From the spare bedroom to the main stage at Sonar in Barcelona is the nice little career curve Ghostpoet is currently enjoying. The London-based rapper caught the attention of DJ Giles Peterson around a year ago and from laying down vocals onto Reason in the spare room, the young MC has recently released his debut album, Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam and is an early contender for this year’s Mercury Music Prize.
Speaking to Noise before his visit to The Pavilion on June 4, Ghostpoet comes across as one of the good guys who realises he’s gotten a lucky break. “It’s very humbling,” he says, “and a big privilege to go to places like Barcalona to play at festivals. I’m still pinching myself.”
Does it phase him at all we wonder? “Yeah a little bit, but I’ve got to be true to myself and remind myself that this is such an enjoyable way of making a living.”
Ghostpoet started making music in that grey doldrum of a city, Coventry, where he was studying Media Production. He was part of a grime collective and kept his part of it going on his return to South London. Some of his work recalls tracks from Roots Manuva, who comes from the same neck of the woods, while there’s parts of Tricky in there for us, with decent lyrics throughout.
Did he think this was a good time to be writing lyrics in Britain? “I think it’s always a good time to be writing words,” he reckons. “People have said I’m a ‘current affairs rapper’, but I’d disagree. I write about what I see around me yeah, and maybe how it effects me personally, but it’s pure chance really that anyone is getting to hear it so maybe if it wasn’t there, it wouldn’t be that important.
“If it wasn’t for Giles Peterson I wouldn’t have had a clue how to ‘make it’. I was just putting my stuff out on Myspace and hoping for the best. I don’t have that ‘look at me’ streak in me that I think you need to be noticed these days. So it was never going to happen for me like that.”
How it has happened is through his songwriting, which is always the best way, with a healthy dose of internet word of mouth. His musical tastes vary too - he claims Badly Drawn Boy’s The Hour of the Bewilderbeast was the first album he owned (making this writer feel extremely old) and cites MF Doom, Radiohead and Squarepusher as artists he likes.
This varied grounding, combined with his obvious love of US hip hop and Bristol trip hop allows a wide palette for his compositions, something which is being picked up on by an increasing large audience.
An engaging man to talk to, Ghostpoet doesn’t even have a bad word to say about Coventry – one of dreariest places Noise has ever visited – saying it has a nice vibe and lots going for it. Like himself in fairness.
Ghostpoet plays The Pavilion in Cork on Saturday, June 4