Ghostpoet aka Obaro Ejimiwe has quickly and quietly cemented his stature as one of the UK’s most exciting and original artists during the past year. Heralded a mighty force to be reckoned with by inspirational figures such as Mike Skinner of The Streets, Ghostpoet is no flash in the pan. His rise to fame has been leisurely but assured… not unlike his characteristic vocal delivery.
Born and raised in South London from Nigerian and Dominican parents, Obaro admits that his heritage is important to him, but that it hasn’t consciously affected his musical career: “My parents enjoyed listening to music around the house but never really encouraged it as a career. I kind of pursued listening to various sounds late into the night when the house was asleep.” And as for attempting to pinpoint his tastes… it’s hard to gauge when his palette flips from Badly Drawn Boy’s ‘The Hour Of The Bewilderbeast’ (the first CD he ever bought) to the angular dynamics of the UK grime scene via Iggy Pop, Fela Kuti, Radiohead, MF Doom and Squarepusher. This was the music that captured his imagination at university in Coventry, where Obaro was part of a grime collective: “One of the guys made the beats with Reason, he taught me the basics and I kind of stumbled, bumbled and fumbled my way to the present.”
The softly spoken singer won over BBC Radio 1’s foremost tastemakers Gilles Peterson, Nick Grimshaw, Rob Da Bank, Zane Lowe and Huw Stevens via a fistful of off-kilter, loopy electronic ditties blessed with his lazy baritone. Snapped up by Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings imprint two years ago, a free digital EP entitled ‘The Sound Of Strangers’ sidled into the public domain in June 2010. Comprising four tracks – three original compositions laced with playful prose, one remix of A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Electric Relaxation (Relax Yourself Girl)’… and a feature from left-leaning pop mastermind Micachu – it hit a hungry online audience and earned Ghostpoet a coveted spot in The Guardian’s New Band Of The Day feature as well as glowing recommendations from Dazed & Confused, NME, CMJ, RCRDLBL, URB, XLR8R and Drowned In Sound.
Debut single ‘Cash & Carry Me Home’ exemplified Ghostpoet’s raw approach to beat-making, his love of melody; and the charm of his rambled musings on modern life. Drawing the listener in like Jackanory, he ponders the gloomy reality of a night on the tiles, finishing up dead drunk and incapacitated. It’s a scenario that is played out in town centres the length and breadth of the British Isles… by no means the cheeriest of topics from which to build a catchy tune, but there’s a comforting familiarity to Ghostpoet’s unhurried delivery which, intertwined with the home-cooked electronics, makes for an all absorbing, practically hypnotic, three-and-a-half minutes.
With anticipation for his album brewing nicely, Obaro released the aptly titled ‘Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam’ in February 2011 via Brownswood Recordings. Crammed with his loveably ramshackle, homemade productions and instantly recogniseable vocal ditties, ‘Peanut Butter Blues…’ is a neat summation of the MC’s musical journey to date, but also an impressive statement of intent. A scratchy 8-bit mic check – ‘One Twos’ – segues into the rolling Rhodes and 808s of ‘Run Run Run’… and from there onwards the hooky choruses and infectious melodies flow thick and fast, lovingly swaddled in blankets of white noise, emotive synth swells, ticking hats and stark, off-kilter drums. ‘Finished I Ain’t’ and ‘Liiines’ nod to Ghostpoet’s formidable live presence, swapping laptop drum loops and MIDI synths for a clattering live kit and crunchy guitars. It’s this masterful blend of guitars and electronics that has earned Ghostpoet tour support slots for the likes of Metronomy and Jamie Woon in 2011. The 19th of July saw "Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam" nominated for the Mercury Prize 2011 Albums of the Year.
Don’t sleep on this young, inventive, British artist – the amazing and heartwarming product of our perpetually evolving British sound system culture – he’s destined for greatness.