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This time when I’ve come back, I’ve done things properly, and I’ve gone boom”. In conversation with British rapper Ghostface600

Ghostface600 has been on the UK rap scene for years, but you might be more likely to recognise his music rather than his name. A founding member of drill collective Block 6, hailing from Catford in London, Ghostface600 has gone through multiple monikers and even spent time as a ghostwriter for his friends. Because of this convoluted journey, Ghostface600 hasn’t really had the chance to carve a clear path out for himself, however, that’s recently changed. Explaining why this is, he says, “this time when I’ve come back, I’ve done things properly, I’ve learnt the business, and I’ve gone boom”.

We catch up over zoom so I can better understand what’s got him to where he is today. After a while he turns his camera on and I’m relieved to see he’s not wearing the mask that features so heavily in tracks like ‘Shmokey’. Covering much of his face, white, with the rapper’s own designs featuring on it, it would have made for a bit more of a daunting conversation. When I tell him about my relief he laughs, explaining that while the mask motif ties him in with other members of Block 6 (and something he “100% started”), it’s another thing he’s slowly moving away from this time around. 

He’s also added ‘600’ to his name, to separate this foray from his last. I ask him about the name choice more widely, assuming it had something to do with his ghostwriting career. “Some of the mandem will make jokes and say it like that, but there’s not really any connection,” he explains. “It’s actually because I kept going away, then I’d come back, so people just started calling me a ghost.” However, it’s clear to me he doesn’t intend on disappearing this time. Stepping back out in 2019 with the album 600 SZN his sound has developed, moving away from straight drill, the still young rapper started to incorporate more bashment style beats, especially from 600 SZN II, to create a more laid-back sound. His latest release ‘Super Freak’ epitomizes this, self described as a “car drive song”,  it would find a home happily in any R and Drill playlist on Spotify. 

I ask him about ‘Super Freak’s reception. “Loads of people have been hitting me up since saying, ‘yeah you’re cold’. But you know what it is, when people keep saying that you’re cold – you start thinking to yourself, am I? Literally so many times, people are like, “you’re cold, you’re cold’ – and I’m like ‘what else?’.” It’s clear from his frustration that he’s keen to get feedback to help develop his sound further, showcasing the drive which has kept him making music since he was 13.

About making the track he says: “It’s about making your own sound. Which is hard for an artist to do these days. You need to tweak it around, it’s very important to get different styles and melodies. I feel like a lot of people restrict themselves to just doing one thing. One beat, one style of whatever.”

He continues: “If you go to Ghostface600 releases, you don’t know what you’re going to get. You don’t know if it’s gonna be drill, if I’m gonna be singing or rapping.” However, this fluidity also has its drawbacks. “People do need to stick in their lane, he remarks”. “Drake, to come up, he stuck in his lane. He did do rap and singing but he stuck with a sound. Now he’s done what he’s done and he’s got where he’s got. Only then he branched out. Sometimes with me I think I need to do that.” Pausing on his reflection however he resigns: “But then, that’s just the way the music goes through me.” 

This natural ability to switch between different sounds seems to come from two different places. First of all we discuss how his past as a ghostwriter helps him do this, “I can get into a different headspace easier than most people. I can genuinely look at my friend and go ‘bam’ I’m you – and then I can start writing like I’m them.”

He also lays responsibility with his family for his flexible sound. “Growing up on my dad’s side I’m listening to either 50 cent, DMX, D Block or I’m listening to yardie tunes from people like Red Rat. Then on my mum’s side I’m listening to garage music or Lily Allen”. While the ‘Smile’ and ‘Not Fair’ artist’s influence remains silent in his tracks, the impact of some artists are more explicit. “Even with my Nan, from the age of seven or eight, I had four years of just listening to Micheal Jackson, and you can kind of hear it now.” Laughing he asks me, “can you imagine, straight Micheal for four years?”

Despite the profound influence his family obviously had on his music, they weren’t fans of Ghostface600’s music career until recently. “My family didn’t like my songs you know, because there’s the street side to it, they see the brunt of that side”. 

However, this seems to be another change coming alongside the artist’s reemergence. “Now they’ve seen I’m successful and they’re a bit more enthusiastic. I remember the first time I said man’s picking up a check for a song and I told them the number, but they were like to me ‘ah you’re not getting that’, ‘don’t count your chickens’. But when it dropped they were like, ‘hmmm. Okaaaayyy’.” 

However, it’s not just the success that Ghostface600 is finding since coming back onto the scene, but the sound itself that his family are fans of. “Now, my mum, she likes my new tape. It’s very different, she doesn’t like any negativity in music, if she hears it, she’s switching it off. That’s why, I’m making my music, not softer, but I don’t need to be talking about certain things in my music. If people are doing it, they’re not putting it in their songs, you’ll just go to prison.”

Ghostface600 explains that he’s not just adapting his sound to be more palatable to his family, but to set a better example for people who look up to him. “Obviously my brother’s in jail right now, I’m just trying to make it. I’m from a big family, I’ve got nine brothers and sisters. But I’ve then got a massive extended family on the streets, so my whole block is relying on me to make it out. It’s kind of emotional because I’ve got youts, calling me, who are like 17, 18, saying ‘don’t worry, if we don’t make it, you’ll make it’. So I’m kind of doing this for everyone. Like I don’t need to rap, trust me. I just do it for the bros, for everyone, for the bloodlines.”

He’s also living this mantra through his own label 600EML which he started in 2019. Despite being quite disparaging about the UK music scene more generally, (when I asked him what was exciting him at the moment he replied: “Nothing. The scene is rubbish right now”) he gets extremely animated about artists he’s signed himself. “You need to check out Ling Hustle, she’s greeeeasy”, showing his dedication to bring other artists up alongside him.

We finish our chat discussing his plans for the future, namely hoping to get a tour together “if the police stop fucking up my shit for no reason”, he says. Despite this hurdle, I’m not sceptical about his rise. As a founding member, he’s already played a major role in the prominence of Block 6, as well as impacted many other successful careers. As he says “the whole world knows Block 6 – and that’s from one piece of shit tower in Catford.” So, while you might not have instantly recognised the name Ghostface600, it’s one you’re going to be seeing a lot more of, and would do well to remember. 

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