Contemporary Irish Hip-Hop

Posted by Billyjam, September 21, 2013 07:03pm | Post a Comment
                    Rob Kelly "Jack The Ripper" (2013)

Since its humble beginnings in the 1980's Irish hip-hop has gradually grown and developed to its current vibrant state.  From starting out as a predominantly derivative genre hip-hop in Emerald Isle has, over the years, clearly found its own voice and distinctive style. And while this identity first took root in the 90's, with acts like Scary Eire showcasing a unique Irish take on the genre, it is really only in the past five or six years that Irish hip-hop has become a most distinctive sub-genre of the global hip-hop movement with more artists than any previous time in its short history contributing to the art form.

As an Irish born hip-hop fan, who left the country just as hip-hop was taking root there, upon each return visit I have been actively following hip-hop in Ireland and can report that it is currently enjoying its healthiest & most innovative state with a slew of excellent new songs and albums been released over the past twelve month period alone - many from artists who just arrived on the scene in the past half decade. Over the past few decades it has been interesting to watch this Irish strain of the American born musical genre go through its slow but steady development. For this Amoeblog I have selected a brief sampling of Irish hip-hop videos from the past year or so to give an overview of the scene over there.

Robyn Kavanagh & Class A'z (Redzer / Terawrizt) "Footsteps" (2013)

Costello feat Moschops "L.A.B. Sessions" (2013)

On a recent trip to Ireland I talked with a number of artists and individuals involved in hip-hop there about their take on the genre. One such individual is O.B. who started out as a DJ. OB owns and runs All City in the Temple Bar district of  Dublin. All City is both a hip-hop retail store (records and graffiti supplies among other things) and a respected record label. As such OB has a birds eye view of what is happening with the music. "Irish rap scene is probably the healthiest it's ever been. Irish hip-hop is in a DIY punk type thing now. They are doing their own thing, putting out their own CDs. The guys don't actually need a label," he told the Amoeblog noting that. As for the music itself and the main artists out there OB said, "It's all different types of hip-hop. Rob Kelly is more polished and professional [but] they all seem to represent small little communities - so you've got Nu-Cents who represents more of the one-liners, you've got the Urban Intelligence - that kind of clique from the Ballymun guys are more social realism.  There's a good spectrum of rap here now." Other key artists that OB cited included Terawrizt (check out his great song/video "New Old School" below) and UK born/Irish based DJ/producer (and sometimes rapper) Moschops who he called "the godfather of the Irish production scene" and who has worked with such Irish talents as the lyrically engaging wordsmiths as Costello from Working Class Records. OB sees the changes in hip-hop over the past five or so years in a parallel with everyone being online and the current state of social networking. "They are well clued in thanks to Twitter and Facebook," he said adding that artists can collaborate more and get their music out effortlessly nowadays compared to a decade ago.

The Animators "Flow 1.0" (2013)

Siyo "Drunk (feat Funzo)" (2012)

"I've been doing Irish hip-hop for thirteen years and there's been a lot of progress over the years. I did cuts on the Animators album. Everyone is branching out and doing their own thing. Irish hip-hop is great now," reported longtime DJ battle champ/turntablist/party rocker DJ Flip. Mathman, the producer of the aforementioned Animators, has also done production for a lot of other Irish rappers including Rob Kelly, Siyo, and Lethal Dialect. He noted that many of the Dublin rappers in particular tend to focus on "the struggle" of survival in their lyrics - noting that not all are 100% genuine. "There's an awful lot of MCs and rappers representing that side….the mean streets of Dublin," he said. "A lot [are] genuine but some are contrived!" One member of the talented Animators crew is Mango who is only 22 years of age but has been rapping for the past ten years. He says that he has noticed a real surge in the creative growth of Irish hip-hop over the past few years citing 2009/2010 as the turning point of the new school of Irish hip-hop. In Mango's opinion before that time the genre was unimpressive. "Most people have a very slanted view of Irish hip-hop because of the stuff that has come before us that was very sub-par," he said.

  Nu-Centz "Do You Really Love Me (feat. Funzo)" (2012)

Terawrizt "New Old School" (2012)

One of the artists profiled in the videos on this Amoeblog is Rob Kelly who, by standards, is a veteran of the Irish hip-hop scene with a history dating back to a decade ago.  One of the country's most commercially successful acts he surprised many when in June this year he announced that he was calling it quits and quitting the rap game with a farewell concert and new EP release entitled Kel Terrible that features production from some of the best including Ireland's Mathman and Scimon Tist, plus Canada's Danny Diggs, and US producer J57.

The Rob Kelly video (at top of this article) is for the Scimon Tist produced track "Jack The Ripper" (with cuts by DJ Mayhem) with many fellow hip-hop artists in the video including Andy Brady, Redzer, and Scimon Tist himself. I asked Kelly when he looks back at his long Irish hip-hop career what is his best memory or moment, and also when he compares 2013 versus when he started out ten years ago. "All the love from all the DJs and acts I respect has been the highlight, getting to perform all over the world," is what he calls the best while comparing then vs now he said, "It's all the Internet now and in a way it's better but everything is visual now when I was growing up we didn't have that."

Tommy D "Loose Lips"

Relevant Tags

Terawrizt (2), Moschops (3), Rob Kelly (1), Irish Hip-hop (4), Dj Mayhem (1), Ob (3), All City (10), Redzer (1), Class A'z (3), Costello (2), Tommy D (1), Lethal Dialect (2)