Interview: Ghetts

‘I think the substance is outweighing the general feeling of just turning up.’ Says 2019 Ivor Novello Award nominee Ghetts.

This year’s Ivor Novello Award nominations were announced today (Wednesday), and grime star Ghetts, aka Justin Clarke, was nominated in the Best Contemporary Song category for his powerful 2018 single Black Rose.

Ghetts is in contention for the coveted award alongside Jorja Smith, for Blue Lights, and The 1975, for Love if We Made It.

Should Black Rose triumph on the night he will share the gong with co-writers Kojey Radical, Daniel Miles, JoJo Mukeza and Jaime Naldo Menezes.

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on 23 May, hosted by Paul Gambaccini and The Ivors Academy and are presented in association with PRS for Music.

We caught up with Ghetts after the nomination announcements to get his thoughts on recognition, the grime scene and more…

How does it feel to be nominated for the Best Contemporary song award?

It’s a real moment. Especially with the Ivors, because it’s the songwriting, the art and the craft of it. I don’t want to put any other awards down, but this is a pretty big one, in terms of how people are awarded and what they’re awarded for.

What do you think this kind of recognition means for grime?

Some people might think the writing’s violent or that we’re not real songwriters, you know, so it’s good to get that acknowledgment.

It’s been years of brick laying and now it feels like the house is built, and there’s a lot of kids moving in the house. It’s a great feeling to be part of the foundation and seeing people benefit and being able to change their lives and their loved one’s lives from things that people before me have done. It’s all a domino effect. It never really happened over night. That person laid and brick, that person laid a brick, this person did that, and with everybody’s efforts the culture is where it is today.

What was the primary inspiration for Black Rose?

My daughter, I was writing a song for my daughter. I really wanted to do something on my platform for her. There are so many other women connected with it, but initially it was her.

Is your daughter musical?

Very. I try not to encourage it or discourage it because I just want her to be a child, I don’t want to mould her into what I am. I want her to take her own route.

Who would you most like to hear the track you’ve been nominated for?

The world man, I don’t want to be selfish. All jokes aside, substance tracks are important, as important as the club turn-up, more important, I think. Even though I do both, I think the substance is outweighing the general feeling of just turning up. We’re using music and rapping as a message. This is a good moment, man.

With that message being recognised, do you have any advice for emerging songwriters?

Write off feeling and reflection. I feel like it should be a reflection of your situation. What’s weird is we create our own tribes as artists. It’s like people never know there’s somebody out there like them until somebody’s brave enough to say, “this is how I feel, this is what I’m going through,” then suddenly, loads of people feel that energy and come together. This is why I really like this person, or I really like that person, because when he or she spoke it felt like they were speaking to me directly. That’s what I’m going for, that’s very important.

Who’s going to go with you on the day?

I’ll take my mum and my daughter, if it’s not too late. I’ll take my mum, daughter and sister.