Cock­les and hus­tles

Ir­ish hip-hop is on the up. For Paddy’s week­end, we asked five acts to write a piece that ex­presses what be­ing Ir­ish means in 2012. Una Mul­lally hands over the mic

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

IR­ISH HIP-HOP is hav­ing a mo­ment. You can tell be­cause plenty of peo­ple are try­ing to get an “in”, try­ing to doc­u­ment what it is about Ir­ish rap­pers right now that ap­pears to have them bub­bling to­wards the sur­face. But this isn’t just a story like 8 Mile or Al­most Fa­mous. This is about words and how they are said, beats and how they sound.

So we asked five of the best hip-hop acts in the coun­try to com­pose ma­te­rial for us, in and around their in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Ir­ish­ness. And on the eve of St Pa­trick’s Day we present to you: a cau­tion­ary tale about knife crime from Rob Kelly; new kid on the block Lec Luther’s typ­i­cally fluid flow; a white knuckle in­ter­nal mono­logue about Dublin from Lethal Di­alect; an epic poem from Tem­perMen­tal Mis­se­lay­neous; and an ex­clu­sive lyric from The Orig­i­nal Rude­boys’ up­com­ing al­bum.

What is be­com­ing more and more ap­par­ent as Ir­ish hip-hop grafters up their game and new stars come shin­ing, seem­ingly out of nowhere, is that this is a new form of ex­pres­sion, and the mimicry that had dogged Ir­ish hip-hop since Scary Éire drifted off is be­ing sub­sti­tuted with new voices and new vibes. Hip-hop in Ire­land has al­ways been DIY. Just ask the Rub­ber­ban­dits who went from prank calls to fus­ing hip-hop, sur­re­al­ism and com­edy with mas­sive com­mer­cial and crit­i­cal suc­cess.

That self-start­ing phi­los­o­phy is ap­par­ent ev­ery time Lecs Luther up­loads a new freestyle or an­swers what­ever ques­tion is thrown at him be­tween pho­tos on Tum­blr, and when Tem­per-men­tal Miss Elay­neous grabs a bodhrán at a spo­ken­word night.

It’s there when Rob Kelly grafts for a decade and then re­leases his best track to date. It’s in the so­phis­ti­cated art­work and pro­duc­tion of Lethal Di­alect’s tunes on Band­camp, and in how The Orig­i­nal Rude­boys built an army of Youtube fans.

Sure, there’s loads of dross out there, loads of ee­jits rap­ping about clichéd things with tired flows, in the same way that there are still plenty of snore-in­duc­ing in­die bands and medi­ocre solo acts. But as the av­er­age stuff flat­lines, the qual­ity ma­te­rial is peak­ing more of­ten. And Ir­ish hip-hop, like the new gen­er­a­tion of theatre mak­ers and the gen­eral com­men­tariat, is adding its cho­rus to the wider con­ver­sa­tion about who we are, where we are and why we are.

Lis­ten.

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