Sunday 19 November 2017

Q&A: Ghostpoet

The rapper on 5am dread, UK hip-hop and Radiohead

Ed Power

Ed Power

A big hello to Ghostpoet, aka the Joan Burton of British urban music. Everybody agrees you make an intriguing noise -- it's just nobody is quite sure what your portfolio should be. You've been labelled a spoken-word poet, brit-rapper, 'progressive hip-hopper'... We were confused before we'd even slapped your LP on.

I admire spoken-word stuff. But I wouldn't say it's an influence in any way. I've listened to hip-hop more than to spoken word or anything like that.

At the same time, I don't want to be seen simply as a rapper. I try to incorporate as many influences as possible, including hip-hop, indie, dance, jungle... everything. It's what I enjoy. I didn't sit down and work out what I wanted to sound like. I'm all about experimenting.

World music champion Gilles Peterson signed you to his label on the strength of a demo tape. What did he hear that nobody else did?

I was doing my own thing. It was frustrating 'cos nothing was really happening. I was trying to make demos, sending them out to everyone I knew.

I wouldn't say it was a direct result of this but, out of the blue, a friend of a friend introduced [Gilles] to my music. We met and he was of the mind, 'you've got something going on here'.

We talked -- it was a case of us both being on the same wavelength. He was like, 'let's do an album'. He was quite relaxed about it.

Your sound tends to bring out the purple side in music journalists, doesn't it? Reviews have gushed about your 'somnolent' genius and the air of 'muggy 5am dread' you conjure. Oh dear.

It's not like I make my music at three in the morning. Music is about the subconscious as much as the conscious. Maybe subconsciously it has come across there -- that idea of being tired, physically as well as mentally. Of trying to get through the struggles of life and not quite knowing where or what to do.

I do find it hard to sleep. I've got a lot on my mind. Sleep isn't something I enjoy. I'd rather be awake.

A few years ago you'd probably have been dismissed as a niche act. But the public seems a great deal more open to bleeding-edge sounds nowadays.

People like Dizzee Rascal, Tinie, Tinchy, N-Dubz -- they have definitely opened doors. As have people like James Blake and Jamie Woon. They have opened people's ears. That said, I'm just trying to be me.

We're going to ask you to weigh in on the Radiohead debate. Listening to King of Limbs, it's pretty obvious they've been influenced by experimental 'lap-top' artists such as Flying Lotus. A bunch of middle-aged cynics pinching other people's ideas or an avant-garde band going where other stadium groups would never dare venture?

On King of Limbs I can instantly see the Flying Lotus influence. I wouldn't like to say how much of it there would be -- it's not like he produced it.

The point is, it's important to embrace the world around you. A band such as Radiohead have been ahead of the game for so long, they can do what they like in my opinion. It encourages me that a group of such stature is listening to Flying Lotus and thinking, 'we could get that into our sound'.

The album Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam is out now

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