‘If something crazy happened here, god forbid, and we managed to survive, my outlet would be going to the studio and writing about it.’ Ghetts is speaking to me at his PR in east London, and he’s explaining the influence behind his lyrics. I’m not really sure what disasters could befall the little office where we sit, but he does seem like a dude who’s more than ready to handle them.
The Grime MC has spent the last decade relaying the troubled stories of his past in numerous mixtapes, countless cyphers and a million more clashes. Yet surprisingly, his debut album, Rebel With A Cause, only came out this year. The LP still features the aggressive tales you’d expect from a guy behind a track called Artillery, but - as the album name hints - he’s got other motives this time round. ‘I know there’s this perception of me as a person, but what I really wanted to do with the album was show everyone me in depth, so you have more of an understanding’.
Judging by the first two singles, Rebel and Fire Burning, which lament the two jobs worked by his mother, David Cameron and the riots, you’d think he was declaring a political stance. ‘No. I wouldn’t really consider myself a political rapper, or any sort of rapper, I don’t like restrictions. I like being able to talk about everything and at that time the riots were on the news 24/7, so I just went in the studio and that’s the first thing that came up.’
Both tracks might be a bit too heavy, his lines a tad venomous, to make you believe Ghetts is simply a reporter, a neutral who bears no ill-feeling toward our PM or the state of Britain. Still, it’s unlikely you’d see him down Parliament Square rocking a V for Vendetta mask. If he has any issue, it’s with the value Austerity Britain places on people. ‘I just feel that the normal working man is a star in his own right, but they come home to idolise people on the TV.’ In Fire Burning, he mentions how we should idolise ‘commoners’, a loaded term that probably betrays the sincerity of the message.
Pointing out of the window to a guy delivery packages, Ghetts says, ‘he shouldn’t feel that he should be treated differently from someone that’s on TV or on radio 24/7. He’s cracking on with it, he’s made something out of life, something positive, he’s probably trying to feed his kids.’
Yet he realises that these unrealistic expectations, something he blames on “fame congestion”, are partly caused by his peers. ‘Rappers always do this thing where they boast about how much money they’re making, what car they drive, and the truth is, I find it weird that people should relate to that, because I think, how?’ In the past few years, Grime’s focus has arguably shifted to the charts, and many of the artists Ghetts grew up with are now boasting top 10 hits.
While he’s not exactly chasing a radio friendly rep, he doesn’t disrespect those who are ditching the genre’s grubbier past. ‘Everyone is searching for this nostalgic sound, when the genre’s only ten years old. It’s kind of backward. You can’t recreate what it used to be. It was a beautiful moment but in order for Grime to become what I think it deserves to become, we have to put our thinking caps on and move forward.’
‘I’m a firm believer in evolution. Everyone’s always like, “that’s not grime, that’s grime”, but I don’t know what Grime is because its so young. Sometimes I feel that grime is an energy.’
Does that mean Ghetts is open to change, to follow Grime’s current trajectory? Will he soon be hamming it up with Grimshaw on Radio 1 and headlining V? Probably not. ‘To me success is, “are you happy, are you doing enough to make you happy in life, do you go home happy no matter what you’re doing? I was happy making my album, going home to my missus and my daughter. That made me feel successful.’
‘Bob Marley said something - it’s a numbers game, and numbers don’t ever end.’
Fire Burning is released on November 30th. Pre-order it here. Ghetts is playing three UK dates this November. Birmingham on the 12th, Manchester on the 13th and London on the 16th.
If you want two free tickets to either of these shows, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Use the subject heading 'Get me to Ghetts' or something equally obvious.