Hip-hop is dance music. It’s made to be danced to in American clubs. Hip-hop has a complicated and rich history, which includes slave music of the early 19th century, blues, jazz, and other big band genres. Both UK hip-hop and hip-hop in the states incorporate “toasting” into the music. But whereas America emphasised the sampling of jazz, blues, and big band arrangements, UK hip-hop drew influence from Jamaican dub, which increased in speed and ferocity over the years to create Grime.
Grime became arguably the most famous UK hip-hop scene with the emergence of Dizzee Rascal into US consciousness. Dizzee Rascal is hopefully not going to be the last UK rap import to the states, as Ghostpoet has crafted one of the most exciting rap LPs of the year, with Shedding Skin.
Compared to 2011’s Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam… actually nevermind – to do so would be rather trite, such is the reinvention Ghostpoet exhibits on his new album. Shedding Skin, perhaps as a result of its confidence and high production quality, will almost certainly bring Obaro Ejimiwe critical acclaim and a wider audience. PBB&MJ had the cold aloofness of a bedroom session; a mixtape to be circulated in the underground. With Shedding Skin, Ejimiwe has embraced the fiery live energy that won Young Fathers their Mercury Prize. He doesn’t have the benefit of group vocals like Young Fathers, but he spits, “nobody cares…we gotta be elevated” with enough convicted apathy to make his voice the only one the room needs to hear. Every song on the album succeeds in this regard – they are incredibly honest, deadpan, and examine the stresses of life and love with the contemporary lens of a young person who is constantly busy, overworked, and apathetic.
“Sorry My Love, It’s You Not Me” stands out as the most blatantly heartfelt number, and is also an excellent example of Ghostpoet’s triumphant transition from sample to synthesizer, drum machine to drum kit. This transition encapsulates the entire album, as Ejimiwe’s lyrical themes are consistent with his past work. It is enough though to make Shedding Skin an energetic and engaging album.