It’s 2009 and music is facing a crisis. A group of scientists have been despatched to the Arctic in a bid to find the one creature on earth who doesn’t find Dizzee Rascal‘s Bonkers really annoying. It can be argued that despite some talented artists, the initial promise of UK Hip Hop has failed to make an impact beyond kids on buses playing tinny choons through their mobiles. Focus groups have been convened to ask the question: Where’s all the good stuff?
For those hankering for something worth getting teeth into, Ghost’s latest might well be the answer. The multi-skilled DJ and producer has spent three years expanding his tastes and chipping away at various music projects, culminating in this ambitious, multi-layered hour of tripped out beats and samples.
This is a cinematic blend of breakbeats that steps away from the usual UK Hip Hop territory in favour of an ambitious and international sound. On first listen, influences such as J Dilla and Mr Scruff suggest themselves. But it’s DJ Shadow who looms large as the many moody instrumentals on the album certainly make this feel like a British Endtroducing. It’s easy to picture Ghost digging through the record crates from that famous album cover. The samples have hints of David Axlerod compositions with Lalo Schiffrinesque beats and the penultimate track (Road To Somewhere) sounds like a cool and affectionate tribute to Blue Note records.
Ghost knows his way around a studio and Freedom Of Thought shows this knowledge in all its knob twiddling glory. It’s recorded, mixed and produced by the man himself with a little help from some guests on vocals and together they’ve set out an ambitious attempt to move beyond rap, even if we have Jehst, Finale and Verb T guesting on nods toward purer Hip Hop. The rap tracks still have an individual sound to them that makes them worthy of inclusion.
A lot of time and energy have gone into the making of this album and Ghost’s shifts in personal circumstances is reflected in the album’s many different moods. As well as the downbeat DJ Shadow stuff there’s also hints of Lemon Jelly with the chilled out interlude of Daze, and It’s All Love is reminiscent of Gnarls Barkley. The latter track is wonderful in its simplicity, taking its base as a sped-up ’60s garage track with some subtle extra layering.
So, 18 tracks of substantial, well crafted material. There may be a feeling that this kind of thing has been heard before, but in comparison to his contemporaries Ghost is well worth checking out. Freedom Of Thought looks set to be one of the best UK Hip Hop albums of 2009.