When you talk about Grime and the MCs who made the genre into what it is today, Ghetts should definitely be in the conversation. Grime classics such as ‘Boy In The Corner’ and ‘Home Sweet Home’ are normally the first to be mentioned when you speak about albums. but you can always see who is really into Grime if ‘Ghetto Gospel’ is mentioned.
Hot off the heels of ‘2000 & Life’, Ghetto (as he was then known) had evolved through his music enough to go on to release ‘Ghetto Gospel’ in 2007. A great balance of vivacious tracks alongside some of the most introspective music in Grime, at the time it was considered a mixtape, but the quality of the music made the fans consider it a debut album – even though technically, ‘Rebel With A Cause’ holds that title.
10 years later with Grime culture taking a lead role in the music scene, The Roundhouse in Camden has recently hosted a series of intimate performances bringing Ghetts’ Ghetto Gospel back with a live band to a seated audience. At first, it’s hard to picture anyone being able to stay seated whilst one of the best performers in the country touches the stage. But if you listen to the album, you’ll quickly realise that it’s plausible with the conscious music that Ghetts delivers towards the end of the project.
The venue filled up just as SNE finished his set to warm up the crowd and the lights dimmed as the band began to play. As Ghetts stepped onto the stage, there was a loud applause followed by silence as he started to subtlety speak his bars into existence. When you listen to Ghetts, you find yourself listening intently. New fans will be used to songs like ‘One Take’ where the flow is easier to follow. But Ghetts back in the mid 2000s was a tornado with words. Breaking apart syllables and reconstructing back to fit his lyrical will, his verses on songs like ‘Driver’s Anthem’ demanded your full attention as he rapidly delivered his lyrics. Songs like ‘CPB’ were performed with a sense of calm. As the East London MC walked across the stage, there were no signs of him slowing down to catch his breath. All those gym sessions he’s uploaded to his Snapchat feed obviously prepared him for this night. With typical rappers limiting their movements, Ghetts continues to be active and made sure that every corner of the venue could see him.
Choosing to use a live band instead of a DJ, Ghetto Gospel was brought to new heights during songs like ‘Understand’. With three backing singers providing strong supporting vocals and the guitarist playing like there’s a record exec in the front row, Ghetts strolled across the stage and delivered every single word flawlessly. Hardly breaking a sweat, he slipped into an accepella which was prompted by someone in the crowd who shouted out one of his many bars. As soon as he restarted reciting his lyrics, the day one fans in the audience joined in and helped to finish the verse.
“My aunt is about the step on the stage with me. I’m shook!”
The aunt that Ghetts referred to was Andrea Clark, who stepped onto the platform to join the singers and beautifully sang the chorus to her nephew’s ‘State Of Mind’. This was another great example of the band bring a new level of musicality to this body of work.
If I’ve changed, have I changed for the worst? I come home with blood stains on my shirt, Tryna’ fool my mum like it’s April the first. Just to think I was raised in a church – State Of Mind
As Ghetts walked the the right of the stage, singers dressed in white took center stage while he confessed heartfelt words to his mother who was seated nearby. Ghetts was never one to hide his feelings, using his music to speak aloud his personal views on the world and moved by his words, his mother rose up from her seat and embraced her son.
During ‘You and Me’, Ghetts had a moment on stage when words weren’t coming to him. Fortunately, there was a dedicated fan who was seated in the front row who recited every word to the verse. This reignited Ghetts memory and enabled him to continue on and finish the songs.
“I’m an attractive young black kid, plus I do music. Still I’m on the road so I haven’t adapted, I don’t wanna mix the both, but when pricks provoke I just might put sticks to throats” – Menace
As the mood changed, people rose out of their seats and rushed towards the stage as the speakers erupted with the sounds of a piercing guitar rift. Ghetts ran on stage with fire in his eyes proclaiming that the music was going to change pace. “Yeah. Yeah. It’s that time now”
A large crowd formed at front of the stage. Security looked at each other with bemusement but chose to allow the excited fans to come within touching distance of the headline act welcoming his people. The levels rose again as Ghetts started to perform ‘Top 3 Selected’, probably one of the most recognisable songs in his arsenal and a sound that took Grime to another level. To make things even better, Kano walked out and sprayed bars which transformed the song into the remix. Accompanied by Scorcher and Mercston, the instrumental that Rapid created was brought to life as the mandem mobbed the stage. There wasn’t a seated person in the house as the crowd grew and showed their appreciation to the collection of MCs.
What was delivered at The Roundhouse was an example of the complexity of Grime. Not only is it dark radio sets and verses filled with brovado, but songs created to give an insight to an artist and their life experiences. ‘Ghetto Gospel’ was the next evolution in the genre, an album that needed to be mentioned alongside the status quo. Ghetts presented a musical experience that those who attended will never forget.