Ghostpoet at The Button Factory, Dublin, 24th October 2017
Ghostpoet stands on the very blurred edge of contemporary music. Despite being identified as a rapper, in truth this is a lazy label.
The thirty-four year-old, from South London faintly sounds like Roots Manuva and vocalises in a cadence that dips and accelerates, almost at a moment’s notice. But to pigeonhole him like that would be doing him a disservice.
In addition, he has journeyed between several genres throughout his career; from the claustrophobic trip-hop/post-dubstep of debut, ‘Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam’ to the more alt-rock tinged output of ‘Shedding Skin’.
This year’s ‘Dark Days + Canapés’ took that bleakness from his first two albums, but took a decidedly more outward look at the world while also wrestling with his own mortality.
Ghostpoet (real name, Obaro Ejimiwe) has garnered two Mercury nominations. And you wouldn’t bet against him making it third time lucky. So there was considerable excitement surrounding his headline date at The Button Factory.
The crowd were predominantly in their mid-to-late thirties, putting paid to the notion that hip-hop doesn’t grant a degree of accessibility to anyone once they reach the age of thirty-five.
Donning thick-rimmed glasses and suit jacket and trousers, Ejimiwe’s sophistication hugs his powerful frame. And backed by a band which consisted of drums, bass and a keyboardist /violinist and his sequencer, Ghostpoet formed an operatic stage presence.
Exploring his tics (both physical and verbal) to great effect, he possessed a frenetic yet perfectly restrained energy, one which always kept you enthralled.
His formative years experimenting with Reason while at university in Coventry served Ghostpoet well. His firm ear for layering and song structure were showcased marvellously throughout.
Even though ‘Dark days…’ has only been out since August, songs like Immigrant Boogie (a wonderful take on the migrant crisis, a dangerous sounding Jungle Boogie) and later, Freakshow cause a furore. There’s magic in the slower moments too; Trouble + Me and End Times both captivating and absorbing.
Of the older tunes, Off Peak Dreams, The Pleasure in Pleather, particularly delight. Cash and Carry Me Home will no doubt have evoked fond and bleak memories and of being skint in your twenties for the older members of the audience, and resonated deeply with those currently in that predicament.
The joyous Liiines, with its life-affirming lyrics “life is too short to store up grudges” is a fun, nostalgically hopeful ending to a perfectly rendered performance.
If Ghostpoet can maintain his energy throughout his forthcoming tour it will be a triumphant success.