I can be a skeptical, miserly prude at the best of times, but a glance through my emails has me welling up with pride, not only at the number of quality releases coming out of our wee island this week, but the variety of the records.
Take Nealo for example, a 30 something year old father who swapped law and hardcore music for introspective rhyming and walking dogs. His new record ‘Heart Food For Hard Times’ digs up past pain, with rolling commentary on the increasing erosion of culture in the capital. It feels like a bit of a soft hug in these difficult times.
Alternatively if you need something with a bit more bite to motivate your 20 minutes a day running the streets, Malaki dropped the venomous ‘Cavalier’ featuring Jeorge II. It’s an example of the youthful energy threatening to bounce right out of the country onto the world stage and is representative of the growing diversity and willingness within the scene to blend different styles.
Jeorge II has spoken before about his intentions to spit in Yoruba, and to be honest a brand of rap from Ireland attempting to blend elements of Nigerian culture would’ve been unimaginable 10 years ago, but we are here for it.
Something that’s been present right from the off though that continues today is that pervading DIY approach to hip hop. Kicking it with your mates in the gaff and swapping bars has been a cornerstone of Irish hip hop and Burner Records have been flying that flag for a hot minute. Sick Nanley‘s debut EP has an old school feel and contributions from his day one Local Boy. This sort of camaraderie is where a the scene gets its buoyancy and the project feels like a celebration of just that.
Another group making noise recently is FaR Collective and today Backpackblu dropped ‘New Purchase’. It’s part of a more melodic and almost hypnotic wave of hip hop that is filling the airwaves and Ireland is seeing an increasing number of artists accelerate into that lane.
While we have seen the rest of the world’s influence on hip hop in Ireland, some of our own artists have been putting their own stamp on popular culture. Alex Gough recently had music feature in ‘Normal People’ alongside a host of other artists like Tebi Rex and 7th Obi and today he released two new tracks complete with a visualiser. He’s taking a different path to many of the aforementioned artists, blasting through the live circuit with his drumming-meets-rap performances and the fact that all these various styles are co-existing with their own distinct fan bases is just more proof that Irish hip hop is in rude health right now.
However, one thing we could always do with more of is women in the genre, and while maybe a sense of genuine inclusivity and equality are the missing ingredients that would’ve propelled today into music folklore, we had our very own Denise Chaila mash it up live last night from The National Gallery of Ireland in front of thousands across the globe.
When the hashtag for the show was the number one trend on Irish Twitter and there’s calls for it to make prime time telly you know we’re on to something. Hip hop is edging onto peripheral vision of just about everyone – even the red-faced Live Line callers, that are permanently stuck in the past could understand the level of last night’s performance. It was special.
It’s easy to get lost in superlatives and feel emotional about the music scene. It’s evidently not perfect and there is a long way to go, but when artists are coming together and excelling in the toughest of circumstances you have to sit back and take stock. Maybe we’ll come out the other side stronger than ever.