Irish hip-hop: The freshest class of 2019.
Re-Published on 06 June 2019
- Alex Gough,
- Breezy iDeyGoke,
- Caleb & Walshey,
- Chris Kabs,
- Clerk 5,
- Denise Chalia,
- Hazey Haze,
- J. B2,
- Jar Jar Jr,
- Outsider YP,
- Pat Lagoon,
- Sick Nanley,
- Spekulativ Fiktion,
- Strange Boy Nature,
This is what the very freshest in emerging Irish hip-hop sounds like in 2019 and the people who are making it.
The sound is in rude health across the nation, we just wanted to highlight some of our current favourites, the names the average new music listener might not be so familiar with. There are a few big obvious names missing on the list for that very reason. We chose to focus on the newest as opposed to the ones we already cover like Kojaque, Mango x Mathman, Kneecap, Craic Boi Mental and those we featured very regularly up to this point.
We’re looking at the artists that have come to attention recently, those making waves and those poised to push the envelope heading into the rest of the year. We were conscious of including artists from around the country, which meant a lot of research into scenes built largely upon word of mouth. There’s only one woman on this year’s list, a very disheartening number. While there are tons of quality female MCs worldwide, it’s been a fairly male-dominated field in Ireland thus far. We want this to change.
Let’s dig in.
Limerick MC Denise Chalia’s genesis as an MC is in the realms of spoken word poetry. Chaila first appeared on ‘Isn’t Dinner Nice’, a track from Rusangano Family’s Let The Dead Bury The Dead. Her piece on that track touches upon the themes still dominant in her debut solo release, the double-sided ‘Duel Citizenship’; feminism, race and the idea of otherness in society.
It’d be easy to assume that a poet centred around those issues might be a bit on the heady side but both ‘Duel Citizenship’ and ‘Copper Bullet’ are banging, full of groove and energy. Her appearance on Sim Simma Soundsystem’s Pass The Aux Chord birthed the best track on the project’s ‘Man Like Me’. These tracks are strong first beginnings from Chaila, an artist with substance and energy bursting from these first missives, and with her scant few appearances on stages thus far.
One man from Waterford doing it his own way. Pat Lagoon has been gradually honing the best trap sound in the country through a slew of releases and EPs. Lagoon seems to work best when paired with a creative producer. The Agua Sippin EP with Paye Fox proved Lagoon can do a pop-rap sound, while the Recess EP with RikShaw found the Waterford man doing the trap sound excellently.
Clearly, Lagoon is a versatile MC. Whatever he releases next will be the result of what he sets his creative ambition against.
Irish conscious rap in motion. JyellowL arrives onto this list with a mixtape and an EP already under his belt. The Dublin city artist tends to focus his lyricism around themes of political ideology (as on his debut mixtape Bulletproof) and around issues of identity and materialism, as on his most recent Me N Me Too EP.
The industry is beginning to take notice, L has long been associated with the Word Up Collective, and he recently also signed up with MPI Artists and has since bagged support slots for Jay Rock and The Game. A conscious-minded artist with the hustle to match his ambition.
Limerick native Hazey Haze is among the most distinctive of Limerick’s ongoing MC boom. It’s somewhere in the gravel pit quality of the MC’s rapid vocal delivery. Tracks like ‘This Is My City’ and ‘Texts From My Ex’ show the polar emotional stations Haze’s music comes from – out and out aggression and vulnerable space.
Haze is active on the gig front, playing in his hometown of Limerick and elsewhere in the country. If you’re looking to delve a bit deeper into his discography, start at the Spilling Beans EP and then head over to the material he contributed to the Same D4ence duo.
A drummer turned producer and lyricist, Gough’s ‘Breakfast’ brings about as much glamour to the life of a broke student as one could possibly bring. ‘Breakfast’ has been among the strongest Irish hip-hop tracks of 2019 thus far, an exciting addition to the scene. That the track has garnered nearly 80,000 streams on Spotify shows we’re not alone in feeling that way.
Clerk 5’s debut mixtape for Unscene is among my favourite hip-hop I’ve been exposed to this year. A crushy blend of jazz, lo-fi and funk instrumentals courtesy of Deviant and Naive Ted provide ample platform for Clerk’s dynamic flow and imagery heavy lyrics. ‘Go The Distance’ is a highlight, boasting the sort of collage style arrangement lots of the material coming out of NY circa 1990 had. I’m almost certain they sample someone reading Hunter S. Thompsons daily diet routine aloud too, massive bonus points.
Clerk 5 is typical of many of the acts on this list, plenty of flow and technique but little available in terms of brand or biography. Fingers crossed this changes.
Mankky is among the most active hip-hop producers in the country. Hailing from the west, the young man produces primarily for aritsts in affiliation with Unscene Tapes. The producer dropped his own mixtape in 2018 called The Lonesome Planet Man. Stick it in your ears now to find out what this idiosyncratic producer is all about.
Based in North Dublin, RikShaw has been getting it done as a solo artist and, collaborator. His work with fellow trap-leaning MC Pat Lagoon is probably his finest work and ‘Shining’ is a great example. Capable of high tempo flows (check out ‘Coming Through’) and laying down earworm hooks, RikShaw is among the most versatile and dynamic names on this list.
One of the more old school-flavoured MCs on the list, Dublin MC Nealo made the sharp transition from hardcore punk to hip-hop like a natural. His debut EP October Year caught our attention with its lo-fi production aesthetic and grounded lyricism. His latest single, ‘Just My Luck’, hears the MC pushing for a high fidelity production aesthetic while retaining the street level vernacular. One of the first names that comes to mind when thinking of Dublin MCs. He’s playing Future Proof on April 25th.
Caleb & Walshy
If soulful and sleek downtempo instrumentals with silky smooth vocal deliveries are your thing then you should definitely be listening to hip-hop duo Caleb & Walshey. MC Caleb hails from London and producer/beatmaker Walshey from Dublin. The pair recently premiered their Terminal 27 mixtape here on the site and we’ve been digging it since. Be on the lookout for the odd Dublin date from the duo too.
One of the most unique hip-hop sounds in the country, Why-Axis’ music blends urban sounds with bombastic funk and pop elements. His 2018 mixtape Airplane Mode got many a repeat listen. Part of the GOOD BUZZ crew, Axis is poised to drop a new mixtape in the coming months. Kudos must also be given to the artist for developing a distinct visual brand and aesthetic, a feat which alongside his music has helped him gain a loyal fanbase.
Jar Jar Jr.
Cork native Jar Jar Jr. may well be hip-hop producer supreme over here. Aligned to Softboy Records, most of Jr’s material comprises of a capellas put to new beats. As is the case on ‘J0000007.WAV’, above. There’s a definite Dilla vibe, especially in the producer’s taste for oriental or otherwise world music-inspired instrument sounds.
However, Jar Jar clearly has an ear for the writing process, providing the beat for Kojaque’s ‘Love & Braggadocio’ off Deli Daydreams. Soundcloud, with its lax copyright rules, is Jr’s ideal platform. There’s a lot of his material up there, so get digging in.
One of Cork’s most established figures in hip-hop and head of the Outsiders Collective, Outsider YP‘s own music boasts a nigh sadboy trap aesthetic. Not that the MC makes any attempt to hide from that label, his 2018 mixtape Sadboy Ultra bears the namesake proudly. It’s a very strong release, opening with the wailing ‘Nine Tails’ and finishing with the warped ‘Bliss’, which features fellow collective member Olympío.
Liverpool based MC Breezy Ideygoke was featured on Sim Simma Soundsystem’s superb EP Pass The Aux Chord. The Irish native’s first body of work arrive in 2017 with AfroBreeze, however, the work Ideygoke did with Ben Bix & Semi-D of Sim Simma showcased the artist in a fresh light. A more dancehall orientated beat seems to suit the artist’s own upbeat delivery. More like this, please.
Strange Boy Nature
One of the members of Limerick’s Unscene Tapes, we don’t know much else about Strange Boy Nature bar that his music absolutely bangs and his real name is Jordan Kelly and he formerly went by . His recent single ‘String Theory’ has some of the hottest bass we’ve heard on a track recently, I still have whiplash. The flow is on point too, full of aggression and intent. The MC was featured on the Unscene Tapes Vol.1 video, giving the top stuff to an eager audience. This is street level in its rawest form.
At 18, in his Athlone home, J.B2 helped found the 090 crew. Now London-based, the Drill artist takes zero prisoners in his verses (Vice did an article on Irish drill music if you’re looking for a primer). Also operating under the moniker of Mr. Affilate, this MC’s music is not for the conscious minded. His most recent link up with Poundz which dropped last week now has 700k views in the last week alone.
“Modern life is feckin madness/ As we navigate Takeshi’s Castle” , so says Corkman Spekulativ Fikition on the opener of his Effigies EP. Hyper detailed lyricism and lo-fi beats are the staples of this discontented MC. Fikition’s lyrics give an insight into a creative mind seemingly at odds with some of modern life’s most jarring truisms. Cork and Limerick heads should keep an eye peeled for live dates, Fiktion often plays gigs in both cities.
Burner Record’s man Sick Nanley was the new label’s first imprint, releasing the impressive ‘Mouthspit’. The Dublin native is all tongue in cheek, citing the importance of a good chicken fillet roll technique with a wry smile. Since the release of the single, Nanley has been playing a slew of dates around the city with his fellow label mates.
You might not recognise his name outright, but if you’ve been keeping an ear on the hip-hop scene you’ve more than likely heard Chris Kabs’ work. Kabs is perhaps best known for his production work, on his resume so far are JyellowL, Pat Lagoon, RikShaw, Tebi Rex and Reuben James with many many more not included here.
Kabs’ production aesthetic tends to lean toward trap type beats, with tightly mixed hi-hats and shimmery synth backdrops. Yet, Kabs’ own music leans far further toward R&B, especially his most recent single ‘Forgive Forget Love Again’. For a taste of what he’s done for others, you’d have to check out his 2017 The Untold mixtape, we highly recommend that you do.