5 for Friday: Ghetts, Joel Culpepper, Shaé Universe and More

Happy New Year folks. 2021 has landed, and despite the ongoing pandemic, we’ve got a better twelve months coming. What certainly kept the NoB team sane, was the incredible amount of music that released throughout last year. Artists had to adapt to the unique rigours of creating during a pandemic. A year later, with the method established, it looks like that conveyor belt of fire drops is still spinning. Legendary MC Ghetts is on a roll and has plucked Stormzy from a leave of absence – for a b2b on ‘’Skengman’’ with some Sin City-inspired visuals to go with it. Soul crooner Joel Culpepper keeps his strong run going with stories of romance on ‘Poetic Justice’. R&B songstress Shae Universe links up with Kojey Radical on an empowerment tip with the smooth ‘Regal’. Man of the moment Central Cee builds on his hype with the icy ‘Pinging (6 Figures)’. Finally, Toronto-based singer Ebhoni drops in with the vibey ‘Hit This’.

Ghetts feat. Stormzy – Skengman

Ghetts only links up with artists he has respect for. Likewise with Stormzy. Though many were expecting Stormzy’s next move to be a response to Chip’s ‘Shell Garage’ jibes, Stormzy once again proves his commitment to the music that gave him his break by connecting with one of the greatest to do it. On a sparse, jazz-tinged beat, that matches the film noir vibes of the visual, Ghetts leads the nursery rhyme-like pattern of the chorus before dropping a trademark hammer blow of a verse “If I’m on a glide then let that go, I could be the bigger man but them boy there won’t respect man’s growth”.

Ghetts is living proof of getting better as you get older. Many artists in our scene have their best days on frantic pirate radio sets or Risky Roadz but Ghetts has leaned into his growth as a person to inspire his music. He has grown into an artist in the truest sense. Stormzy bops around the video, light and unbothered, smirking with menace – his verse comes from a similar place “I’ll stand in the middle of the field and scare man’s crow, you birds ain’t shit got birds eye view on you niggas involved”. It doesn’t take much of a guess to see who he’s referencing. With features from D Double, Shaybo, Venom and Mist in the video, Ghetts is building a new cinematic visual direction for new album Conflict of Interest. It looks like it’s going to be something special.

Joel Culpepper – Poetic Justice

Joel Culpepper’s strong run of vibes and wide-eyed visual storytelling isn’t up yet. Back with ‘Poetic Justice’ named after the classic film, Culpepper speaks of “not wanting to fight” with the woman he loves. It’s a story of generational love, and also the possible traumas that get passed along with it. The sombre guitar riff, a bit like early Lonny Breaux-era Frank Ocean, creates the perfect underscore for Culpepper’s musings, and occasional, mournings.

Directed by Juliankxx, there’s a strange dystopian feel to the video. It never veers into irreverence, with all its strange details contextualised by Culpepper’s simmering deliveries. He speaks of “wanting to love again, wanting to get better” while his woman dances in front of him, tempting the growth he speaks of. Or when she hugs him, supporting the change he’s trying to make. There’s an interesting shot – a boy playing the trumpet in between his parents who seem to be at odds. This couple might represent Culpepper’s parents – a union of its time – one of circumstance, not of choice. This might be where the central meaning of the song lies. That despite knowing better, despite wanting to be better, the behaviours we witness have a way of repeating themselves. For better or for worse. In all of Culpepper’s last few releases, his music videos have heightened the meaning found in his songs. They’ve brought them to life. This is what music videos are all about. And luckily, the music is equally as good.

Shaé Universe feat Kojey Radical – Royalty

R&B songstress Shae Universe dropped a post earlier about how things come full circle. She mentioned Kojey Radical was the first artist to feature her back in 2017, helping her come up. Now as she prepares to lift off after a great 2020, she’s back collaborating with the artist who hailed up her name early doors. That’s the universe for you.

Over some atmospheric Spanish guitar loops, Shae sings to the power of being black. Her delivery is classic, effortlessly hitting high notes, with powerful soulful deliveries. But – she isn’t a throwback. She starts her verse with loaded raps before singing. Kojey had a big 2020 with the release of his Cashmere Tears mixtape and what seems like a full-bodied transition into rap from his early days as a poet/spoken-word artist. Now a father, his purpose seems stronger “what I wouldn’t do for the kingdom?” he asks. Expecting even bigger things from both artists this year.

Central Cee – Pinging (6 Figures)

West London boy Central Cee wasn’t lying when he said he was ‘Loading’. His last single is an undoubted smash, creating a justified stream of hype as he prepares to drop his first mixtape Wild West in March. On ‘Pinging’ he isn’t wasting any time doing the same thing. This track, colder in it’s production with oriental-inspired strings shows Cee representing his manor. The video starts with him dancing on top of Goldhawk Road station before he speaks on his commitment to creating his own lane “Take that risk and go independent, I just turned down 6 figures”. It’s a sign of bullish self-belief to go independent, proof of Cee’s confidence in his bars. When the flutes kick in under the 808’s, the song’s tone goes darker, more sparse, as Cee speaks about his hustle. Stood opposite the Kiyan Prince Stadium (local football team QPR’s home ground), Cee is draped in the same blue his team wear. He represents his ends heavy – authenticity seems to be a major part of his music. Cee speaks of “The kids these days don’t care about getting the bag they just care about clout” which is funny, as he too is a kid age 22. It seems he’s got his focus right and knows what he’s trying to do with it. Long may it continue.

Ebhoni – Hit This

Toronto-based singer/songwriter Ebhoni drops the smooth vibes on ‘Hit This’. With afrobeat inspired production, and an intriguing autotune heavy opening, Ebhoni’s sound is hard to describe. Following a trend of many new singers, it switches genres and shapes quickly. Similar to Amaarae who’s debut release in 2020 was one of the surprises of the year. This loose and deconstructed approach to ‘Hit This’ sounds fresh and lively. But, innovating with RnB isn’t new to Toronto, home to some of the most interesting and subversive talents in RnB over recent years. It seems Ebhoni is the latest to join the rich tapestry of talent Toronto has to offer.

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