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Huddled into a dimly lit corner downstairs in a bar over a smooth pint of Guinness, Myster-E, one third of This Side Up, sat down to chat about the success of Full Fat, how the scene in the West is standing and where he sees This Side Up heading.
In a jovial mood, Myster-E is incredibly enthusiastic about the Irish hip hop scene.
Though a Western Irish accent is something not too common to hear on tracks, for him it allows more scope with what he can say. He’s been an advocate of his home accent since day one, telling me, “there are different slangs, different ways to say words that give you an opportunity to be more unique with the way you rap”. In terms of colloquialisms, he references the quick drawl of ‘nottin’, which he says a lot himself.
“Everywhere else, in America or whatever, they just don’t say it like that, you know?” With a huge fit of laughing, he continues, “keep it rural.”
In the early years, they used to get quite a lot of flak for accents, but as he says, “once we start on the mic I think they get it.” Another hearty laugh and he describes how people come up to him saying, “I heard ‘Sligo hip hop’ and thought this was gonna be cat, but you’re not that bad.” In Myster-E’s eyes, it’s all for the better because they “converted a sceptic”.
Coming out of the West, there wasn’t necessarily an ingrained hip hop scene they fitted into, but that was all the more beneficial. Their mates were playing blues, some were playing funk, and Myster-E describes how being accepted into such a diverse scene was great for creativity. If it was all just hip hop, “you could get maybe… Not complacent… But that’s all you’re concentrating on. When you come in and you’re seeing all these different types of music, it gives you a lot of emphasis, you know?”
This Side Up started as a night in Sligo by (TSU DJ) DJ Noone and DJ PC spinning funk, soul, hip hop and similar genres. Myster-E came in and spat a few bars over tracks, and though they’d made a few tracks together previously, it kicked off from there again. As he says, “it was different to what was usually played in Sligo, you know, with the raps.”
The scene is growing in the West and has been for some time, so now there’s acts such as Rusangano Family and Bleak Stack making names for themselves. As he says, “it’s good to hear that side of things too, that different aspect of life in this country. It’s a whole other part of it.”
When asked if he thinks there’s a reason Irish people are hesitant when they hear their own accent on tracks, he takes a deep breath and says, “let me think about that one now.” It’s often something that comes up in conversation, but it’s difficult to pin down a reason why the Irish accent tends to be unfavourable to its own people.
He feels it isn’t all that common on tracks, whereas everyone knows, say, the London accent. Therefore, on tracks it’s a lot friendlier on the ear. He goes on to describe how other places tend to get glamorised, but he’s sure anyone who “doesn’t know people from Sligo and hears the accent just thinks I sound like a farmer.”
At the moment, This Side Up are working on new tracks having taken a bit of a break after the release of Full Fat, though nothing can be confirmed as of yet. Himself and Shaool are in the process of writing, and Myster-E has been holed up making beats for the past while, so things are brewing underneath the surface: “Plenty more to come, it’ll never stop.”
He says he’d like more gigs abroad in the likes of the UK and Europe, and though it’s never about the capital, the end game is obviously to make a living off the music. As he puts it so beautifully, laughing, he tells me, “it’s not all about the money but, you know, it’s handy when you go shoppin’”.
In Myster-E’s eyes, more people are taking notice than ever before.
“It’s a lot more prominent now. Everyone knows that it’s an art form, it’s a popular music style that’s to be reckoned with. It’s not going anywhere, especially in this country. I think it’s just going to keep increasing.”
Though making Full Fat was difficult at times with real life crossing points with the music, he’s proud of everything the group have accomplished.
“It’s been great progress we’ve made for lads from Sligo making hip hop, that’s the way I see it, you know? Fuck it. If anything, man, I can be happy with that,” and in perfect Sligo colloquial manner, he tells me laughing, “it is ya.”
This Side Up play a headline show this Saturday in The Grand Social. They have recruited t-woc and Bleak Stack to join the party too. Click here for ticket information. Click here to download their album ‘Full Fat’.