No need for a voice coach – Mark Gra­ham catches a cou­ple of Ir­ish col­lec­tives who rap in their own ac­cents

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FUN & GAMES -

‘Say you like me hat,” Tom Cruise urged Ni­cole Kid­man af­ter lob­bing her into the bath in Far and Away –a flick that saw the wee man brought be­fore the UN Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion on charges of lex­i­cal crimes against hu­man­ity. Not since Sea­mus McFly did the time-warp or Sean Con­nery got kid­napped by the lit­tle people had we suf­fered such sav­agery at the hands of Hol­ly­wood vo­cal coach vil­lains.

In fair­ness, our crowd are no an­gels. We’ve also slaugh­tered a few mother tongues in hor­ren­dous acts of eth­nic phras­ing. Gabriel Byrne has strolled onto sev­eral sets pass­ing off his Walkin­stown war­ble as ev­ery­thing from the au­thor­i­ta­tive voice of a Vik­ing war­rior to the drawl of the divil him­self. Thank­fully, Colin Far­rell stepped things up a notch af­ter Alexan­der, but his Rus­sian ruf­fian in The Way Back still had a touch of in­sur­ance-sell­ing meerkat about him. Get­ting ac­cents right is far from sim­ples.

Ac­cents in­di­cate au­then­tic­ity, and if they’re slightly off, it’s easy to scoff. Elvis Costello once quipped that some­one should give St­ing a slap and tell him to stop singing in a ridicu­lous Ja­maican ac­cent. Lily Allen is back top­ping the charts, but the pa­tois-in­flu­enced Mock­ney is get­ting a lit­tle tired; maybe Elvis could have a word.

It’s re­fresh­ing to hear artists who are com­fort­able and con­fi­dent with their own voice, who ex­press them­selves nat­u­rally, with­out af­fec­ta­tion. Step up Rob “Rus­sell Flow” Pearce, “Ricki Raw­ness” Lewis, Jesse “Smokey J” Hef­fer­nan, Karl “Mango” Man­gan and Adam “MathMan” Fog­a­rty – col­lec­tively known as The An­i­ma­tors.

The fa­mil­iar black-and-white rec­tan­gu­lar form of the “Parental Ad­vi­sory: Ex­plicit Lyrics” graphic is pro­jected onto a screen at the back of a stage be­fore this hip-hop col­lec­tive get an­i­mated, but in this in­stance it reads “Warn­ing: Con­tains Ir­ish Ac­cents”.


The first hur­dle for an Ir­ish hip-hop act to clear is whether they can pull off an art form that should be cul­tur­ally alien to these shores, with­out be­com­ing a pas­tiche of the genre. The An­i­ma­tors clear the fence eas­ily and, within the first few bars, the au­di­ence at the Tró­caire Live mini-fes­ti­val in The Grand So­cial are smil­ing and nod­ding ap­pre­cia­tively. These boys can jump.

The An­i­ma­tors own the stage, deal­ing out as­sertive, cre­ative, en­gag­ing, groov­ing and thump­ing hip-hop that tran­scends the need to at­tach a Guar­an­teed Ir­ish la­bel. Get­ting Hypnotic Brass En­sem­ble to fea­ture on the record­ing and video for Those Were The Days is tes­ta­ment to that, as are sup­port slots with The Phar­cyde, Afrika Bam­baat­taa and Big Daddy Kane. The thing that stands out about The An­i­ma­tors’ per­for­mance, though, is how much they en­joy them­selves up there – it’s in­fec­tious. There’s no doubt they’ll be bring­ing that same vibe to the stage at Life Fes­ti­val at Belvedere House next weekend.


My favourite west coast (as in Sligo) crew, This Side Up, have just re­leased a video for their track Be Staunch, filmed around their per­for­mance at last year’s Elec­tric Pic­nic. This act an­swered Wu-Tang’s chant “Wu-Tang ain’t noth­ing to fuck with” by get­ting their crowd to col­lo­qui­ally and ap­pro­pri­ately re­spond: “These lads are feckin’ class.” As long as The An­i­ma­tors con­tinue to namecheck Bosco and This Side Up drop lyrics like “The head on you, I said, the price of cab­bage/hand me the mic and I’ll do dam­age”, the Ir­ish branch of true-skool is in safe hands.

This weekend I’m like Michael Owen’s ham­string; torn again. They’re sling­ing se­ri­ous choons at Fleadh Nua in Ennis as we speak; Dublin Writ­ers’ Fes­ti­val kicks off an im­pres­sive nine-day pro­gramme on Satur­day; and there’ll be some se­ri­ous beard-stroking at the Lif­fey Banks Folk Fes­ti­val in Whe­lans on Sun­day. But the only way I’d be able to stomach The Ker­ry­gold Bal­ly­maloe Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val of Food and Wine is if Mys­ter-E and Smokey J head down to give Rachel Allen some elo­cu­tion lessons.

Safe trav­els, don’t die.


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