Monday 27 January 2020

Q&A: Obaro Ejimiwe - aka spoken-word rhymer Ghostpoet - on Mercury packing in the day job and why what he does definitely isn't hip-hop

Obaro Ejimiwe
Obaro Ejimiwe

Ed Power

Hello Obaro. I was passed a note from your record company asking that I not refer to your music as hip-hop. Sensitive much?

It's a genre, man. I'm not interested in genres. It doesn't make sense. If you were to call me folk or dance, I would have the same response. I don't intend to make music that involves any specific classification. I'm an artist and a musician and that is all the definition I need.

You were working for an insurance company in Coventry when you recorded your 2011 debut album, Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam. Now you're a Mercury nominated artist living in fashionable Shoreditch in London. Your head must be spinning.

It is important that I stay true to myself and true to the listener. People related to my first record because it was about reality, about genuine emotion. I wanted to retain that on the new one. I was determined to remain grounded.

So did you walk up to your boss one day and say "I'm giving up a career in financial services to make avant garde spoken-word pop?"

Giving up my day job was a daunting decision. I've always worked, even at university. It was really a case of taking a leap of faith. Nothing was guaranteed. Nothing is guaranteed. You never know how things will pan out. But music is my passion. You have to roll with it and see what happens. My boss was very understanding when I told him.

At the time, it was the right thing to do. Right now, I'm living my dream.

You brought in outside help for the first time. What was it like working with producer Richard Formby? Did he cramp your vision?

As an artist, I have specific vision of what I want to achieve. But it was fantastic to have someone like Richard on board to assist with the technical side, as that is something he is extremely accomplished at.

The way I work is to have a concept and then try to translate it into music. Richard has been involved with people like Wild Beast and Darkstar, and I'm a huge fan of both. He is a fantastic interpreter of ideas.

How do you relate to your fans now that you're a successful musician?

My music isn't about what I do in my life. It's about the things I am feeling – about having good days and bad days. When I listen to music I want to hear about the wonderful and the shitty. You are always going to have those experiences, regardless of the circumstances.

Your last record was put together in your bedroom. This time you were in a studio with a producer. Did you find it a daunting step-up?

It was more a feeling of excitement. I was in an environment that was alien. I wanted to push myself. I'm pleased with the results. It felt the right thing to do this time around. Maybe next time it won't be. On this occasion, it made perfect sense.

Ed Power

Ghostpoet plays Forbidden Fruit Festival, at Kilmainham, Dublin, on Saturday, June 1. His new album is Some Say I So I Say Light

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