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Ghetts - Conflict of Interest (Album Review)

Tuesday, 23 February 2021 Written by Alex Myles

If you were to write a thesis on how grime stars have progressed since the genre’s pirate radio days, then Ghetts’ new album ‘Conflict of Interest’ would be used as a case study.

This is the East London legend’s major label debut, something that would have provoked a public reckoning in the clash culture where Ghetts cut his teeth. But, released at a time when grime’s popularity shows no signs of plateauing, ‘Conflict of Interest’, with its lavish production and charming eccentricities, should be celebrated.

Ghetts’ third full-length is a 16-track, hour-long epic that encompasses themes of fatherhood, the Black experience, past wrongdoings, and the grime trademarks of struggle and effort. 

Singles Mozambique and No Mercy remain obvious highlights. The icy vocal chops and glossy synths are picked and produced perfectly here, as are the featured artists. The Xhosa rapping of Moonchild Sanelly and the star wattage of Pa Salieu add plenty of flair to already unconventional beats.  

Throughout this LP Ghetts is unusually diaristic, especially around the halfway point of the album with ballads Dead to Me and Sonya. Musically, these tracks evoke the sophisti-pop of The 1975 with flashy piano chords and a saxophone refrain. But in these moments the rapper’s usually trenchant rhymes lose their edge. On the Ed Sheeran-featuring 10,000 Tears, he drops a few duds. “Them gal are mad like ‘Really’ / Come, my gal are bad like Riri / I don't see them gal, I'm Stevie, blind, legally,” he croons.

Thankfully, this remains just a blip in his otherwise impressive bars. There are moments of profound honesty on Proud Family (“How can I let my kids only say ‘father’ at Christmas.”) and searing commentary on IC3. “Don’t tell me to go back where I came from when the Queen sits there in stolen jewels,” Ghetts observes. 

Despite some overly saccharine moments, ‘Conflict of Interest’ is a hugely ambitious album with diverse production and versatile vocal performances. It can demonstrate that a major label contract does not signify any abandonment of standards, but a willingness to challenge oneself and grow as an artist.

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