Obaro Ejimiwe, aka Ghostpoet, rides up Brick Lane on his motorcycle, giving the royal wave to a few familiar faces as he goes. Dressed head to toe in black; shades on, gloves off. The slick wordsmith is here to DJ at the G-Shock store, for the launch of their creative G-Sessions project.
As he laments, though – thanks to the law of sod – his laptop’s just had a meltdown and he's having to resort to a “DJ's worst nightmare”: USB sticks.
Clash caught up with the Mercury Prize nominee back in May, for our June issue, around the time of the release of his second album, ‘Some Say I So I Say Light’ (Clash review). So what has he been up to since then?
“Touring, gigging, festivals,” he says, with a weary tinge to his tone. Going on to discuss the hype surrounding the album, he says: “I think you get a pass card the first time you release an album, because people don’t really know you… The second time round, people are gonna be a bit more harsh. But so far, it’s been alright, yeah!”
When Clash suggests that maybe there’s an extended pass card for the ‘difficult’ second album – the ‘sophomore slump’ – Obaro laughs. “Oh, great! The third one, then I’m gonna get shitted on! Thanks very much!”
To commemorate its 30th anniversary, arm candy brand Casio G-Shock has crowned Ghostpoet its new UK ambassador. He’s been handed the reigns to conjure up a one-of-a-kind artistic piece, in the medium of his choice – be it street art, a painting or a spoken-word performance. But Obaro’s lips are firmly sealed on the subject.
“I won’t elaborate! I refuse to elaborate,” he chuckles, expressing gratitude to the PR sat beside him, who reminds him of that fact. He’s got his friend Lee Hempstock on board as creative partner, who he’s already worked with as director of his video for ‘Survive It’. In due course he’ll go on to gather a team of creatives to collaborate on a final piece, unveiling it in November for formal judgment.
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Ghostpoet, 'Survive It', from 'Peanut Butter Blues And Melancholy Jam'
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The thick-rimmed lyricist is, naturally, accustomed to creative pressure. And as he reveals to Clash, the toughest part of the album recording process was “not to repeat myself, not cover ground that I’ve covered on the first album, and work in environments that I hadn’t worked in before”.
While the debut Ghostpoet album was a bedroom effort, he entered into the studio proper for this one, working with a co-producer. “I think I done alright!” he remarks positively. Just like the watch he’ll be designing along with the creative piece, he emits toughness.
“To be honest, I don’t find performing challenging any more,” he states, before going on to correct himself. “No, no, that’s really bad to say! It’s more trying to push myself to develop the live show.”
He continues: “I don’t wanna get complacent and feel I’ve made it. I don’t think I’m ever gonna ‘make’ it. What does that even mean these days, you know?”
Like the poet himself, G-Shock watches are synonymous with toughness – the watches that ‘never break’, they’re resistant to a multitude of potential hazards. Not just musically minded, Obaro is a keen runner, and chats a little about his training technique, which basically consists of listening to D’n’B.
“If there’s new albums that I wanna listen to, sometimes if they’re shorter runs then I’ll put one on ‘cos I know there’s nothing to distract me from listening to the record. But if I’m trying to get a bit more serious, I just listen to jungle. That seems to keep me going. I don’t know why.”
An affiliate of the Run Dem Crew club, he clearly takes the whole foot-to-the-floor thing seriously. “You need to be ready to let the pace control you, not speed ahead. But that adrenaline can trick you and push you to go faster, and you’re like – oh my god, where’s the energy gone?”
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Ghostpoet, 'Cold Win', from 'Some Say I So I Say Light'
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Now consumed by the G-Shock project (and the steadily ticking clock), Obaro says the brief inspired him as it was “quite loose”. “There wasn’t any restrictions on what I could create,” he continues. “It’s intriguing to see what I can bring to the culture of the brand and how that will inspire me creatively.”
After attempting to force details from him with a distinct lack of success, Clash asks: if he could design a watch that defied all sorts of scientific principles, what would it be?
“An impossible watch that could be made…” he strokes his chin. “Erm, because I’m such a nerd, it would have to be something that involved some type of projection. You can do that with phones right now, you can get mini projectors.”
Presumably so that you can summon Tupac whenever you want?
“Well, if you can’t make a meeting, you send a representative for you – hologram you there in a meeting. Someone’s gonna steal this idea now!” he exclaims. And then goes on to revise his idea: “It would cost millions to make and sell. You could just save money and go to the meeting, I guess…”
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For more details on the G-Sessions project click here
Find Ghostpoet online here
Words: Felicity Martin
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