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Thursday, 19 July 2012

Irish Rappers Revealed: A result of past & present

Intro - The Republic of Ireland has produced some quality talent over the past century or so; from actors, directors, musicians and athletes. I could list the names of those who have done us proud globally, but fuck that; Reeling in the years might as well be a half hour dedication to Bono's U2. Don't get me wrong, I, like most, am proud to be Irish knowing we have produced one of the best rock n roll bands ever, but in my life-time it would thrill me to see Irish Hip hop have some serious success somewhere along the line. Why? myself being Irish is an obvious statement, but because I would support any hip hop to the death a me, and so I believe if certain countries can achieve success with their artists, why can't we. Is it the accent?

Irish Rappers revealed: Born out of county Wexford, Rob Kelly recently popped back on the scene with a continuation of fine results in terms of recognition in and outside of Ireland. The origin of his hip hop career dates back to the late 80s early 90s. It was clear that Rob had a talent for rhyming while nit-picking in rap battles; a concept where the best rappers in the world have started off - Eminem, Busta Rhymes, Xzibit, Biggie etc. Rob Kelly followed no-one but himself in achieving what is a wide dose of experience under his belt. 2006 proved a successful year, yet long awaited I'm sure with the drop of his official album, Bragging Rights. Following a hand full of mix tapes, Bragging Rights would prove to be the big one, entertaining such songs as "Dropkicked" featuring Boston based MC, Slaine. Bragging Rights was the first Irish rap album I had heard. Rob Kelly is the original underground MC with a fan base ranging through-out the UK while performing numerous shows as far as Boston and Canada.

In 2005 Alan Collins, aka Collie, released his debut album “Is Ainm Dom".  What seems almost impossible, I was actually listening to a rapper with the thickest Dublin accent spit lyrics through my stereo was crazy, in a good way. It was original first off and extremely funny. He wasn't rapping about a particular hood or drive-by shooting because that didn't exist around Dublin. Sure, Gangland was always present, but instead of an origin of his own life, it was about partying, booze, daily listings, Shams and public transport! Who knows at that time whether Collie viewed his career progressing to new heights, but since then he has released several albums Collie's bandcamp  - How things Changed followed by Keep Her Lit and The aul Sod.
Redzer; a Coolock based rapper who was also lucky enough release his own debut album - Dublife. Another one of few albums I had purchased, it was slightly original in terms of story-telling and general flow. Sure, he added one or two party anthems, but Dublife was aimed at those in harsh times relating to the lack of employment, as well as continuously pointing the finger at our Government and Taoiseach at the time, Bertie Ahern. In my mind, the majority of the tracks associated greatly to genuine hip hop and the meaning behind it. It was an album that consisted of "Ups and downs", relating to good memories but yet the moral truth that in fact the country, more so now, is in a state of disaster. Redzer touched on important subjects, expressing his opinion with a fine element of lyrical flow. Some of the popular tracks on Dublife were Redzer's Be Someone; a memorable mix of Tracy Chapman's Fast Car. Play your life away (Street life) was another nice slick track featuring Collie, Ratman and Nu-Centz.

Some songs included hilarious content such as one particular track, Coolock shit; a song aimed at those to avoid Coolock! Did it pave way for another physical album; unfortunately not. Redzer has enough tracks on YouTube to cover another two albums, maybe more, but in my opinion, Redzer was just another victim of an attempt at achievement by a solo Irish hip hop artist, solo being the key word here. Redzer reforms his current work around the Class A'z; a rap group involving Nugget, Nu-Centz, Terawritz, Rawsoul, Siyo, Collie and Redzer. You can download a variety of mix-tapes from their online music store.

Nugget (Gary Nugent) is so famous when it comes to Irish hip hop it reeks the air whenever a DFI (Don’t flop Ireland) event comes around. Nugget is one of the pioneers of Irish hip hop. If he refused any such credit, it would be given to him by the people surrounding him. He was one of very few to cross the water (England) to battle one of their own, more experienced MC's in a don’t flop rap battle. Born out of Ballyfermot, Nugget is known for his bravery and witty concept bringing a republican persona where ever he travels. He is neither shy from slagging himself before you can, leaving you with nothing and him with unlimited ammunition! His exploit of web-fame has created a path for MC's after him, including Cork based MC, Nash who also made his mark on English soil. Nugget's debut album The Nugget you love to hate was released in 2006 followed by last year's Ready to diet.
The harsh reality might be: To take a note from the book of The Original Rudeboys who have recently showed that in order to be at least half successful within hip hop, there has to be a general element; that element appears to consist of a rapper, a vocalist, and a talent for the ukulele. Not necessarily those in particular of course, but an element that differs from those in a similar category. Now, not saying it's a band or nothing for the hip hop artists of our country, but look at the results. Sean "Neddy" Arkins has been writing songs since before his association with his newly formed band mates. Did he achieve success? If you include locally and YouTube, yes, but the goal he really wanted to reach? No! In fact he resolved to writing raps for fun before taken the whole band thing seriously years later.

The success of the Original Rudeboys so far has received endless praise in terms of originality and the fact they have performed at the biggest festivals, supporting the biggest acts. Although it is a band consisting of an Irish rapper, Dublin which is leading a great example, I believe there is no way Sean Arkins would have been accepted outside of Ireland with just a microphone and torso. Sure, he trends a "likable" character, but like the previous and current rappers today, he too would have struggled alone. Sean as well as Robert Burch and Sean Walsh were smart enough to sit down and create something that involves an equal interest from the band as a whole. Robert Burch (Vocalist) was playing guitar in local pubs as well as Sean Walsh picking up the Ukulele every now and then. The fact they created and blended an element of three different concepts is genius. We all know what their graft led onto; YouTube videos, Interviews, and their physical debut album This Life. It just doesn't get that big very often...they were the lucky ones.

Lethal Dialect (Paul Alwright): Anyone who doesn't recognise the MC Lethal Dialect by now has been living under a rock. His second album, LD50-2 launched in March following its predecessor, LD50, attracting hip hop fans across the country. His unique story telling is contracted by magical beats constructed by his associate and friend, GI.

I recognised LD through DFI (Don't flop Ireland) where I witnessed the most hilarious, witty ways of crushing someone with none-other than knowledgeable words. My first encounter on YouTube was LD and Rob Steenson. Rob, an inner City MC, close to where I grew up myself, was known to have a lyrical talent not only for battling but tracks consisting of numerous YouTube hits. It was that particular battle that not only got me hooked online, but gave me the sheer enjoyment of discovering of who I believe has a more realistic chance at Hip hop success. His persona speaks for itself through his gritty music, with a convincing bulk of talent, whether it pays the way or not.

I attended his last gig in The Workmans club. Apparently LD was over the moon with the turn out, I for one was very disappointed considering the raving reviews online and the fans that have fallen in love with his hip hop portrayal. In my opinion it could have been a better turn out. Those who express their interest in an artist need to support the gigs, otherwise it's quite pointless.
Rob Steenson (right) has up to 50,000 YouTube hits. His tracks consist of harsh times, deepest thoughts and personal, sometimes depressed lyrics. As I understand, he was one of the first that I came to hear of locally who took up writing tracks for recreational use. His most recent YouTube hits are Sunny Rain, Down to the river and Faithless. Obviously the times change and with himself, as well as other locals such as Neddy Arkins, who performed with one-another in the past. These lads were part of a small minority who would see the path differently as rap slowly began to grow. I am not sure if Rob and Co would agree if I had guessed that DFI had helped them slightly. Although a concept created for the so-called best battlers in Ireland to come together would more than likely create more downs than ups; as entertaining as it is to watch, I would love a perspective from someone in terms of the egotistical side. It is at the end of the day a contest, something that the average rapper would tear through to make a name for himself.

Working Class (records); A hip hop group with a convenient name consisting of Costello, GI, 4Real, William Lee, John Doe, as well as Jambo and Lethal Dialect supporting the Dublin companionship. The difference in this group a lads varies. Their take on the documentary was different, speaking on rap itself and the individuals surrounding it, while continuing to pay homage to Daniel Mc Donnell Aka Lunatic. Daniel (left) finally got the chance to grow up after moving from Dublin to England and back again to where he discovered not only his childhood in Ballymun, but his love toward hip hop and the will to write lyrics.
"When I heard All eyes on me for the 1st time it blew me away, & although a lot of people wouldn't consider it a classic Hip-Hop album it gave me the inspiration to start written lyrics, so I’ll always love it".
- Lunatic
In 2009 Lunatic released his debut album, Based on a true story featuring Damien Dempsey, Ri-Ra as well as 4-Real and Moschops. Sadly, Daniel Mc Donnell passed away in 2009 leaving behind a fine history full of originality with an exceptional flow of lyrics. His personality speaks for itself earning a reputation that was known to provide the working class of Ballymun with the "will" to write lyrics for themselves. His loss opened a gate that paved way for the likes of LD and Companion, Costello - illosophical (bottom right).

 So what is DFI? (Don't Flop Ireland) is a gathering of battlers from across Ireland. The events are held through-out small venues in Ireland.  It holds a majority of different competitors coming from different counties, resulting into some quality inter-county rap battles. Redzer is the host in what is a really entertaining concept that helps reveal potential talent. For some, DFI is as far is it goes in terms of popularity. The result of a certain battle could lead to more views for the winner who, more than likely has lyrics swarming YouTube.
Potential Begrudging: In one DFI battle Rob Steenson was supposed to battle a girl (from England if I remember). Anyway long story short, Rob never turned up, leading the host which was Redzer or Collie at the time labelling him a coward, or something along those lines. That maybe proof of some people who just expect you to have nothing other than DFI and could result in jealousy within the whole DFI slash struggling Irish rappers. The success of Rob Kelly, Maverick Sabre and potential others following their path will no doubt admit to an element of jealousy inflicted upon them. If I was to guess, not taking anything away from the die-hard fans of The Original Rudeboys, but I know there are certain individuals not giving them credit when it's due. Just like many other countries flooding with talent, nobody is ever too shy of voicing their opinion whether it's positive or negative; it's the nature of the game within any music industry.

Cork: If you think Dublin rappers are lyrical in their own shape or form, you could be right, but not by much. We may be the capital of Ireland, but Cork bring the heat every time with their own majority of rappers; G.M.C, Bony, Nash, K.Snatch, Genesis, Matamatik, all have as much popularity in their own county as they do here. Cork has a different style of rapping, supplying an element of heavy accent and multisyllabic flow that is hard to follow at first but it will grow on you. It was great to see a lack of bias in Irish Rappers revealed - an RTE documentary analysing the characteristics within our own hip hop community.
RTE's Irish Rappers revealed: I understand when rappers say they don't care for fame and that lark and just enjoy writing and rhyming for those who will listen, whether it's for two or three hundred people. But Irish Rappers revealed was a documentary focusing on those who are searching for success; a possible career outside of YouTube, twitter, Facebook etc. Some of the above included as well as those who fail to differ. And you know what? props to those who did take part in that film, particularly Redzer in which the film was more focused on, revealing his life ambitions as well as his rap companion, Siyo (left). Out of the majority of rappers who took part in the film, Big Siyo (Simon Young) stuck out in my mind. Haven known a touch about Siyo through DFI and his music in general, this film provided proof to his honesty and overall personality that could draw an audience within five minutes, on or off the stage. It was great to see inside the home of a man struggling with something he adores. A former hairdresser, Siyo is seen pleading for a discovered talent to be recognised. With His humorous performances, whether it's DFI or gigs could put him in a category of very few hosting some potential success.

On that note: Siyo is one I could relate to and feel his ambition and possible struggle. He gave up on a career, leading him down a completely different path. I was a plumber for 3 years...I am now studying Journalism. Talk about a complete change of direction!!! This is something Siyo can, and probably already is representing to the people of Ireland caught in a similar situation.

 I am not convinced if it was the right idea to film certain individuals collecting their labour (social welfare to those with a job). I collect the social welfare, no shame in that. The country is in recession, something that even the "well off" can't avoid, but to make it seem like these rappers are fighting to get out of a ghetto and that rap was their only solution? It was humorous and reminded me of a couple of documentaries I watched on Tupac, Biggie and others who are genuinely looking for a way out, a better life...not just to pay bills!
No disrespect, It's fantastic to see some of them hold on to their goal, an addiction could be the right word, I don’t know, but surely there is a shitty job out there to keep you on the straight and narrow while you consider your options in terms of hip hop and which way you want to go?

Irish Rappers Revealed was quite interesting and would serve well to those who wish to learn about our very own rap culture. Although it did only consist of the "up and coming"; Rob was excluded  which was quite surprising, Collie, and Cork's popular duo, Bony and Nash as well as Nu-centz and Rawsoul were also excluded.

As for the majority of Irish Rappers in the Documentary, most would see this as a great expansion in terms of Ireland’s talent. Rob Steenson, who was not part of the film, for reasons I am not sure of, believes in the hip hop movement, but unlike other parts of the world, we are progressing very slowly.
He said "Ireland's a small country so making it here is obviously a lot different to making it in the states or whatever! There is definitely an audience in Ireland at the minute; it’s just taken a while to get out there to people. A lot more people listen to Irish hip hop now then 3 years ago; hopefully in another 3 years it will be the same again."

The short film was also shown on BBC 1 and BBC3 so that in itself is a stepping stone for Irish Hip Hop.
For a population of our rappers, Europe seems a distance right now, although Rob Kelly's The Real Thing featuring Rebecca Creighton is trending serious airwaves. Rob is leading a fine example and could possibly pave the way for those looking for that similar route. Following Maverick Sabre and the continuous expansion of the Original Rudeboys, Rob Kelly is a few hundred short of 50,000 YouTube hits for his latest track. As much as commercial can be quite irritating, a wide demographic will lend it the time!

Is there potential success for battlers of the concept DFI provides? Maybe, I mean I don't wish to be too bias relating to one artist. Yes I could list the rappers who I/we have come to listen to on You-Tube wondering if there is room for a solo Irish rapper.

Rob Steenson, Nash, Bony, Jambo, Genesis, Costello, Lethal Dialect, Siyo, terawritz, Ksnatch, GMC, Rawsoul, Nugget, Nu-Centz, redzer, Collie, matamatik, All with a tremendous amount of rhyming abilities.
There is more than enough room on YouTube and maybe some of the above deserve it more than others. Of course they could debate all day about who has been in the game longer, consistency does matter and goes a long way, but in this case there is too many wanting the same thing, which is not a fault in any way but it appears too many are following a similar path... of each other!. Yes we are all the same nationality, but this is a stiff competition right now. Seven years ago it was original, fresh, with no pressure to seek that career you are working ever so hard for.

Supporting a slow movement: As an adolescent I had figured out what I believed to be hip hop. My own experiences within the joys of hip hop evolved around the usual and more. The usual, Well, I was just your typical Tupac Shakur fanatic. Like many around the globe, I took liken to the biggest lyricists at that time and I still listen to old school only. I don't mind admitting that I am very narrow- minded and to be frank, I can't stand the commercial crap released these days. Sure, you could argue that I am not the demographic these artists are aiming their music at, but I don't understand how the appropriate demographic can listen to, never mind purchase the stuff. The harsh reality is people need commercial status, it's a routine in hip hop originated from the best for decades!
Just like my introduction, I will continue to support any hip hop movement. It just frustrates me, more so the artists, to see particular talent go unnoticed. I mean these are potential careers being over-looked. The majority of songs from our own are not everyone’s cup of tea, and to be frank most can be either too hard-core or too fake! But you know what? That’s what separates the realists from the blow-ins. Who's dedicated themselves more? And I am sure it isn’t the rapper alone creating the path, it's the people surrounding him/her. The results following the documentary have not been entirely great, people bickering about the involvement of some and absent of others. I for one have mixed thoughts, but you can't please everyone.

Ah well, we can only embrace what’s been done and look forward to the future of our very own, and the year it has been for the some of the artists included in this script! (I had no intention of it being this long!). Apologies to those I might have missed, not purposely; however it goes to show the growth of Irish rappers.


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