindle, blending new UK jazz with grime, Ghetts is propelling his genre to new, more complex heights.
One of his most exciting projects so far is 2018’s ‘Ghetto Gospel: The New Testement’ LP, and this weekend he’s appearing alongside some of the artists featured on the album – Donae’O and Kojey Radical – at the first instalment of brand new festival The Ends in Croydon, South London, as well as huge names like Nas and De La Soul, and home-grown talent like Nadia Rose.
In the run-up to the festival this weekend, Clash caught up with Ghetts to talk grime…
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Grime was recognised for the third year in a row at the 2019 Ivor Novello Awards – you, Dizzee and Wiley were all acknowledged – why do you think it’s being appreciated at these levels now?
I feel like the amount of people that are really into the genre is driving it, and now everybody’s into it – they’re everywhere.
At the end of the day, grime is probably the youngest genre of music in the world. Every other genre has years and years on grime, so I feel like the growth was inevitable and we’re finally starting to see it now.
You were nominated for ‘Black Rose’ – a pretty complex track – and you’ve worked with Swindle, combining grime with things like jazz. Is grime getting more complex?
I feel like there have always been people who push it. There are different artists that provide different things – you’ve got artists that are more conceptual and there are artists that are amazing at making club bangers.
Within the genre you’ve got people that are talented at their own kind of thing, some are album artists and some people will be putting out summer bangers for the next 15 years. That’s what they’re good at – it’s their own super power, so to speak.
There have always been these people creating conceptual pieces within the genre of grime, but they were maybe overlooked. Because when you’re creating a conceptual piece you can’t really play that in a party setting.
You’re not gonna hear them in the club, but you maybe listen to them on a Sunday morning when you’re cleaning up your house.
How do you imagine grime developing from here?
It’s not even a predication. What I’ve always done from the very start in grime is look to the early days of hip-hop. Grime has actually gone the same way.
It’s the closest thing to what we have here. Watching hip-hop start in the Bronx, which was like grime starting in East London, then watching it go to other places.
Then looking at our first major MCs and their biggest MCs, Like Dizzy for example could be like Rakim. And you could say So Solid are like Wu Tang.
I’ve been saying it’s following the same path for years, and I’ve not been wrong yet!
In terms of newer artists, who are you into at them moment?
What’s weird is that I still listen to everything, like everything. When someone I’m aware of drops an album I listen to it immediately.
Most recently I listened to the slowthai album – I enjoyed that a lot – then Digga D and I liked that a lot.
But they’re just the most recent projects. I’ve listened to everything anybody from the culture has dropped this year. That’s just how I am.
I could never ever lose that – I love it, I love to hear the different styles and the different things. I just enjoy music full stop, you know? I proper enjoy music.
And who are you looking forward to The Ends festival this weekend?
Well obviously first, RIP Nipsey.
Nipsey Hussle was really going to be a highlight for me.
I’ve seen Nas before but I’m really looking forward to seeing him again – he’s an absolute legend, I’ve opened for him – and I will be watching De La Soul.
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Tickets for The Ends festival (31 May – 2 June) are available at Metropolis Music.
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