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March 30, 2015Feature

We caught up with Mercury Prize winning group Young Fathers after their electric show in The Academy, Dublin.

"Hip hop heads were saying 'that's not what you guys should be doing'."

When we sat down with Kayus Bankole backstage after their performance, everyone around us was buzzing. There were people chattering excitedly, almost giddily. So is the affect a show with that much passion and enthusiasm has on those who watch it, and indeed on those who perform in it.

Young Fathers’ early days were steeped in the will to break the hip hop status quo in Edinburgh. Now 27, Kayus explains that their first gig didn’t exactly impress the local rap aficionados.

“We recorded some music in Graham’s house from a karaoke machine on to a mini-disc. We walked up to the under-16 club to play our first gig with pre-arranged dance moves and full songs. At that time people were just doing battle raps, so us coming on stage with song arrangement and dance moves, it shocked people. The girls liked it but the hip hop heads, like in every scene, were saying ‘that’s not what you guys should be doing’.”

Alloysious 'Ally' Massaquoi

They obviously didn’t let this negative feedback deter them, because collectively Young Fathers have one of the most eccentric and energetic stage presences you’re likely to see in modern hip hop.
“None of us had a loyalty to any form of music, we just liked what we liked and it was wide ranging. When you’re young you’re very impressionable and you listen to pretty much what your friends are listening to. Then you grow up and develop your own taste. With us, we just like what sounds good. It could be hip hop, dancehall, reggae, soul, anything as long as it sounds good in our ears.”

Graham 'G' Hastings

Sometimes garnering a lot of hype and being thrusted into the spotlight can have adverse affects on bands. So now that the dust has settled on Young Father’s 2014 Mercury Prize win, how are they feeling?

“It’s not the be all and end all. It did have a positive affect on our lives and more people are paying attention. I don’t know how big the Mercury Prize is in Dublin, but to us it’s all steps and that’s another tick to receive.”

Modest words from a band that have gripped the British hip hop world by the neck and shaken it out of definition.

"Life is full of compromise and that’s one place where we don’t want to compromise."

However, some media outlets have been less than complimentary of the group and says that regardless of opinion it’s just important that people care about what they do.

“If you care about what you do you will put the right effort and soul into it. We’ve had this standpoint for a long time, but it’s only known now because the publications that have been blacklisted by us are now interested in us. They want to do a feature on us or talk with us. We mean no offence to the individuals that actually work in these media outlets, it’s just life is full of compromise and that’s one place where we don’t want to compromise.

“They can write about us, but we won’t feed into their material because that’s shaking hands and saying ‘we agree with what you stand for’ and that’s not the case.”

Tour drummer Steven Morrison takes a brief moment

Their new album ‘White Men Are Black Men Too’ comes out very soon on Big Dada and Kayus says the band and the label have a good relationship.

“We produce our music and they put it out. Just how a record company should work! They’ve been understanding and most importantly they believe in what we do.”

The album title itself is poignant, and from the way Kayus speaks about the record, it is a deeply considered piece of work.

“The weight of the title, in terms of the connotations behind it, is significant. ‘White Men Are Black Men Too’ is a metaphoric statement. We all understand that everything is not equal, but it is a statement that will get people talking and open up the door for conversation.”

Kayus taking in the enthralled Dublin crowd

“Hopefully with the right sentiment and understanding, people will talk about the fact that you can’t put fucking people in boxes. Hopefully that will have a ripple affect and things can move forward from there.”

‘White Men Are Black Men Too’ is out now.

Photos: Eric Davidson

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