“Right now, I’m going to introduce you to one of the best artists in the world…” For many, this isn’t a proposition that can be argued. Carrying a legacy that spans almost two decades, the voice of Ghetts is one that commands maturity amongst his peers, casting his shine over the future of grime and, quite broadly speaking, music in the UK full stop. It is for this exact reason that the Somerset House: Summer Series feels like an obvious step in the Newham rapper’s trajectory, all the meanwhile one that is well within his reach and has been for a while.
At arrival, there’s something distinctly exciting about the venue that, as you would imagine, transforms a Ghetts performance fresh off of Wireless’ mainstage into a much more intimate and immersing experience. The distant giggles of opening act Pip Millet flutter across the grandiose, Georgian architecture met with blue skies, touching crowds with the likes of ‘Make You Cry.’ It’s an incredibly varied audience that share the same attentiveness as the menacing plucks of ‘Listen’ make their way to the stage, marking Ghetts’ arrival. Nevertheless, the entrance isn’t met with the conventional applause or millennial flashlights filming, it is gunfingers that appropriately rise to the sky as an ode to reloads and pirate radio freestyles. Cherry-picked from ‘Conflict Of Interest’, the rapper’s latest offering that landed itself No. 2 on the UK charts, it’s ‘Hop Out’ that starts to drive a setlist that champions versatility. There’s a lowrider bounce in the track’s groove that keeps crowd energy at bay, dipping its toe into what feels like the rapper’s take on West Coast rap and G-funk.
“I feel overwhelmed. Not many times do I feel overwhelmed but when I look up I see people of all ages, of all races”
Taking a seat centre-stage, the evening shifts into the introspective, down-tempo album cuts that bring fans, both old and new, into the more personal world of Justin Clarke. The turn allows for his band to truly shine, made up of electric guitars, keys and percussion, elevating the production across. As the lines of ‘Autobiography’ recite “if you don’t tell your story, they’re gon’ tell it for you,” the detail-focussed verses paint the peaks and troughs of Ghetts’ career up til this point. The resonance of ‘Black Rose’ make for a particularly special moment shared between crowds and the reflective wordsmith who chooses his each and every word with intent, carefully crafting his inflections and delivery. It is indeed this attention to performance that identifies Ghetts as an artist most comfortable in his discography, bringing his recorded material to the stage in a way that feels unique and tailored to the moment.
Picking up the pace with the feel-good smoothness of ‘Purple Sky,’ Rude Kid throws in his first curve-ball with a re-vamped final verse that hops onto the instantly recognizable production of Ghost Town DJ’s ‘My Boo.’ The garage charm of ‘Good Hearts’ receives the same treatment, evolving into a ‘Swing My Way’ refix that generates instant approval.
The hunger of the more dedicated fan, craving a re-visit to the practice hours that shaped Ghetts’ lyrical swiftness and versatility, is next to be addressed. Not many MC’s can hop between the calm and composed flows to a frantic skippineess with as much ease and decorum. Blazing through the super-charged ‘Ina Di Ghetto’ and ‘Who’s Got A Problem,’ it is the militant drums of ‘Artillery’ reassuring that, despite now situated on one of the most prestigious stages globally, the early works earn the same spotlight that they once did in their day. Catapulting into ‘One Take’ as Rude Kid throws his 140bpm mastery into the mix, grime instrumental after grime instrumental, it’s these moments that mark both figureheads’ evolution.
“Power me up! I need powers and energy!”
Summoning his followers, the rapper unleashes a venemous verse from ‘Skengman’ that captures Ghetts at his most passionate, blazing through the erratic and uncontrollable. Catching his breath, he look into the front row and grins “I’m not possessed or anything…”
Whether an empty room or a sold-out Somersout House, Ghetts raps the way he does for himself, as if it were his final performance. It’s the same level of urgency and aspiration that once made its debut at 19, it’s one that simply refuses to budge. And that’s what makes him the best.
Words: Ana Lamond