Over fifteen years into his career, Ghetts is a veteran of the scene. He’s widely considered one of grime’s best lyricists, yet his popular profile has never managed to match his critical acclaim. This is partly due to his (in hindsight, wise) refusal to engage with grime’s pop crossover in the late 00s, but it’s also because he’s never quite managed to nail the perfect ‘comeback’ album in the way that Skepta managed with ‘Konnichiwa’, or Kano with ‘Made In The Manor’. With ‘Conflict Of Interest’, he might just have changed that.
Weighing in at over an hour long, it’s a lengthy and ambitious project where brooding singles like the previously released ‘IC3’ (featuring Skepta) rub shoulders with the near seven-minute retrospective storytelling of ‘Autobiography’. A late album highlight comes in the form of ‘Crud’, a skeletal track where Ghetts and Giggs both demonstrate why they deserve to have been at the top for so long. Relative newcomers Pa Salieu and Backroad Gee also bring the heat on ‘No Mercy’, with its catchy hook stitching the three different styles on display into a bruising three-and-a-half-minute banger.
Despite the pre-release singles drawing more from this punchy, high tempo side of the album, it’s the slower and more introspective material that defines the project. ‘Autobiography’ really is the keystone of the whole album, an incredibly impressive track which manages to tell Ghetts’ life story so far without sacrificing the enjoyability of the track or the pace of the album. The beautiful ‘Sonya’ (featuring Emile Sande) manages a similar feat, while ‘Proud Family’ paints a vulnerable and deeply personal portrait of unconditional family love.
If there’s one minor criticism of ‘Conflict Of Interest’, it’s that moving between the two strands of music on offer is sometimes more jarring that it needs to be. With 16 tracks here, it should be possible to make sure that the slower, retrospective work doesn’t bump heads with the hard-edged singles, but there are times when this isn’t the case.
It makes sense that, at 36 years old and with two kids, Ghetts is ready to look back on his life so far. Luckily for him (and us), that backwards glance has helped deliver his strongest album to date, and one of grime’s true classics – even if there is a not-very-good Ed Sheeran feature slapped in the middle of it.
Words: Jake Hawkes
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