Ghetts live at Reading Festival 2021: proof of grime’s enduring greatness

August 28: this no-frills set Radio 1Xtra, which coincides with AJ Tracey's starry turn on the main stage, shows the quiet power of true craftsmanship

After wading through the cluster of die-hard AJ Tracey fans on the Main Stage, who are transfixed on the west London mid-liner, you’re confronted with the red and blue striped tent that is the Radio 1Xtra stage. Under the cover stands the grime legend himself, Ghetts, repping it for Plaistow even though he’s in a field in the middle of Reading central. In all honesty, given the success and longevity of ex-The Movement member, he could well have been standing up on the main stages just like his fellow grime-pop rapper AJ. But hey: this small show offered a spectacular set that only the real ones got to see.

The east-ender shows off his venomous flows, injecting these kids with a love of grime. Although the subgenre never left, today’s avid partygoers don’t always engage with steel-cold bars those Ghetts offers, the new generation often preferring poppy melodies and catchy hooks they can sing in the shower.

Surprisingly, though, the front of the house is full of young teens who love it when Ghetts takes it back to his old, menacing ways. Looking out with a white fisherman’s hat that shades his eyes, Ghetts has all the power, finishing each track with a sense of triumph. Red and white lights flash behind him, the devilish glow framing him as he drops his vintage, quickfire rhymes and moves onto 2021 cut ‘Hop Out’.

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The song’s tantalising, chiming synths, which ride over an airy, eerie melody, slowly seduce the crow. At first, it’s simply a head-nodder, the kids rocking side to side as Ghetts lulls them under his spell. Then, performing ‘IC3’, another single from his stellar third studio album ‘Conflict of Interest’, an impassioned Ghetts raises the energy, which spikes through the roof. This crowd really takes well to the rapper’s off-kilter delivery, a trademark that made him popular amongst grime fans so many years ago. And speaking of grime fans from years ago: there were definitely a few in the house tonight. In the back of the tent, one well-versed fan belts back lyric so loud that surely Ghetts himself can hear; either way, you can’t help but smile at his dedication.

Credit: Andy Ford

If you’re a grime fan who missed the Ghetts to see AJ Tracey, you missed out. The kids at the front may have been camping out for the stage’s headliner, Jack Harlow, but they still jumped around and had masses of fun. True grime, like Ghetts, is here to stay.

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