Conflict Of Interest shows why Ghetts is a great at the same time as showing us more insight into his personal life.
“There’s no introduction needed, I’m a genius./And I’m even schooling seniors”. You would think being in the game from 2004 with iconic and classic lines like that, that an artist like Ghetts simply doesn’t need an introduction and in most cases he doesn’t. Conflict Of Interest despite being the latest in a long line of projects is actually the project that I think does the best job of introducing who Ghetts is. It’s here that it makes sense to mention the development of Ghetts as an artist. He started as Ghetto evolved into Ghetts and later began to incorporate a J. Clarke element to his music – over time this has meant each of these names has become associated with a different facet of who Ghetts the overall artist is. Conflict Of Interest is the best introduction to Ghetts the complete artist.
The best introduction to Ghetto, well I’ll leave that up to you to decide on that one but the legendary Risky Roadz freestyle and 2000 & Life are some easy choices for that. J. Clarke is a little harder to pin down as there have been elements of that identity across the years but the most formal introduction was 2013’s ‘The Cypher’ which breaks down each of the three identities.
My introduction to Ghetts was late. In 2009 I’d only just become a teenager so I didn’t feel the trajectory of ‘Ghetto’ live, I heard tacks here and there but it wasn’t until 2009 that I actually tapped in to a project. There was a set with Ghetts, Sharky Major and Doller Da Dustman on Logan Sama’s Kiss 100 show, I believe it was to help promo Ghetts’s pending Calm Before The Storm project, and I’ll never forget the diversity put on display but more importantly a dexterity in the way Ghetts put together words. From then I was a fan, and Ghetts in a way became the embodiment of Grime as a sound that I resonated with most so as Ghetts evolved so did my own appreciation for the genre and its evolution.
Ghetto, Ghetts, and J. Clarke – three sides of the same person that represent sometimes completely contrasting ideologies. This is something that can be felt across the progression of his music over the years. It sounds ridiculous to say this of the Grime legend, but Conflict Of Interest feels like a true consolidation of his sound where we get to hear from the three sides interchangeably without there ever being a break in cohesion. The dominant voice across the album is Ghetts the artist, but we still hear from J. Clarke the father and family man as well as get glimpses of the unbridled, raw and chaotic energy of Ghetto.
With such a storied career that has had countless moments that were integral to shaping the scene as we know it now, it has felt like we’ve always known Ghetts because of his music. But looking back across his catalogue, and it’s an extensive one, despite there being moments of introspection and the odd piece of information here and there Ghetts has largely let the music do the talking without sharing much of his personal life – or at least not as much as we hear from other artists. It is in this aspect that Conflict Of Interest excels as we finally get to hear about the man behind all the historical moments directly from his perspective.
To really speak on Conflict Of Interest I feel it’s important to touch on moments amongst his previous catalogue so we can really take stock of what Conflict Of Interest is.
In 2004 we had Ghetto burst onto the scene with 2000 & Life coming in 2005 which was pure Ghetto. It was that young untamed energy just firing on all cylinders with no restraint and almost with no direction seemingly fueled by anger. In 2007 this was followed up with Ghetto Gospel, this was a more nuanced project and an arguably more pivotal one in his career highlighted by the fact in 2017 Ghetts did a special 10 year anniversary show for it. Then came Freedom Of Speech in 2008, whilst a great project it felt in some ways like a step back in mentality from Ghetto Gospel it felt like the anger was taking the lead again. It’s important to note however that Freedom Of Speech hosts ‘Convo With A Cabbie’ one of the best examples of storytelling to this day, it’s even lauded by fellow lyrical giant Wretch 32 in his book Rapthology. This, to me at least, was the completion of the Ghetto arc of his career.
As Ghetts, Calm Before The Storm in 2010 seemed to mark the point of control. The anger simply became focussed passion, no energy was lost it was just a lot less chaotic and the quality of song increased again as it had with each new project. I’m going to skip over Momentum and Merry Xmas EP and jump to 2014 when we got Rebel With A Cause. Rebel With A Cause is probably Ghetts’s most polarising project because it felt like a real left turn from the East London MC. It was sonically experimental in a way we had never seen before from him and I would argue that came down to a lot of J. Clarke influence of wanting to embody and expand his personal tastes and horizons.
Post Rebel With A Cause the two projects that I think are most poignant to provide context are 2016’s Momentum 2: The Return of Ghetto and 2018’s Ghetto Gospel: New Testament. Momentum 2 was powerful because it was the first time we really got the Ghetto identity back taking centre stage, but even still it was handled with the finesse that Ghetts had developed over the years. Then Ghetto Gospel: New Testament at the time felt like it was the magnum opus, the completed Ghetts project that was indisputable. It is still an incredible album that should go down as a classic but Conflict Of Interest showed that there was still more we could expect from Ghetts.
So now we have Conflict Of Interest and it has the feeling of all of the lessons learnt in the past bodies of work as well as life finally being slotted in their right place. Where Ghetto Gospel: New Testament was a great project, it hadn’t quite perfected tying together the three identities and the respective narratives that they could tell. Conflict Of Interest on the other hand has had the craftsmanship and attention to detail we’d expect of a luxury watchmaker. The project really flows and has that same sense of cohesion that a classic album has.
To me what allows for this cohesion and consolidation of the three identities is the fact that Ghetts is extremely personal on this album. We get insight into his mind in almost every situation we could want to hear his perspective on. It’s also not just his perspective on his current situation, across the project there is reflection and insight into his past and some of the big moments we never really heard about. This is most apparent on tracks like ‘Autobiography’, ‘Dead To Me’, and ‘Proud Family’ but it’s there in almost every track on the project. With so much introspection and expression of his own story, we finally get the perfect place to have all three identities on display without it feeling disjointed.
Hearing Ghetts, Ghetto and J. Clarke co-exist on a body of work feels like both an evolution but also the end of a chapter. It feels like an evolution because in a way it is the truest delivery of who Ghetts is in totality. It feels like the end of a chapter because he’s managed to do it which in a way leaves the question of what’s going to happen next. If he wanted to Ghetts could retire from music with this project and have signed off with his best body of work and a legacy that is difficult to rival.
But that’s not what I think is going to happen by any stretch. Ghetts is constantly evolving so whilst this is currently the best version of him we’ve seen I know there are heights in his own mind for what he’s capable of that he’s maybe only scratching the surface of here. We’ll have to see what comes next from Newham’s very own but rather than speculating on that there are some final things to say on Conflict Of Interest.
The album is stellar and goes above the expectations I had for it but it also serves as a reminder that our legends are just as human as us even if they don’t show it all the time. Conflict Of Interest is going to be a project that resonates with a wide array of people for just as wide an array of reasons simply down to how relatable the content is. It helps that it’s delivered with a flair and confidence that can only be developed by years of work at a craft as well as appropriately grandiose production. This is all without even discussing the incredible features. It is an album to be digested over time, and one that I feel will only get better with more listens and more layers to its depths are revealed.
To go back to the introduction, Conflict Of Interest gives us Ghetts the complete artist, and it is a marvel to behold. He has to be given his flowers again now that the project is out and I hope people give it the same time and care that he put into the project.
You can see the new Evolution of Ghetts videos here on Ghetts’s YouTube channel as well as the already released visuals from the album.