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
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.