Why Ghostpoet Should Win The Mercury Prize

As I said the other day, and again since, I’ve been thoroughly disappointed by Watch The Throne, the album by the (supposed) hip hop dream team of Jay Z and Kanye West. It’s the sound of millionaires coasting, phoning in an album for lulz, recycling their best work and devaluing it in the process. It’s the Traveling Wilburys of rap.

So, in order to restore my faith in hip hop as a genre I’ve found myself returning, again and again, to the début album by Gilles Peterson’s signing Ghostpoet: Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam. And, as the 2011 Mercury Prize, which Ghostpoet is on the short-list for, will be announced the day after my birthday, I thought I’d jot down a few reasons the judges should make my day by giving him the prize.

  1. After the terrible events earlier this month, which were often blamed on rap, he shows that this is a genre of music which is as multi-faceted as any other. Ghostpoet blends the uncertainty & insecurity of Roots Manuva with the wit of Ty and early Dizzee Rascal.
  2. The music is a perfect snapshot of Britain in 2011: it mixes hip hop, dub-step, electro and even flourishes of good old fashioned rock. The beats are never obvious, the samples are cute, and the whole package is simply lovely.
  3. He’s really rather funny. And very British. My personal favourite? Survive It‘s chorus’ refrain of “Ain’t had no license since they took my 00”.
  4. Compared to the brainless posturing that passes for Watch The Throne (and much of the British hip hop that has done so well over the last few years), he stands out like a Nobel prize winner in a Tea Party convention.
  5. He’s all over this web malarkey.
  6. Winning it could do for Ghostpoet  what I think the Mercury Prize should do – bring great British music to a wider audience. Of the nominees likely to actually carry the day (Anna Calvi, Adele & , PJ Harvey, James Blake & Ghostpoet, Katy B) two have won it before, three don’t need it*, which leaves only James Blake & Anna Calvi as artists who have’t really tipped yet. And I just don’t think either deserves it as much as Ghostpoet.

My only fear is that the judges will think back to Speech Debelle, who won to a general chorus of “Who?!”, only to see her album sink without a trace after a tiny bump in sales. But Ghostpoet is much, much better than Speech Debelle, and I hope the judges have the courage to recognise that.

*And I’m not sure Adele, Tine Tempah or Katy B’s albums are worthy of being named winner.

Ghostpoet by Steven Howard on flickr


  1. I couldn’t agree more; I don’t care about Jay-Z and Kanye’s Hublot watches. Morever, Watch The Throne oozes a frustrating arrogance. I grew up buying all of the Jay-Z albums as they came out and, to be honest, they started to tank after Blueprint 1&2.

    You’d expect so much more from him after his performance at Glasto. Oh well. Sh*t. It happens.

  2. Totally – I love early Jay Z & Kanye, but WTT was such a let-down. And the irony of them using Auto Tune, after his Death of…

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