Spoken-word poetry and alternative rock—two of my favorite things that can easily go hand-and-hand yet are rarely seen married harmoniously. However, while on my quest to experience some of the best music the UK has to offer, I lucked out and found a musician who does just this opening for alternative rock band alt-J: Ghostpoet.
Obaro Ejimiwe began creating music in the genre of grime—a dubstep-like breed of hip hop of Britain’s early 2000s—before refining his style into a dreamier combination of rap and indie rock. In 2011, Ejimiwe released his first EP Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam under his stage name Ghostpoet, a fitting homage to his hauntingly beautiful lyrics. This album was nominated for the Mercury Prize of that year, which celebrates Britain’s greatest albums of the year.
Since his debut, Ghostpoet has released two more albums: Some Say I So I Say Light in 2013 and Shedding Skin in 2015. These albums show this artist’s talent as a wordsmith, with profound lyrics backed by alternative rock instrumentals that shatter the expectations of modern mainstream rap.
The album Shedding Skin, much like Ghostpoet’s previous words, is beautifully crafted, telling its audience a story both honest and powerful. However, compared to the first two albums, the Mercury Prize-nominated Shedding Skin seems to show a level of growth unexpected for an already talented musician. Many of the tracks feature the ethereal vocals of singers like Nadine Shah, Etta Bond, and Lucy Rose, which add to the eerie sense of the work. While songs like “Be Right Back, Moving House (feat. Paul Smith)” and “Nothing in the Way” sound nostalgic and optimistic, most of the album is melancholic; in tracks like “Shedding Skin (feat. Melanie De Biasio)” the listener can hear the hurt, betrayal, and bitterness in Ghostpoet’s voice and hard-hitting lyrics.
The live performances of Ghostpoet are incredible, leaving his awed audience with goosebumps after every guitar riff and pained crooning note. The amount of emotion evoked in each listener is extraordinary, with each member of the audience pulled into his drowsy yet powerful music. While I arrived at the concert looking to enjoy alt-J’s indie rock music, I felt emotionally and musically satisfied by Ghostpoet before alt-J even took their places onstage.
Ghostpoet is yet to schedule any upcoming tour dates outside of Europe, though an American tour would bring the best of UK spoken-word and alternative music across the pond. For fans of rap, rock, and poetry alike, Ghostpoet is likely to insert himself into the hearts and minds of listeners everywhere. The sheer power and emotion is oddly unique to his works, and this talented artist should be included as one of any American’s favorite British musicians.