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Long-time supporter of Irish cultural talent, last week Hennessy announced a new collaboration with music, arts and wellness festival Body&Soul. On the Friday night Hennessy and Body&Soul presents the Midnight Circus stage, a stellar line-up of Irish and international hip hop acts, specially curated by Mango X MathMan’s Adam Fogarty.

 

For the first time ever, Hennessy and Body&Soul presents the Midnight Circus stage on Friday June 21, with a line-up that has been carefully crafted by leading DJ and producer Adam Fogarty, aka Mathman. Over the years some of the biggest artists have namechecked Hennessy in their lyrics, from Tupac and Biggie in the 90s to Drake and Kendrick Lamar more recently.

“The birth of hip hop 40 years ago in the south Bronx gave voice to a generation that felt they had none and it became the vehicle of choice for young people to express themselves, a genre which is still alive right now. Ireland’s journey with hip hop began in the very late 80s with a group of pioneers who unashamedly wore their Irishness in every bit of their art and today it has grown into one of the country’s best loved genres.”

Delving into his unsurpassed knowledge of the Irish and international scene, Mathman has curated a stage featuring some of today’s best-known and up and coming hip hop and rap artists. UK artists already announced include Manchester’s IAMDDB, BBC Sound 2019 winner Octavian and South London rapper Miss Banks. Mango X MathMan and Belfast trio KNEECAP are also on the bill, with more to be announced.

We caught up with MathMan to discuss the stage and his confidence in Irish hip hop going into the future.

Tell me a little about how the collab came about?

I’m really excited about it for a number of reasons. I’m excited about it because it’s Hennessy, a brand that’s been synonymous with hip hop for years and years and years, they’ve been name-checked in so many records. It’s a brand that has cared about hip hop and urban music for so long, but what they’re now doing is evolving that relationship not only into today, but into Ireland too.

The beautiful thing about the line up is that it’s 50 per cent Irish. As well as the incredible international artists, half of the artists are Irish, and that’s a really important thing because brands such as Hennessy putting money behind projects like this is real support for Irish music. And we need that to evolve the genre and this community so it’s in the public eye. So we can grow to the full potential of what we’re capable of.

It’s interesting to see a partner evolving with hip hop too, because the genre has changed and developed so much since its birth.

Absolutely, every facet of this is evolving. Hip hop’s popularity internationally is a million miles away from what it started out like in the South Bronx in the late 70s. That was the nucleus, and how that expanded globally, reaching Ireland and how now we’re evolving… It’s the reach, and how it’s affecting communities, social consciousness, awareness, and giving voice to people who previously didn’t have a vehicle or vessel. Now the Irish story is being told through that.

Octavian, IAMDDB, Miss Banks, yourself and Mango, Kneecap, with more to be programmed. What was your ethos going into curating it?

The really important thing for me was not to do the obvious with the line up. It’s easy to go for the biggest and most popular names and to get a stage, but I don’t know if that surprises or excites people. I wanted to put a line up together for people that they wouldn’t expect.

It’s also a line up that represents the new breadth of genres that are happening in urban music. Say Octavian, I don’t think I can put that guy into any category, and his voice as an artist is incredible. Everyone is talking about Kneecap right now… Then you have Mango X MathMan… It’ wouldn’t be a MathMan line up if we weren’t on it! We’ve got the album coming too so we’ll have a lot of new music. This won’t be the show that people may have seen already, it will be very new.

So it’s one night only?

Yes, Midnight Circus will be on the Friday, but Hennessy have some other really cool bits happening across the weekend on site too. That includes the brilliant Sound Lounge with the guys at Hen’s Teeth, which is always so considered and it’s on that whopper soundsystem that they have. That always makes for a really enjoyable and informative conversation. I’m excited to see what they have lined up this year.

Are you bringing down a few records to show off at the Sound Lounge?

That’s the plan anyway, but we might need to bring a couple of buses if you want to get a taste of my collection! That’s going to be a really enjoyable experience, talking about the records I’ve collected over the years that have inspired me.

We’ve spoken at length about your involvement in Irish hip hop, but is it heartening for you to see so many more traditionally indie/electronic/rock festivals embracing not only hip hop as a whole, but hip hop produced on this island?

It’s so satisfying, but also really inspiring. I was asked recently in an interview about what would be the important things to really help this genre go out to the masses. First of all, as artists, we need to continue to make great art and music. That’s the most important thing. The second thing we need is profile. Without platforms like yourself, without radio stations, without media outlets, or without brands like Hennessy getting behind stages at festivals, this thing won’t grow as quickly. When I see festivals around the country booking hip hop and grime, it’s so inspiring, five years ago I wasn’t seeing that happening. That’s a testament to the quality of music, the hard work of the artists and a testament to everyone else who truly believes in what’s happening here.

We’re now in a place where it’s getting the recognition it deserves, and I honestly feel this is just the beginning of where this whole thing can go. I’m excited to see what happens next.

Click here for more on Hennessy and Body&Soul presents the Midnight Circus stage on Friday June 21.

Words: Eric Davidson / Photography: Nic Cargin 
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