In the spirit of hip-hop


OBARO Ejimiwe – aka Ghostpoet – is recovering from a very big night out. This week, the London-based MC was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize but lost the big prize to PJ Harvey.

The 28-year-old’s nomination is on the back of his debut album, Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam, a collection of hip-hop, trip-hop musings about life’s grey areas, relationships and nuances.

The album sums up – perfectly – the ‘day after’, when melancholy reigns and clarity retreats into the background.

His sonic aesthetic reflects this perfectly – too-cool-to-put-any-effort-in vocals speak over a jagged collage of textured sounds and beats.

Given its slick, lounge-like sound, it’s appropriate that the record is one Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label.

And it’s turning all the right heads: Roots Manuva himself – aka Rodney Smith – even praised Ejimiwe for his MCing and worked with him on remix track Survive It.

Thematically, Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam is universal, as its author explains.

“The album’s about the idea of life, its ins and outs and ups and downs.

“It’s about relationships as well – not just relationships in the traditional sense but relationships we have with society and the people we come across in our everyday lives.”

Released earlier this year, the album has wooed critics across the board.

“It’s all been a big surprise, the album came out and the reviews came in and it all went from there. The internet played a really big part as well with sites like Facebook.”

It was his single, Liiines, that clinched it for most critics – a stunning 2.56 minutes of melodic downbeats and Roots Manuva-like phrasing.

It’s not without its irony, either – the song is about Ejimiwe’s struggle to get his own ‘lines’ out there.

“It’s about having something to say in music and having no outlet but wanting to get my stuff out there. It’s about it not being a reality.”

Ironically, in spite of its premise, it was Liiines that ultimately enabled Ghostpoet’s lines to get out there and reach the masses. “It’s strange when I listen back to it now,” he says.

“It’s really different now but that song represents a signpost in my life.”

And, contrary to its name, the song is not – as many have perceived – about cocaine. “People have said that but I have never taken drugs in my life.”

The Mercury Music Prize is a career breaker for any nominee.

“I wanted to be part of the Mercury Music Prize and hopefully something good will come out of it – I want to push on and do more.”

Although Ghostpoet’s breakthrough came only this year, he has been craving for an artistic outlet for much longer.

“I’ve always been creative and I always thought to myself that I wanted to do something in music and essentially put stuff out there but I was always scared of being on stage.”

Needless to say, he’s overcome his fear. “I remember the first time I went on stage and it was very, very difficult for me.

“With music you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve and I didn’t want a situation where people were judging my art but you get used to it.”

Ghostpoet plays at The Harley on Saturday, October 8.