Mango, the self-proclaimed ‘red headed Dub’, sat down to chat about his upcoming debut solo album and how the Dublin hip-hop scene has been flourishing. His latest track ‘Casual Work’, which is due for release in the coming months, is a step away from the uplifting summer tunes you’d associate with his previous work in The Animators. In his own words, it’s more of “a marriage between rave culture and hip-hop”. With a lot left unsaid in his previous tracks, this is personally “a bit more honest, a bit more authentic”.
Huddled into the corner of a café smoking-area to avoid the wind, Mango strolls through the mobs of people steeped in a collective hangover from Patrick’s Day. He’s at ease, and dressed completely in black. Sitting down, he rolls a smoke and tells me he spent the previous evening in the studio and didn’t make it out. Laughing, he orders us tea. It’s a stretch away from a ‘pint of black’, from his track ‘Rapih’, but due to a developing wheat intolerance, whenever he has “a rake of pints” his stomach gets incredibly upset. “I can’t believe it, I’m lying on my records” he tells me, laughing, quoting from ‘Rapih’, “‘I’m grand once I’ve a pint of black in my hand’. For fuck sake, I’m not. I’m in bits.”
Hip-hop in Dublin has been going from strength-to-strength, most recently with Mo-K and the Cypher Series on RTÉ 2FM. Artists are now gaining more access to professional studios, making it easier to produce higher quality tracks. Mango thinks it’s also getting more diverse, and that “people are being a bit more authentic”. He describes how “we’re in a healthier position now,” as the right people have gotten behind the scene that believe in the artists.
One of the significant increases, Mango thinks, is the fact that “people are more inclined now to make radio songs,” which is a stark contrast to how it used to be. When he was growing up, “it was loads of lads in working class housing estates talking about being from working class housing estates”. Though there’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, it doesn’t resonate with a national audience on the airwaves.
Considering Mango started his career in the late 2000s with The Animators, he talks nostalgically about the group’s success. Taking a quick pause for “just a little tea break”, he gathers himself and looks back on the group’s demise.
“It was an absolute shame,” he tells me, talking about how they knocked down doors for Irish urban music. He feels people don’t remember the legacy The Animators left after they broke up. Swirling the tea in his cup, looking thoughtful, he tells me that no matter what people may remember, “Animators stuff still knocks.”
Talking about ‘Casual Work’, his forthcoming project, Mango describes when MathMan (who produced the entire album) and himself started working together. “Unsurprisingly” it sounded a lot like the Animators, but over time “it just developed and distilled.” The harder edge is inspired by Mango’s long love for grime, mixed in with what he sees in Dublin.
Describing the city, he says, “that’s what Dublin’s like. It’s a techno city, it’s a dance scene city. I wanted to merge all that together.”
The edgier side is inspired by the fact that, “I’ve done a lot of shit in my life that I haven’t mentioned, and there’s been a lot of dark times, so what I want to do is put that into my music and tell people about it.”
While the album isn’t all grim, he talks about how he wanted to be more honest with himself.
He notes, “the album might be a bit raw, it might be a bit, you know, more ballsy than The Animators, but it still has the kind of celebratory kind of thing, like, yeah, we’re still alive.” He takes a drag off his cigarette, “you know what I mean?”
The album has been in the making for the bones of two years at this stage, and the name, ‘Casual Work’, is to reflect Mango’s generation who came out of school during the recession. Nobody could afford to go to college, even get a trade, and everyone was, “on the dole or casual work certs”. Added to this, the album itself is casual work, as he’s not getting paid for it, so he’s in the studio every other day.
While there’s little money to be made in Dublin hip-hop, for Mango, he’s back in the game for one reason.
“It’s all the love. It’s all the love, it has to be… I’m back in it, I’m making a bit of money, but it’s all for the love, man.”
‘Casual Work’ is due out in the next couple of months, and though there’s no official release date or album launch planned, Mango says, “it’s just going to be a party, you know, like bring your own bottles.”
He isn’t bothered with a commercial place where people will feel like they should spend money just to enjoy the show. For him, it’s more important to find a space where people can bring cans in, listen to hip-hop, and have the craic.
Rolling one last cigarette for the road and finishing up his tea, he tells me, “I’m down for the slog, I’m down for the long-haul.”
His love of hip-hop hasn’t faltered since the demise of The Animators, which is admirable, and in his own words, grinning, he adds, “I’m not really one of these guys that’s like, ‘oh, I’m going to make one album, and if it doesn’t go well, then fuck that.’”
Mango will be performing tonight at Word Up Collective #13, alongside NEOMADiC and Sean X. It’s five euro on the door, click here for more info.