Ghostpoet’s 2011 debut album Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam shatters notions about what flavors taste good together. In this case, it’s grimey hip hop cadence, crossed with dreamy lo-fi pop and hazy electronic synth.
The emcee – known as Obaro Ejimiwe when not making music — might have roots in Nigeria and the Caribbean island of Dominica, but he grew up in London and then went to uni in Coventry, in gray central England. There, he soaked up plenty of the melancholy and blues from his album title. But unlike, say, Tricky’s dark, acid-washed take on Bristol, Ghostpoet’s disaffection goes in a quirky, deadpan direction. On the way, he skips the ego and aggression common to hip hop, replacing it with an anxious self-awareness that’s broken by moments of philosophy.
Emcee-wise, Ghostpoet delivers like a drugged Wiley, slurring his words and taking things slow. This is music for insomniacs and dawn-greeters who are down to their last nerve endings. But the frazzled have nothing to fear, because this former customer service representative knows a little something about a mellow bedside manner. His second single “Survive It,” about dealing with a dead-end life, balances moodiness with levity — especially the chorus’ gentle humor, sung by soul songstress Fabiana Palladino of Embers: “No, no, no, no, nonono/Ain’t on a license to kill like Double-O/I just wanna live life and survive it.”
In his black-rimmed glasses and straw fedora, don’t mistake Ghostpoet for a Tunde Adebimpe facsimile — except for the fact that he’s bringing something out of left-field for folks, and he is awesome at it. So, get to know this offbeat addition to the UK hip hop and indie scenes.