Ghetts – ‘Conflict Of Interest’ review: lyrical don’s most earnest album yet

The rapper's third studio record and first on a major label, showcasing his growth over nearly two decades in the game, proves lyricism is in rude health

With a career that spans nearly two decades, Ghetts hasn’t faded into the background in 2021. He’s still firmly in the limelight, and the Plaistow don’s long past legendary status as he consistently delivers irreverent flows that tell vivid stories of being an east Londoner. And he injects his mystical melancholy all over his first major label album, ‘Conflict of Interest’, which showcases a high-quality UK talent at its best.

READ MORE: Ghetts: “There were definitely times when I could have thrown it all away”

Eschewing the brash grime production that imbued the likes of 2015 fan favourite Rude Kid collaboration ‘One Take’, new track ‘Hop Out’ is a bouncy, end-of-the-party tune. With an eerie wheeze in the back accompanied by simple 808s, the song proves that the 36-year-old remains a student of rap: whether he’s learning from today’s minimalist production or his long-time friends (there’s an effortlessness here comparable to that of pal and fellow grime legend Merscton), Ghetts can fit anywhere in today’s market – no easy feat.

Summing up his career beginnings in just under seven minutes, the down-to-earth ‘Autobiography’ recounts his rags-to-riches tale. Detailing his journey from notorious grime set Nasty Crew top collective The Movement mates and rubbing shoulders with Boy Better Know, the tune is airy and reflective. After his roughly 20 years in the limelight, there are plenty of significant moments to talk about, including his “practicing on my cadence” with UK rap golden boy Kano. Reminiscing about his notorious beef with south-east London’s P Money, he even takes a swipe at NME for not including it in a list of grime feuds: “Me and P Money — that was real crud / Tell NME I find it funny they ignored us”. Sorry Ghetts!

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Ending with the poetic ‘Little Bo Peep’, ‘Conflict Of Interest’ is surely Ghetts’ most earnest record to date. With a knockout line-up, including his fellow The Movement member Wretch 32, Brit Award-winner Dave and the UK’s newest R&B star Hamzaa, the track rounds off Ghetts’ dissertation on life through his experiences. Ghetts sees the moral of the Little Bo Peep tale as a lack of leadership, Wretch 32 sees it as related to money and Dave concludes with a PSA to reevaluate your priorities so that “Little Bo Peep can sleep forever more”. A masterful track with the UK’s top three greatest wordsmiths ever, the song is emotional and powerful, perfect for Ghetts’ sombre third studio album.

At the start of his career, Ghetts was a rampant spitter known as Ghetto; over the years he’s shifted into a more mellow rhymer who has already proved himself. Yet there remains a tension between the two personas, and it’s this that makes Ghetts the rapper we know and love today. When he recounts his hardships on the Ed Sheeran-featuring ‘10,000 Tears’, you don’t doubt him for a second.

It’s a rare achievement to make an album as thoughtful and transparent as this; you need real lyrical talent to do so. Therefore – despite the little snub at poor old NME – ‘Conflict Of Interest’ could sit on the same shelf as Dave’s ‘Psychodrama’ as an album that depicts honest tales of London through the art of true lyricism, a tradition that will never die out.

Details

Release date: February 19

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Record label: Warner Music

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