Ghetts comes of age at The Jazz Cafe headline show

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Given Ghetts’ longevity in the game and ability to adapt to different climates in music is testament to his artistry but even I was in awe of what went down on the 11th of October. The East London grime veteran put out his sophomore album Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament to wide acclaim due to its storytelling, engaging delivery and a balanced array of features on top of production that was tailor made for the Plaistow raised MC. Last month at Kachette he put on the Ghettsibition, which gave attendants a closer look into the album and showcased bespoke artwork for each single. The event also included a listening party and live Q&A session with DJ Semtex, which built anticipation for the album’s release and upcoming headline show. The self-proclaimed ‘Stage Show Don’ has maintained his reputation for well over a decade, but could he deliver with that same energy this time around?

On the night the legendary MC was backed on the decks by none other than Rude Kid, another legend within the grime scene who can shut down any dance in a matter of spins. To warm up, the legend spun many hip hop and grime tunes, mixing the rhythm and bass, origin didn’t matter as Rude Kid’s aim was to get the crowd moving. Grime classics such as Ghetts’ ‘Top 3 Selected’, Kano’s ‘P’s & Q’s’ and even D Double E’s ‘Bad to the Bone (Woo Riddim) were getting the crowd going. To see grime fans of old and new moving in unison was a great thing to see, however this isn’t news to regular concert goers.

Close friend and fellow member of The Movement Mercston supported Ghetts on the night and got the crowd hyped to see his contemporary. To see one of the original flow fathers in grime on stage spitting like its 2004 again warmed hearts, even if he performed newer cuts such as ‘Balmain’ featuring man of the moment Suspect and ‘Flexing’, where his flagrant manner and skippy flow captivate with relative ease.

Not long after some more crowd pleasing from Rude Kid, the man of the hour Ghetts blessed the stage with his live band. When it comes to stage show business, he doesn’t waste time at all. He dived straight into a live performance of ‘Caution’ the opening track of his latest album. His energy, the delivery and precision of bars such as “when it comes to the features, man are going on like
Kim Kardashian’s plastic surgeon, this all happens when man spits verses/since I been bad man have been nervous” shows that he hasn’t lost a step since 2014’s Rebel With A Cause. He followed up this lyrical onslaught with ‘Pick Up The Phone’ another crowd pleaser which features fellow grime staple President T.

It looked like one of those nights where Rude Kid was gonna be wheeling every single song because the crowd were lapping up everything. The show at the Jazz Café had a set list but in all honesty, when have you known Ghetts to follow the rules? Performances of ‘Houdini’ and ‘Preach’ soon followed so by the time The Ghetto Gospel Choir backed him, the packed crowd were hanging on every word. ‘Spiritual Warfare’ and ‘Next of Kin’ followed, which slowed the show down a bit for good effect. The choir soothed the crowd like torrential rain falling on the scorched earth and with Jordy, Myles and Rukhsana Merrise chiming in with their album contributions, the orchestration of the show was running so smoothly. Even with a minor hiccup owing to technical difficulty, Ghetts just took it in his stride and kept going. Wretch 32 didn’t take long to join his friend on stage for ‘Purple Sky’ which was followed up by the stage being scorched with ’Halloween’. As good as this passage was, it was one of the more understated parts of the night in comparison to what happened next…

In a play that would make any Grime fan’s Hall of Fame moments, Ghetts and Tottenham legend Chip combined on stage for one of the craziest live performances of the year. ‘Shellington Crescent’ is one of the hardest tracks on the album, so to see two of the most prominent mic men in Grime going back to back was an epic moment (just check the footage). At this point the energy in the room was insane, the crowd egged on Ghetts and Chip with the tandem responding in kind with their chemistry with one another. Of course, this track would get wheeled and the manic energy was relived for one more time. Absolute scenes!

‘Black Rose’ is a powerfully driven song that champions black women and gets to the heart of the colourism topic that continues to divide opinion. Ghetts was unfazed by the weight of the social commentary that he delivers on this one and seeing the crowd recite lyrics back to him in unison was something to behold. Hearing lyrics such as “baby keep doing you, don’t let the world ruin, no matter what they say you are beautiful, beauty’s in the eye of the beholder and we don’t know who is who” resonated and the song holds a sincerity and message that is hard to ignore.

After emotionally driven renditions of ‘No Love’ and ‘Jess Song’, the man of the hour was ready to pack it in for the night. But the crowd wanted more and with the precedent he set of over an hour, who was the Stage Show Don to say no? Ghetts came back to take us back with ‘Sing For Me’, one of his more club friendly tunes, another wheel of the grim ‘Halloween’ and certified party starter ‘Artillery’.

All in all, this is one of the best shows I’ve been lucky enough to attend in 2018. It looks as though Ghetts the stage show don has met Ghetts the father and elder statesman for a more polished, refined concert performance. This was a coming of age moment for Ghetts, who is clearly revelling in this new chapter of his music career.