This article originally appeared on Plugsville.com
There will always be an air of caution that surrounds albums that act as sequels to an artist’s seminal work.
Artists take the risk of tarnishing the records name should its sequel not reach the standards of its previous incarnation, so when Ghetts announced Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament, he probably knew the pressure he would be under. Fortunately, with Grime being in a position where its forefathers and most influential members still want to contribute to its success, Ghetts is part of a list (that includes the likes of Wiley, Skepta, Chip, D Double E & Dizzee Rascal) that have released albums in recent years after being associated with the genre for more than a decade.
And Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament begins with ‘Caution’, where Ghetts explains in detail his influence within Grime, citing the number of tracks he’s “murdered” and stage shows he’s shut down. This is the first of many examples of Ghetts’ immaculate storytelling ability through his rhymes, something that is perhaps often overlooked, with ‘Spiritual Warfare’ and ‘Next of Kin’ being superb examples of such. ‘Spiritual Warfare’, which features Leah McFall & Jordy, sees Ghetts deliberate over some of the unanswered questions of popular music culture, as well as allude to the existence of secret societies.
Meanwhile, ‘Next of Kin’ sheds light on how certain environmental circumstances can negatively affect people and those around them. In terms of production, both tracks are definitely a sign of the influence Hip Hop had on Ghetts as a youngster (he even references listening to DMX on ‘Spiritual Warfare’), with neither sticking to the Grime blueprint. Of course, the album includes moments that do adhere to the conventional Grime sound and Ghetts does not disappoint. ‘Halloween’ and ‘Houdini’ are both aggressive and sinister, accentuated by an ultra-hostile contribution from Suspect on the latter. ‘London’ is an ode to his home city, with Ghetts enlightening listeners on his connections to each side of the capital.
Much like on Ghetto Gospel, Ghetts uses the lengthy track list to show how versatile an artist he can be, swapping the usual intense energy in his delivery for a calmer approach, lending a better suitability to tracks like ‘Black Rose’. Entertaining guest verses begin with President T adding extra animation to ‘Pick Up The Phone’ and Ghetts’ back-to-back dialogue with Chip on ‘Shellington Crescent’ is also a genuine highpoint.
The seemingly customary appearance from Donae’o on every major Grime/UK Hip Hop release continues on ‘Preach’, while a disappointingly restricted role on ‘King’ from the usually exciting Little Simz fill out the midsection. Ghetts employs lesser-known names such as Rukhsana Merrise to sit alongside the likes of Stefflon Don and Wretch 32, in addition to Kojey Radical helping to close out the album on the emotive ‘Black Rose’.
Similarly to other Grime albums from recent times, Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament is perhaps longer than it needs to be at 17 tracks, but it does leave space for nice moments from the Ghetto Gospel Choir and more positively ambitious storytelling attempts from Ghetts in the later stages. The second instalment of Ghetto Gospel – nostalgia aside – is certainly of the same level of complexity, detail and versatility that Ghetts showed on the first, while naturally shaping the overall sound to match the 2018 aesthetic.