A bold left turn here from Ghostpoet, the London MC with the distinctive sleepy, restless flow. His 2011 debut album introduced the compelling, easy-on-the-ears blend of grime and UK bass that earned a nomination for Britain’s prestigious Mercury Prize. Having drawn from this musical well for several years, Ghostpoet moves in an unexpected direction on his forthcoming third album, Shedding Skin, recording with his touring band to create an album of energetic, genre-hopping music.
“Off Peak Dreams,” the first release from the new album, transitions listeners into the new Ghostpoet sound. The band lights a fire under his vocal delivery, which is audibly charged but still conveys the blunted, slightly paranoid mindsets for which he’s known. There’s a clear tension of styles and aesthetics in this collision of British rap and live ensemble; Ghostpoet doesn’t so much sing on the chorus as let his flow inhabit the musical spaces created by the band. When the break arrives, the drummer gets some, bass and keyboards announce the song’s melodic underpinning, and you realize this jam is more effervescent than anything Ghostpoet’s earlier electronic productions achieved.
The album’s title suggests a process of self-becoming that throws off constricting forms of the past. Did his Mercury Prize nomination saddle the man born Obaro Ejimiwe with the unwanted baggage of bringing British rap to the masses? Regardless, Shedding Skin promises a career game-changer — an exciting, possibly controversial, album for Ghostpoet.
Shedding Skin comes out March 3 on Play It Again Sam.