Get Your Boom Baps Out! Full English Hip-Hop 08.08.11

Matthew Bayfield gets some things off his chest regarding the state of current UK Hip-Hop...

Ghostpoet Much like the world's banks, British petrol prices and Norway's projected tourism profits for the next few years, UK hip-hop is on it’s arse. As much as I despise the mind numbing banality and lyrical excretions of the likes of N-Dubz & Tinie Tempah, they are, and I say this with a modicum of sick in my mouth and a great stone in my heart, the only buggers making money. Proper money. Folding money. Bundles. Bundles that can be stacked. Yes, ashamedly for the people of Britain these cretins are collecting crust on your behalf. Maybe it's a positive. Maybe these grand profits, increased international focus & coverage can be rerouted back to UK artists? Oh no, never mind. We are just going to remix P Diddy songs, sign to Def Jam and flog Lucozade instead? Well done all! May you choke on guilt as the entire infrastructure of UK music collapses and you get diabetes from one too many isotonic sports drinks (heaven knows it must be tiring being a prick 24/7) as you flagrantly sell your pound of flesh at the crossroads in a bid to bolster your 'crazydumb' G-Shock collection.

It is always refreshing then, to see someone who actually appears to make an effort, get some recognition beyond the pages of dedicated (yet criminally under publicised) websites and independent magazines. Mad props (a very big & earnest well done) to Ghostpoet therefore, for his Peanut Butter Blue & Melancholy Jam has just been Mercury Music Prize nominated. Coming out way way back in 2011 in the tender and fertile month of February on the Giles Peterson skippered Brownswood Recordings. The record has been tenderly nurtured and is maturing well amongst the fruitful brethren of my record collection, still seeing regular plays six months on. On the Mercury list it sits alongside Tinie Tempah and Elbow. In my collection it sits alongside Jehst and Harry Belafonte. I know who should really be judging that shit. The record, aside from having the greatest title of the year, is a hypnotically spaced out piece for the main, sounding somewhere between the more atmospheric end of modern UK bass music and the more wandering parts of that wonderfully nineties genre of trip-hop. Don't be scared though my little minnows; guaranteed it doesn't have Maxi Jazz turning up on it to chat about dairy free yoghurt or sustainable resource tampons! The album is certainly a bold debut, Ghostpoet rarely goes for catchy hooks, and regularly steps off conventional rhyming patterns in favour of a more non sequitur flow, possibly better dubbed a ramble. Turns out this isn't the negative it may sound, as it helps to break down the barrier of conventional artist/listener convention to a degree. A prime example can be heard on 'Longing For The Night'. Atop a skittering beat, bleeping synth keys and a shuffling loop of clicks Ghostpoet tracks a particularly mind numbing day's progress, taking in arguing with a bus driver, having a cheeky smoke and watching Masterchef on the telly awaiting the night's adventures. It may be a somewhat existential celebration of nocturnal activity, but it is vividly rendered and the rambling lyric makes it feel genuinely like you are sat in the man's head alongside his conscience.

The album also features that Unicorn glitter shit rare thing of live instrumentation in places that actually works. Many have tried for the prize. Few have pulled it off. Potentially due to hip-hop's penchant for repeated loops and solid beat sequences, live instruments regularly come off as stale, and only serve to highlight the limitations of the sound. However, on 'Survive It', it brings a new energy to the track, also finding Ghostpoet on one of his most nimble vocal deliveries of the album. Refining the process further however is closing track 'Liiines' which is an almost anthemic end to proceedings. Using a piano, drums and guitar to flesh out a live sound around Ghostpoet's documentations of the fact he keeps writing & rhyming but no one appears to notice; apparently someone did and thank god for that. Although the chances of the award actually being given to him are slimmer than an anorexic in a Turkish prison, it is nonetheless refreshing to see an album with some actual content get highlighted to the largely spoon fed masses.

So, whilst the Casey Jones of hip-hop flogs trainers, fizzy pop, his dignity & the soul of Britain to whomever throws him a shiny new penny in a bid to deflect from the vapid content of his shudderingly poor album (also nominated... go figure) we can all have tea, toast and (possibly melancholy) jam with no endorsement other than a fine record.