Grime spree

‘Dubs say the mad­dest shit’ – up-and-com­ing grime and rap duo Mango & Mathman use their work­ing-class roots and slang as a USP

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - PATRICK FREYNE - ■ Imag­in­ing Ire­land: 21st Cen­tury Song at the Na­tional Con­cert Hall in Dublin on Fe­bru­ary 3 rd fea­tures Mango & MathMan, Paul Noo­nan, Lisa Han­ni­gan, Saint Sis­ter and more. Tick­ets are from ¤27from­nch.ie

Mango & MathMan cre­ate their own flavour of hip-hop

‘It used to be that it was ‘good enough’ – ‘Ah yeah, they’re good for Ir­ish lads.’ We’re like: F*ck. That. Shit.” Karl ‘Mango’ Man­gan is de­tail­ing his am­bi­tions over a pint of Guin­ness in the Long Hall pub on Ge­orge’s Street in Dublin, while the pro­ducer Adam ‘MathMan’ Fog­a­rty nods. “Bet­ter pull up your socks, it’s time to grow up boys,” Mango raps on For­got About Me, a track on their EP Wheel Up.

Mango & MathMan – Mango the MC, MathMan the pro­ducer – emerged from the hip hop col­lec­tive The An­i­ma­tors. But as a duo, they’ve clicked with a vibe in the cap­i­tal few home­grown rap, hip-hop or grime acts have be­fore. Ire­land’s rap fan­dom is in­tense. Mu­rals are painted in hon­our of Stor­mzy, for cry­ing out loud. Be­fore, Ir­ish rap was of­ten old-fash­ioned in its mu­si­cal­ity – all throw­back beats and rudi­men­tary rhymes – but that’s chang­ing rapidly.

Leg­ging it through the mid­dle of this bur­geon­ing scene are Mango & MathMan, who con­nect dots that feel so ob­vi­ous once they hook up: the grit­ti­ness of a grime stick­ier than Tem­ple Bar’s cob­bles on a Sun­day morn­ing, lyrics that speak to and of the city, the en­ergy of raves, and a chest-thump­ing un­der­dog pride in where they’re from.

After small, in­tense gigs in 2017, lauded fes­ti­val per­for­mances, and Mango emerg­ing as the un­likely star of Elec­tric Pic­nic, per­form­ing in front of thou­sands as one of the MCs at the RTÉ Con­cert Or­ches­tra’s Story Of Hip Hop show, they re­leased Wheel Up, five tracks built to blare out of phones, car stereos, and house par­ties ev­ery­where.

“The tunes caught on and the gigs were re­ally well-re­ceived,” Mango says, re­flect­ing on the pre­vi­ous year, “Ev­ery­one was like ‘th­ese gigs are f*ck­ing great’. So more peo­ple booked, more peo­ple got into it. We were very con­scious that, 2018, ok, this is great, but we can’t just start shoot­ing in the air and see if some­thing hits. We have up to the end of the sum­mer mapped out for us. We know that this is go­ing to be a big year. We want to do it right, we want to do it down to pre­ci­sion.”

Tonight they per­form at the Na­tional Con­cert Hall as part of the Imag­in­ing Ire­land

con­cert. That show then goes to the Bar­bican in Lon­don in March. They were re­cently an­nounced for Life Fes­ti­val at Belvedere House in West­meath in May. Part of this plan­ning in­cludes the as­tute de­ci­sion to be man­aged by Not An­other Agency, pri­mar­ily a mod­el­ling agency, one which is strongly con­nected to youth cul­ture in the cap­i­tal.

“I just think Ire­land is now ready for it,” MathMan says, “We have talked about the psy­chol­ogy and the cul­ture of Ire­land right now, be­ing very proud of who you are, be­ing proud of your iden­tity and the voice that you use as an Ir­ish per­son… hav­ing a voice as a young per­son in Ire­land, but [also] hav­ing a voice and be­ing proud of your ac­cent, and all of the idio­syn­cra­sies that come with be­ing an Ir­ish per­son.

“[Conor] McGre­gor has had an aw­ful lot to do with that. How he’s rep­re­sented him­self on an in­ter­na­tional stage, I think a lot of Ir­ish peo­ple have looked at that and been proud of that. It’s ok to be my­self. It’s ok to be from Dublin and talk like this.”

Mango agrees. “Hav­ing some­body like McGre­gor com­ing out and talk­ing like us, unapolo­get­i­cally, for bet­ter or for worse of the char­ac­ter he is, it kind of shook up, es­pe­cially, work­ing class young fel­las.” Mango talks about the meme-ifi­ca­tion of Ir­ish cul­ture, ref­er­enc­ing both Rub­ber­ban­dits and Hu­mans Of The Sesh, the satire and hu­mour cul­mi­nat­ing in a “‘go on Ire­land’ vibe.”

In­spired­bythecity

The tunes start with Dublin, MathMan says, “I get in­spired by the city more than any­thing else in the world… the en­ergy, the hope in the air, the at­ti­tude of the peo­ple, I just like to walk the city and get a bit of that, go home, and put that into the song. The very first part of the process is Dublin. What­ever it is about Dublin, it just runs through me.”

That in­trin­sic link be­tween place and iden­tity has al­ways been at the core of rap. It’s no co­in­ci­dence that in tan­dem with the grow­ing in­dige­nous and mul­ti­cul­tural hip hop scene in Dublin, the spo­ken-word scene is also on fire. Peo­ple are talk­ing about them­selves to great ef­fect. The emer­gence of grime as the dom­i­nant youth cul­ture in the UK, and its suc­cess in North Amer­ica, presents one of the most im­por­tant ge­o­graph­i­cal shifts in rap’s his­tory. If Lon­don can be put on the map in that way, why not Dublin? Mango & MathMan’s track Rapih (Selecta) has more than 100,000 plays on Spo­tify.

“We make grime mu­sic, right?” Mango starts, “and imag­ine if I went into the booth and I went in and put on some f*ck­ing Brix­ton ac­cent to rap? What the f*ck is that about? If you spell it out for peo­ple, it’s f*ck­ing weird. Your own your ac­cent. The way we talk is so deadly. There’s peo­ple I lis­ten to, whether they’re old-school Dubs, or stuff that young fel­las are say­ing, they say the mad­dest shit, but I know what they mean when they say it. Why don’t we cel­e­brate that? We’ve got a ve­hi­cle here. Ire­land is fa­mous for mu­sic and po­etry and talk­ing weird. Rap mu­sic is all of those things.”

MathMan con­curs. “Do you know what the beauty of it is? In Ire­land, Ir­ish artists and Ir­ish MCs are fail­ing to re­alise that that’s our unique sell­ing point to the world, that’s what will sep­a­rate us. Son­i­cally, hip-hop and grime mu­sic and any­thing within the ur­ban gen­res are very ho­mogenised. Son­ics, palate and land­scape are very sim­i­lar no mat­ter what coun­try you go to. But im­me­di­ately, you know when you hear [French rap­per] MC So­laar. He’s on a boom bap record that could have been made in any ter­ri­tory in the world, but you know it’s So­laar. You know when you hear Wi­ley spit, it’s Wi­ley. When you hear Mango spit, you know it’s Mango. Our unique sell­ing point as Ir­ish artists is our voice, how we speak, the mad­ness of that lan­guage, our f*ck­ing slang, all that shit. That’s our unique sell­ing point to the world.”

Clin­i­cal flow

There’s much more to Mango’s voice than an ac­cent. There is a clin­i­cal flow, the kind that al­lows you to re­lax into it, bars skip­ping flu­idly across the sur­face of a track like flat peb­bles on a lake. There’s a lyri­cal prow­ess, in­sis­tent and dex­ter­ous. There’s a griz­zly bari­tone that as­sumes author­ity and com­mands at­ten­tion. This is from a guy who de­scribes his work­ing day on the stock-room floor of a shoe shop on O’Connell Street as, “I just go in, lift boxes, eat chicken fil­let rolls and go home. That’s it.” MathMan works in RTÉ, the edi­tor of two dig­i­tal sta­tions, 2XM and Pulse.

Mu­si­cally, the songs bleed Dublin. The bed of Buzzin’ evokes the screech of cars do­ing donuts. North/Sound opens des­o­late, like the echo of a multi-story car park. The bounce of

Rapih’ feels like some­one be­ing chased, heart­beat rac­ing, hop­ping over a wall. And then there’s Got 2 Have It, with the swag­ger of McGre­gor en­ter­ing the oc­tagon, and the hec­tic at­mos­phere of the bumper cars out­side the Ox­e­gen dance tent, “I’m Dublin’s saviour / old school raver / worst be­hav­iour / jay­sus, pal, the fuckin’ state of ya.”

MathMan says he writes the best part of 15 or 20 tunes a week, an out­put that Mango finds “daunt­ing”. MathMan es­ti­mates Mango has close to 600 songs. “In my head, it feels like I’m con­stantly do­ing a crossword that never ends,” Mango says.

“Any young guys ask me for ad­vice,” MathMan says with re­gards to mak­ing beats, “I say it’s very, very im­por­tant you un­der­stand the maths be­hind fre­quen­cies and us­ing sound in the right way. It’s not easy to mas­ter. If I look back on the shit I was writ­ing when I first started, it’s em­bar­rass­ing. But I loved it so much that I spent so much time work­ing on the craft. This is no joke, I think I’m ac­tu­ally ad­dicted to mak­ing mu­sic. If I don’t make a song or two songs a day, I don’t feel right. Not that I’m tetchy and I want to hit some­body, but it’s just a nice re­lease at the end of the day, come home from work and start writ­ing and ex­press­ing your­self in a cre­ative way.”

The en­ergy that their songs ex­ude is in­fec­tious. It feels al­most ob­vi­ous to pre­dict that their sets at fes­ti­vals – although they might be on smaller stages – will be the ones peo­ple will be talk­ing about this sum­mer.

“Now that peo­ple are ac­tu­ally go­ing ‘let’s lis­ten to th­ese guys’,” says Mango, “I’m go­ing to make sure ev­ery­body in Ire­land and ev­ery­body around the world can see what we’re do­ing, be­cause I be­lieve in it so much. I spent half me life be­liev­ing in it, and worked me arse off, and sac­ri­ficed jobs, birds, re­la­tion­ships, friends, ev­ery­thing, even go­ing to col­lege. So I’m go­ing to make sure while the sun is shining, we’re mak­ing a whole lot of f*ck­ing hay.”

‘‘ I get in­spired by the city more than any­thing else in the world… the en­ergy, the hope in the air, the at­ti­tude of the peo­ple, I just like to walk the city and get a bit of that, go home, and put that into the song. The very first part of the process is Dublin. What­ever it is about Dublin, it just runs through me.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: KIERAN FROST/REDFERNS

“I’m go­ing to make sure while the sun is shining, we’re mak­ing a whole lot of f*ck­ing hay.” Mango of Mango & MathMan at Metropo­lis Fes­ti­val in Dublin last year.

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