Before the global pandemic, we saw artists like Kojaque and JyellowL, who are on the cusp of legitimate international presence head out on tour in the UK and play across Europe. Jafaris released an acclaimed album, whilst Denise Chaila and God Knows later continued in the face of adversity and produced an iconic performance on Other Voice’s ‘Courage’ series from National Gallery of Ireland. Right now, it seems like nothing can get in the way of the unstoppable rise of hip hop in Ireland.
Presented by Red Bull and produced by Collective Films ‘Origins, The Story of Irish Hip Hop’, chronicles the journey of hip hop in Ireland until now. It posits the most extensive oral history of the genre in the country to date and features a host of artists from across the island.
First examining the humble underground beginnings of hip hop in Ireland, it hears the legendary tale of genre-pioneering group Scary Eire and their inarguable influence on the artists that would follow them, despite their less than straight forward time on an Island Records.
The likes of Rob Kelly, Messiah J and the Expert, Ophelia and Lethal Dialect were all artists that benefited from the work of Scary Eire and despite laying much important groundwork for the success of the current generation they had to rally against constant dismissals of the notion of ‘Irish hip hop’.
Blindboy of the Rubberbandits and poet Emmet Kirwan talk about hip hop becoming a medium for Irish working class to have their voices heard, with it really beginning to take hold as artists built the confidence to drop Americanised cadences and use their authentic accents.
Rising Clonsilla spitter Nealo has graced festival stages across the country with his jazzy and conscious approach to rapping and he discusses using hip hop as a way to talk about heavy topics in a more approachable way during the documentary.
For as long as it has existed in Ireland, identity has been a constant topic of conversation and Maverick Sabre shares his experience growing up with the dual perspective having lived in both Ireland and England. Meanwhile Jafaris, God Knows of Rusangano Family and Denise Chaila recount their African backgrounds and how their upbringing informs their sound and story.
Elsewhere Belfast trio Kneecap chat about their riotous approach to fusing the Irish language and hip hop.
While examining how hip hop has got to where it is now, ‘Origins’ also looks towards the future and anticipates future challenges and what the future holds for the burgeoning artists on the island.
Veteran rapper Mango hits the nail on the head when he says Irish hip hop is “continuing a legacy of artists, poets and writers, but using a completely different art form to say the same thing.”
Tune in to RTÉ 1 on Thursday 3 September at 22:15 to watch ‘Origins, The Story of Irish Hip Hop’.
Streaming on RedBull.com from Friday, 11th of September.