For all its emphasis on regional pride and an over-reaching American arc, hip-hop is a lot better when there’s a collision of cultures. Although the genre started in New York, it was that city’s take on the Jamaican tradition of soundsystems that kick-started it all, and ever since there’s been a recurring theme of melting pot occurrences.
The Fugees were a collision of Haitian-American influences (the name itself was a derogative colloquialism for Refugees), Slick Rick’s unique accent came from his first eight years growing up in London and even DJ Premier, held by many as the ultimate proponent of the New York sound, was originally from Texas. It’s a lineage that has continued this side of the pond as well, with Great Britain rich history in cross cultural pollination seeping into our music.
An artist who lives up that description is Ghostpoet, whose British heritage is augmented with an upbringing that flirted between Dominica in the Caribbean and Nigeria, not to mention an education in Coventry where Two Tone pioneers The Specials originated from. With a flow that drifts somewhere between being a rapper and a performance poet, his delivery eschews the classic braggadocio patterns the genre usually musters and has drawn comparisons with arguably the greatest rapper the UK has ever produced, Roots Manuva. Like Roots the cultural palette has been extended long beyond the classic canon of hip-hop, with Radiohead, Gil Scott Heron and the post dubstep of Burial all clear influences.
There’s a laconic majesty to his music, an atmospheric sluggishness that saw the Guardian suggest that he “sounds like Dizzee on mogadon, or a half-asleep Streets”. It’s this dreamy aesthetic which led to his debut album, Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam, earn a Mercury Prize nomination upon release in 2011. His sophomore effort followed this year, Some Say I So I Say Light, which was also well received and confirmed him as an artist based thoroughly in his own identity. The next single to be released from that is ‘Cold Win’, due on August 26th (you can hear it above).
Despite the laid back quality to his music, the sound translates well to a live format. Emphasising his lyrics that little bit more in person and making more of the electronic dance undercurrent, the euphoric quality that lies lurking in the background on wax becomes more of a guiding presence. This treatment was evident on the performance of ‘Liiines’ on Later with Jools Holland below, which sees the track in rousing form.
You can catch Ghostpoet at a number of venues this summer, but our pick certainly would be this weekend’s Farmfestival. The gloriously intimate soiree has installed him as headliner, and with their family focus and underground mentality the backbone of the festival’s appeal, it’s sure to translate well into the murky chatter and glistening sonics that form his music. The geography of the festival also bodes well; located in the Somerset countryside the proximity to Bristol chimes perfectly considering the original dons of UK hip-hop fusion, Massive Attack.
As ever we’ll leave you with our favourite track from the artist in question, and whilst the jaunty bliss of ‘Liiines’ runs it close it’s still the chimes and self-effacing agony of debut single ‘Cash and Carry me home’ that hits hardest with us. We’ve all been in that guilt hazed drunken state before, his delicate description of the self-loathing that sometimes follows nights out striking a chord with us and setting off our emotional attachment to this very British artist.