Pinty and south London club venue Ghost Notes go together like peas and carrots. Or to be more clear, the slightly boujee spot – it’s clean but in a car park – is fitting for a UK garage MC like Pinty. He conjures up memories of 90s Moschino and Sleazenation as much as he’s a product of his own generation, dressed down in a hooded coat and a few days away from releasing his debut EP City Limits to streaming services today (and on vinyl too, through lauded UK dance label Rhythm Section).
Though UKG’s golden years are long gone, resigned to the odd play on Kisstory, they’re still fondly loved: hence those Kiss FM plays, the nods from UK MCs (take “Ladbroke Grove” from AJ Tracey’s self-titled debut album), all those times you reach to play Shanks and Bigfoot at a party. The genre is a key element of this island’s musical lore, twined up with stuff like drum’n’bass and house and dubstep. And though Pinty isn’t strictly a garage MC, he embodies this mish-mash world.
“It’s that London culture thing,” he says, explaining how his late brother, a garage MC at the height of the time, influenced him. “I was always hearing stories from 2001/2002 – my brother’s golden era – and it was about drum’n’bass, graffiti and rollerblading. So I started doing that.” And as it goes, the City Limits EP hints toward how that time imprinted on him, while also shading his previous garage work with a house music tint – sounding not necessarily for the club, but for after, for back at home when the substance of introspective conversation arrives around a table. And you’ll hear that especially in the deep house of “Nightcrawler”, which we’re premiering the video for below. It marks a new stage in his sound. His debut 2015 EP Midnight Moods was, as he puts it "a collection of songs; a mixtape – well that’s what a mixtape is, innit – whereas this is more of an EP. It’s thought about.”
Born in London, Pinty is “about as Peckham as you can be,” he says when I ask where he’s from, moments after we meet at Ghost Notes (the venue operates as a workspace/bar during the day). Now in his early twenties, he’s been living in south since day dot, and the keen eyed or eared music fan will likely recognise him. That might be from his own work (Midnight Moods came out a year after debut track “This Just Life, Is Alright” became a Noisey fave). Or maybe he’s familiar to you from the crew he rolls with (catch him alongside King Krule in the video for “Easy Easy”; listen to ‘Second to None’, his and Maxwell Owin’s Sunday evening Reprezent Radio show; or maybe you caught him performing with Ratking).
Pinty’s output, though sporadic so far, has still maintained a sense of balance. It can meander between refined (see “Pinty’s Interlude”, on fellow south Londoner Jamie Isaac’s 2016 mixtape Loose Grip) and loosely breezy (coast though any session from infamous London YouTube channel Just Jam irrespective of what side of 2015 and 2018 it sits). Whatever session you choose, Pinty renews and refreshes what it means to be an MC – he never strays too far from what you might expect to see on a late night Channel 4 retrospective on UK dance music, yet adds his own minty-fresh flavour on top of that legacy too. Really, he pulls a dynamic expression of the past into the present.
The first thing that may strike you is Pinty's flow: a loose canal winding from “the P to the I to the En Tee Why”, through homage town, then back again to Peckham to a party where you can happily “have the whole stick” over the one filter. You’ve probably met someone like Pinty in a similar place with a similar table. Difference is, they couldn’t flow like him. There’s the base level of MCing, then there are the intricacies and details. Or to put it more bluntly: the pond water folk versus those who’ve explored inumerable tributaries. Both might seem accessible and concise but listen closer and you’ll hear the latter eloquently reveal their depth. Take the King Krule produced track “Tropical Bleu”, a tune that bubbles with stories of sin and dope fiend lean beneath the dance.
Though the tunes might be relatively uptempo, they hide downbeat lyrics. “It’s like ‘Tears of a Clown’, innit. If you listen to it, you can hear I’m talking some real shit,” he says, speaking quietly. “That’s why – not in some egotistical way – I’m always like ‘don’t throw me off as some garage MC’. Because that associates with just party lyrics and that’s not what I do. I care a lot about it, put a lot of time into thinking about it and making it.”
That said, Pinty enjoys a party. He put his first on aged 19, in Loughborough Junction, rigged up by a local guy from Brixton and his soundsystem. He’s also played at Ghost Notes no less than five times. But it’s closing down now, isn’t it? “Yeah, it’s peak.” This weekend will be the last. “It’s a shame, they really cared as well. I like the fact it looks nice and boujee – I’ve had enough of stuff like [south London venue] Canavan's. People are like ‘Oh, it’s so cool’, this terrible place… Alright. I want to be somewhere else.” Having been rooted around Peckham all his life, I get the sense he’s tired of Goldsmith students turning up at grotty places for a specific aesthetic rather going somewhere to be purely about the music – which, in the case of Ghost Notes, also happened to be a brand new addition to the area. He continues: “I have time for sticky floors but having nights here felt nice and clean. People really cared about it. I’ll miss this place.”
There’s a sense the music and culture of places before and beyond (and including) Ghost Notes holds emotional weight for Pinty. He’s of the dance, not only for the nights out but for everything else transcendent too. His favourite garage song is “Lovebug” by Ramsey and Fen (“Those vocals, it’s like ‘damn’. It’s bare smooth and sweet”). As he puts it on EP closing track, he grew up on Mike Skinner and legendary drum and bass MC Skibadee. He’s a head, and when you’re a head or even when you’re not, no one wants the night to end – the sun to rise, the high to fade. It should last forever: eternal and glowing.
That final track has an even deeper gravitas to it, too. Like the EP it’s called “City Limits”, an ode to a 2000s graffiti crew around during that garage and jungle sweet spot. Throughout the track there are samples taken from an interview his brother gave back in that same era – back at the height of his days as an MC. A few days before we meet, Pinty mentions another friend had recently passed too. As it happens, that same friend took the photo for the EP’s cover insert – of Pinty’s brother tagging up a train in the early 2000s. “It’s a shame the dedication didn’t get put on [the record in time], but you can’t win everything,” he says. Well shout out to them both now. “Without a doubt.”
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