Grime is dead! Or so they say... This week marks the highly-anticipated, debut album release of one of east London's greatest grime exports. A certain Justin Clarke aka Ghetts has dropped his first official record, Rebel With A Cause. Signed to Disrupt, Ghetts tells i-D that he's comfortable being independent and determined to make impressive movements without going down the traditional avenues. As he puts it, "It's about me embracing the hand I've been dealt and finding the right route for me - not one based on mainstream success but it is about being heard by a wider audience and being accepted as me."
Ghetts sees grime as true British rebellion music - a 21st century, urbanised punk rock. By painting vivid and sometimes violent pictures with words, grime has allowed the serial spitter to genuinely express himself, free from rules and regulations. Never one to shy away from being anti-establishment (the rebel has always had a cause), his decision to stay true to the genre when others have diluted their musical offerings for major labels, has resulted in a hoarde of loyalist supporters. As he puts it, "I feel like everyone can have a go at Tinchy Stryder and Wiley, have a go at all these people for doing the mainstream thing, but do you know what the honest truth is? If they were supported to the fullest while they were doing the stuff we all loved, they wouldn't have needed to. I can only write what I feel makes my brain tick. I'll hear something and I'll know that's right for me." On his hustle and grind since the early noughties, Ghetts has worked his way up over the years - closely allied with the likes of Devlin and Wretch 32 - from pirate radio and mixtapes, to commercial radio, TV and column inches in many an illustrious magazine and newspaper.
"I'm one of grime's biggest fans. I still buy everyone's music."
So what can we expect from his first official album? "I think sometimes, to get what I'm doing, you have to listen to the whole album because at the end of the day, it's a story. So when you're hearing Rebel (the lead single from the album), that's just one piece of something much bigger." He also highlights These Words, produced by Chris Loco and featuring an emotional chorus by Alex Mills with the lyrics exposing real truths about where his head's at. Another album track promising to make waves is Gas Mark 9 ft. Giggs, which he describes as "the new Artillery". It's good to see an artist sticking true to people he's always worked with, on Man Like Me for example, he invites longtime collaborator Rapid to get involved - "people know that our chemistry is always live!"
Hailing from Plaistow, Ghetts is under no illusions that without the infrastructure, distribution channels and budgets that the major labels possess, there will inevitably be challenges to face. One of the biggest aims of this record is for as many people as possible to hear his musicianship and craft. "I just want people to appreciate this music worldwide and for the heart and soul I put into it to be heard." So what was it that inspired him to sign to independent label Disrupt? "I need full creative control. I can't have a hundred people in a room at the label all listening to my music and diluting it as they see fit. The only way I see myself making music is freely. When I met the guys from Disrupt, that was my main thing. At the time I was talking with different management and labels but no-one was saying the right things to me. Then I met Disrupt and everything they said really ticked boxes for me in terms of what I wanna do creatively."
Being a part of the grime scene has always excited Ghetts. From the artists and fashion, to the language - the whole culture is something that he lives by, something that's obvious in everything he says and does. He's certainly happy enough to invest his personal wealth back into his passion too. "When it comes to grime, I'm a fan. I'm one of grime's biggest fans. I still buy everyone's music. Any of the top tier artists you can think about within grime, even though I'm such a powerful player myself, I still buy their music. If you walk in my room I've got everything - from their first CD to their last. That's just how I am. The whole culture is sitting on my shelves." It's this exceptional dedication and studentship that has allowed Ghetts to continually evolve and adapt. The rebel has a cause and he's signing you up to fight for it today. Support the movement! Ghetts It In gang!