News 7 February 2017
Author: Seth P

Ghetts’ ‘Ghetto Gospel’ show made grime history

7 February 2017

Grime’s a young genre that has been going through a growth spurt over the last five years or so. After being very much on the fringes it has gradually crept into the limelight, before completely stealing it in 2016. Last year saw Skepta scoop the Mercury Prize for Konnichiwa, Giggs (albeit still mostly a rapper, has been a torchbearer for grime regardless) and Kano both dropped groundbreaking albums and it finally seemed as though the tide was shifting and artists could make the music they’ve always made and no longer needed to turn into squeaky clean commercial pop stars to make a living.

Grime’s new found position as one of British cultures biggest exports has brought with it hordes of new fans, who weren’t around during the difficult yet formative years. This opened up opportunities to the genre’s pioneers, who educated the new listeners by treating them to performances of some classic material. Old heads finally got the chance to hear some of their favourite albums the way they’d always dreamt of, rather than in some dark, dingy, and often overcrowded venues in the depths of London.

Kano’s ten year anniversary of his magnum opus Home Sweet Home at the tail end of 2015 saw him capitalise on this new wave (the London show selling out in just two days), Dizzee then followed suit in the Summer of 2016 by giving fans a performance of the iconic Boy In Da Corner. To complete the holy trinity of grime albums it was only a matter of time before we would be graced with a performance of Ghetto Gospel.

The long awaited performance would not be one that disappoints. Ghetto Gospel is arguably Ghetts’s most complete body of work, the album – referring to it as a mixtape feels derogatory – is a journey through his mind’s eye, rather than simply being 21 tracks haphazardly thrown together.

From the very moment Aaron Bridgeman began quoting some of Ghetts’s famous bars during the introduction you knew history was about to be made. The performance would follow the blueprint laid out by the album; Ghetts’s was going to take us on a white knuckle ride through the trials and tribulations of his younger self.

Ghetts’ arrangement of the tracks was nigh on perfect, the performance ranged from the albums more mellow offerings like “So Damn Dedicated”, “Understand”, “U & Me” and “State Of Mind” which he performed alongside his aunt for the first time. The highlight of the first half of the show has to be his truly heartfelt performance of “Closest Thing To Heaven” the song dedicated to his mum, he was joined by a group of singers who resembled a church choir and he performed most of the song looking directly at his mum in the audience who then overwhelmed, ran up to hug him during the performance. Considering most of the tracks he’s never performed live and they were written over ten years ago, Ghetts was still able to convey the same youthful ferocity that inspired him to write them.           

As good as the first half of the show was, most people at a Ghetts’ concert came for his famed high octane showmanship and the revellers at the storied RoundHouse were not going to be disappointed. As soon as the live band began playing “Hero” the crowd lost it and those close enough to the stage surged forward as a mosh pit ensued. After the mood was set the crowd’s energy never dropped below electric, as everyone in the crowd eagerly awaited the song of the night “Top Three Selected Remix”. As soon as the beat dropped you could barely hear Ghetts over the roar of the crowd, the roof was almost certainly raised when Kano burst onto the stage to perform his verse alongside longtime friend and collaborator Ghetts, and they were shortly joined by Scorcher who continued the shelling.

The only disappointment was that the East London legend couldn’t gather the full complement of MCs that featured on the track, but there are not many shows in which you’ll find yourself close to tears one minute, then in a moshpit the next. The Ghetto Gospel show was a truly historic moment for the scene because Ghetts’s was able to give us a truly complete performance with not one filler track, it had hype but it also had depth in abundance something few MCs will be able to emulate.