Obaro Ejimiwe, aka Ghostpoet, laughs when he remembers how Gilles Peterson “took a risk on a random maverick” back in 2010 by signing him to the Radio 1 DJ’s Brownswood imprint. Within a year, that risk paid off: Ghostpoet’s debut album, Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam, marked him out as one of the most distinct, uncategorisable and forward-thinking voices to emerge in British music this decade, and it was rewarded with a surprise Mercury Prize nomination in 2011. It was a sudden rise for a man who for whom news of a record deal came in the same week that he was made redundant from his office job in insurance.
Two years on, having moved on from Brownswood to [PIAS], Ghostpoet’s creativity has blossomed even more. On his second album, Some Say I So I Say Light, he pushes even further in all directions than on Peanut Butter Blues, mixing the abstract and the concrete with uncanny skill.
Ghostpoet attributes the album’s experimental bent to the change in his recording situation. Whereas Peanut Butter Blues was entirely self-produced on a computer in Ghostpoet’s bedroom, Some Say I So I Say Light is a studio-based work co-produced with the talented Richard Formby (Wild Beasts, Darkstar, Egyptian Hip-Hop). The mood of Some Say I So I Say Light was also influenced by Ghostpoet’s personal circumstances. “I was in a bit of a dark place for a while,” he admits. “Everything I was making was moody and dark – lyrically as well.
The past year has also seen Ghostpoet gain a DJ gig on the NTS radio station that he describes as a “refreshing” opportunity to switch off from the day job. Through this – and his series of mixtapes, uploaded to Soundcloud – he revels in his love of sharing new discoveries. Scrolling through the music on his phone, it’s clear that Ghostpoet has a voracious and wide-ranging musical appetite: he praises everything from psychedelic rock band Gentle Giant to Beth Gibbons’ bleak folk album with Rustin Man, via John Coltrane, Serge Gainsbourg, Don Cherry, Caribou and Terry Callier. It’s telling that he gravitates towards one-of-a-kind auteurs who create their own musical worlds. As he puts it, “It works on a subconscious level rather than direct influences. It’s a reminder that I have to stick to my guns creatively.” On his second album, Ghostpoet has done just that.