Words: Dylan Murphy
Today marks Hip Hop’s fiftieth anniversary. To celebrate, we asked friends of District from across Ireland and fans of the culture to talk about the most iconic moments we have shared together.
We could have gone right back to the 80s. Instead, we’re using this as an opportunity to appreciate recent developments before looking towards the future. So we asked people for moments in the last decade. This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list, rather it’s a starting point to dig into more artists and explore recent moments as sources of inspiration. Without hip hop District wouldn’t exist and we’re thankful for the culture, people and experiences it has given us. Here’s to fifty more years.
Hard choice but JyellowL ‘Ozone‘ being part of FIFA 2020 soundtrack. I think everyone who was around in 2018/2019 could see how active and progressive hip hop was becoming in Ireland and that was an achievement we hadn’t seen anyone get. I didn’t even know it was something artists could aspire to. Even outside of hip hop it’s quite unheard of even until now.
One of my favourite moments in Irish Hip Hop was back in 2013. In the basement of All City Records for the release of ‘Sketch’ (EP) by The Animators. It was the first time I came across an artist(s) to step away from the standard CD release with a gig in the twisted pepper. It was a celebration of music, art and culture. Such an important moment for Irish music, It blew me away and still inspires me to this day. It also led to a longtime friendship and a ton of projects with Mango X MathMan (past members of The Animators). Photo: Via Instagram
That time in 2019 when Kojaque was on billboards in NYC and LA was pretty wild. I remember around that same week the Fontaines were on Jimmy Fallon, this was before they were the collosal act they are now. It was mad seeing two acts that you’d see a couple of years prior gigging around Irish venues in the spotlight over in America. It was pretty mind blowing at the time and a very cool Irish hip hop moment, god bless America. Photo credit: @Dylancannyghin
My moment is more of a movement which saw Limerick establish itself as the hip hop capital of Ireland. There have been so many highlights during this time; seeing Strange Boy Nature performing the anthem Cold Mornings at Make A Move Festival, witnessing the stellar work of Limerick Music Generation, the rise of Hazey Haze, Citrus Fresh, Mankyy and others, Rusangano Family winning the Choice Music Prize, seeing Denise Chaila emerging on the balcony of Dolan’s to perform for the first time and watching her meteoric star continue to rise. The best is yet to come.
I honestly had to comb through a bunch of these; God Knows bringing the two coasts together on the Tommy Tiernan show (2021), Curitsy and Ahmed, With Love freestyling over Alex Gough’s band for 15 minutes in the Grand Social (2022), Kojaque dropping the first Deli Daydreams video (2018), For Those I Love’s triumphant headliner in the Olympia (2021), Hazey Haze’s enormous posse cut “Actors” (2020)… but I can’t stop thinking about Cold Summit II (2023), the show Nealo and the NUXSENSE lads put on a few weeks ago.
Seeing SweetLemondae as the future of Irish hip-hop full stop, Zimback bringing a sound I’d never in a million years expect to see in Dublin, Nealo and Rebel P trialling out new material and looking more vital than ever, Sivv stepping up as one of the greatest producers the country has ever seen, and the whole NUXSENSE crew fully ready to take their rightful place. Bright, unbeaten optimism for the scene in a tiny room, packed with heads, on the sweetest-sounding system. Proof more of those great memories are yet to come.
I think the most exciting point for me as a Clareman was the release of Let the Dead Bury the Dead. We’d seen Scary Eire, Messiah J & The Expert and Infomatics make inroads in terms of critical acceptance before this but Rusangano Family really cemented that our home grown talent could spar at the same level as any of the other genres more typically selected as Choice Music Prize nominees. It discussed with being black and Irish in a direct but layered way that really set the tone for the way the country is growing and laid the groundwork for what Denise Chaila, Sello and Max Zanga are doing. Pissing off auld lads on Facebook merely for existing is what hip hop is all about.
My second favorite moment, largely because I got to witness it in person, was seeing two time world rap champion Thesaurus battle the most popular UK battler OShea (quite obviously of Irish extraction) on home soil in 2018. It was probably a decade in the making after earlier clashes in Canada and the UK were cancelled. The crowd were so hyped the room was shaking and both of them delivered in spades with freestyle rebuttals, and referencing lines from earlier battles on the card. Above all it was really funny which is what I appreciate about battling rather than it being lads delivering a mixtape worth of gun metaphors acapella.
My favourite moment in the Irish hip-hop scene has to be the MathMan beat battles in the Bernard Shaw a couple years back. Having the place packed out with some of Irelands top producers at the time was incredible to see. It was great to meet a lot of the producers responsible for the amazing rap music that was coming out of the country at the time, alongside the OGs and the new faces. I ended up meeting Jake (Local Boy) and Adam (ARBU) for the first time at the first beat battle, which inevitably led to us coming together to start Burner with Fynch and Nick. It honestly just showed how supportive and tightly knit the scene was at the time, not just for the Irish rappers but the Irish producers.
Photo credit: @directedby.conor
For me, it’s hard to pinpoint one exact moment. Any answer to a question like this will always be wrapped up in personal experience. There was something about the scene during 2018-2019 felt really special to me. The sense of community, the collaboration and gigs being put on. Highlights that stand out being Kojaque dropping Deli Daydreams, the South West All Stars ‘Who’s Askin‘ video, Kneecap announcing themselves and seeing acts like Rejjie Snow becoming globally recognised.