Deadly stuff

Dublin rap­per Lethal Di­alect wants to take the ig­no­rance out of hip-hop

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -

Paul Al­wright re­mem­bers the first time he stepped on a stage as Lethal Di­alect. It was 2006 with Ur­ban In­tel­li­gence in Ea­monn Do­ran’s in Dublin’s Tem­ple Bar and he was raw. How raw? “Well, I was on­stage rap­ping in an Amer­i­can ac­cent with the Dipset beat be­hind me”. At least, he says, he didn’t tog out in loud pink fur a la Al­wright hero and Dipset leader Cam’ron. That was then. Eight years on, Al­wright is still stand­ing, but the ac­cent is his own, the beats are no longer sec­ond-hand and the con­fi­dence is some­thing to be­hold. Three al­bums in four years have seen him do a great deal of fi­ness­ing about what he’s about and what he has to say. When you hear his new al­bum 1988 (the year he was born), you’ll hear the Cabra rap­per step­ping boldly up to the plate and throw­ing his shoul­ders back. The pre­vi­ous two al­bums, LD50 and LD50 Part 2, were “more con­cepts” he says, be­cause “you’re a lit­tle bit afraid to be your­self at first”. Not so with the new al­bum. “There’s stuff here that I wouldn’t have had the balls to do with the first two. I wasn’t be­ing to­tally per­sonal be­fore. Now, I am, which has a lot to do with grow­ing up and be­com­ing com­fort­able in my own skin.” He points to songs such as Head­strong and Brave, where he talks about fam­ily, ill­ness and death. “It’s hard tobe that per­sonal be­cause some­times peo­ple overdo it and it comes across as cheesy when you do it the wrong way. It can almost be too de­press­ing. Just be­cause some of the stuff is per­sonal that doesn’t mean it has to melan­cholic. “School Days Are Over” is per­sonal, but that’s funny too. En­ergy is per­sonal and it’s a true story. The whole al­bum is hon­est, right down to me hav­ing ar­gu­ments with my mother on it. She’s al­ways on about me knuck­ling down and get­ting a proper job.” Those ear­lier re­leases packed a mas­sive punch on ar­rival, as it seemed that Al­wright had come of nowhere. “I’d been writ­ing for years, so it might have seemed that my first al­bum was that ar­tic­u­late and fully formed. But it took an aw­ful lot of de­vel­op­ment and I kept that hid­den. Af­terthe first al­bum comes out, you can see ways you can im­prove on it for the next one, and you also see things with the sec­ond re­lease that you can change and work on.”

Route in to rap

His route into rap be­gan with main­stream stuff like Jay-Z, Tupac and the Roc-A-Fella crew and he slowly worked his way back to the source. “As I grew up, my taste in hip-hop grew too and I got more into the more purer stuff. I bought I Am… by Nas and put on New York State Of Mind, Part Two and the sound of the beat and his lyrics and that story just grabbed my at­ten­tion. With the other stuff, it was about the at­ti­tude and the beat be­hind it; with Nas, it was like he was a poet.” With 1988, Al­wright wanted to com­bine the two sides. “I go back to stuff I was lis­ten­ing to when I was 15 or 16 and tak­ing an in­flu­ence from Dipset and Cam’ron. You can have a bit fun about it. The purest stuff can be very se­ri­ous, dark and gritty, so it’s good to get out of that mind­set for a while.” Al­wright is not the only one

The whole al­bum is hon­est, right down to me hav­ing ar­gu­ments with my mother on it. She’s al­ways on about me knuck­ling down and get­ting a proper job

who shines on 1988. There’s also John Be­han, aka Jack­KnifeJ, the al­bum’s pro­ducer. “Johnny’s main role be­fore now was to mix and master – he’s a great ear for pol­ished sound. He was al­ways ex­per­i­ment­ing with his beats, bring­ing in live el­e­ments. When I heard his more re­cent beats, I’d re­alised he’d come up with his own style so I said ‘let’s do a col­lab al­bum’. “It was a chal­lenge be­cause we brought mu­si­cians into the stu­dio and I wanted to get into that process as op­posed to just us­ing beats. I’d done a few gigs with a band so I wanted to write tracks that would work well live. It was a re­ally re­fresh­ing thing for me to do, a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence.” Two of those new ar­rivals were guest vo­cal­ists. Al­wright found Jessica Ka­vanagh on Face­book – “I saw a video of her do­ing Lau­ryn Hill cov­ers and she was just bril­liant” – and he had be­come friendly with Damien Dempsey so the singer came on­board for Brave. Rap­ping, though, isn’t the only thing on Al­wright’s mind at present. While he’s busy with the al­bum and live shows, in­clud­ing a tour with Dempsey, he’s gone back to col­lege a few days a week to study biopro­cess­ing.

Bright spark “A lot of hip-hop in the main­stream pro­motes ig­no­rance”

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