fri 16/04/2021

Album: Ghetts - Conflict of Interest | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Ghetts - Conflict of Interest

Album: Ghetts - Conflict of Interest

Mature redemption songs from a grime master

Immersively arranged and intricately lyrical, Ghetts’ third full album further boosts grime’s takeover of British music’s front rank. Aged 36, he’s a contemporary of Kano, and similarly still evolving.

Immersively arranged and intricately lyrical, Ghetts’ third full album further boosts grime’s takeover of British music’s front rank. Aged 36, he’s a contemporary of Kano, and similarly still evolving.

Last year’s eerily mesmeric single, “Mozambique”, shows how he now layers his music deep, helped by subtly supportive orchestration and potent deployment of a packed guest list. Chopping strings add classical gravity as synth police sirens stir, while on the hook, South African “future ghetto punk” Moonchild Sanelly trills rrrs hard as an Art Blakey press-roll (wanting “gr-r-reen dough”), over Gothic chants like The Omen soundtrack. Birmingham rapper Jaykae hectically relates street deals, Sanelly wryly slurs a teasing Afro-punk reply; Ghetts himself is softly regretful, elevating even violence by fresh London metaphor (“Knife in the wind, poke and breeze...”), voice understated and under pressure, till he viciously splats lines’ ends against the mic. There’s a society in the sounds as much as words.

Crime and punishment, love and parenthood are all intimate here, with judgement reserved for God. Ghetts’ flat, stoic tone stays striking, as in the evenly remorseless, short lines of “Fire and Brimstone” (with Dizzee Rascal’s helium skitter a background contrast). Synths mistily swirl and coldly chime, as if passing through an East London dream realm’s echoing portals. A more prosaic geography – Ilford, Stratford, Walthamstow – roots songs in lived streets.

Gangster threats, relishable from a distance, colour the Giggs-guesting “Crud” (“We’re gonna find out where you live and go later”), and “No Mercy”, set in a miasma of harsh growls and taunting cuckoo cries. Stormzy guests on “Skegman”, all abstract staccato, brassy flourishes, and flashes of spilled, frustrated venom.

But Ghetts pays equal attention to equally intricate love, and female voices. “Thirty-five, still child-like,” he protests on the defensive ballad “Good Hearts”, both sensitive and paranoid to one of these songs’ two women. Emile Sandé plays the other, “Sonya”, a faithful pen-pal in his teenage jail-time, with tremulous feeling, over softly lovely jazz piano, strings and sax.

Like Kano, Dizzee and Stormzy, Ghetts is an elder now. And though Conflict of Interest remains sympathetically steeped in criminal experience, it also holds out a hand to pull free. “Little Bo Peep”, with Dave, Wretch 32 and Hamzaa, is a grand last panorama, combining lullabies and prayers, missteps and hard ascents: “A change is gonna come, that’s what Sam sung.” It parts materialist veils to discern higher truths of individual possibility, based on unproscriptive Christianity, and support from family and grime peers. Ranging across multiple perspectives, it links wartime conditions in the Middle East and Plaistow, but celebrates social growth which leaves “women on the guest-list, family respected”, and sex, death and drugs subsidiary to love. Hamzaa’s grainy gospel voice meanwhile touches heaven. On an album whose scope is also temporal, such climactic, warming nostalgia helps it hopefully look forward.

Though sympathetically steeped in criminal experience, it also holds out a hand to pull free

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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