Yeah, we know, this is a site dedicated to UK hip hop, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give shoutouts to our neighbours, and with our imminent divorce from the European project, it only felt right to give a shoutout to the best acts from our neighbouring lands.
In that vein, it’s a quick jump across the Irish Sea to (you guessed it) Ireland to check out some of the new acts emerging from the Emerald Isle. Hip hop has always occupied a strange corner of the Irish music scene, dismissed as either too novelty or too niche. But in the past few years, a vibrant scene – spurred on by the international props shown to acts like Rejjie Snow and Hare Squeed – has flourished. Look closer and you find a wealth of new Irish talent bubbling just beneath the surface.
The term LoFi gets bandied around way too much these days, but when it comes to the laidback vibes of Dublin duo NEOMADiC, the phrase is more than apt. Taking cues from everything from modern acts like Kendrick Lamar to classics like A Tribe Called Quest, emcees DYRAMiD and noGood pepper their cosmic boom-bap sound with
distinctly Dublin references.
Ironically for a band who wouldn’t have sounded out of place in ‘90s California, NEOMADiC represents a new Irish generation, a generation of multiracial, multi-genre musicians keen to carve their own path through the scene.
Top tracks: Languid Flowz, Coma, Drowning
One of the most refreshing artists to surface in the past few years, Kojaque (real name Kevin Smith) has his hand in so many different pots, you get the feeling this hip hop malarkey is just another side project. Blending soul, jazz and electronica instrumentals with a versatile mix of flows, the Cabra-born rapper film-maker and producer isn’t one to play it safe.
His debut track ‘Midnight Flower’ (with the accompanying breath-defying video) was picked up last year as a sign of great things to come, and his debut LP Deli Dreams did not disappoint. With razor-sharp wit and a knack for shattering myths of masculinity, the SoftBoy Records owner throws two fingers to hip hop tradition and sounds great doing it.
Top tracks: Politicksis, Date Night, White Noise
JYellowL, or Jean-Luc Uddoh as he is otherwise known, is a man of many identities. As a member of the Word Up Collective, the rapper caused a stir in the Dublin scene with the release of Life Right Now back in 2016. Since then, he’s released his debut EP, Bulletproof, and switched up his sound to include elements of grime and trap (on ‘Medusa’) as well as pop (with ‘Oh Lawd’).
His blend of soul, reggae and RnB (informed by his Irish/Nigerian/Jamaican heritage) keeps you constantly guessing. Likewise, his diverse flow gives him the versatility to create his own brand of infectiously upbeat brand of hybrid hip hop.
JYellowL’s subject matter is just as diverse as his approach to music, covering everything from racism to the pursuit of happiness. With slots supporting The Game on the Irish leg of his tour just around the corner, expect 2019 to be a big year for JYellowL.
Top tracks: Nuh Fi Hurt Me, True Colours, Oh Lawd
Continuing the trend for genre-defying, multi-racial hip hop, Rusangano Family have been building a steady buzz since first forming in 2015. The group – comprised of emcees God Knows and MuRli and producer/DJ mynameisjOhn – deliver a tasty mix of soul samples, 808 beats and dancehall stylisms, all mashed up with a healthy seasoning of African inspired instrumentals. Their lyrics cover everything from immigration to mental health struggles and identity (or the subversion of it) plays a central role to their eclectic style.
The Limerick-based trio won the Choice Music Prize for best Irish album for their seminal Let the Dead Bury the Dead back in 2016 and have been tearing it up ever since. They’ve enjoyed support slots with Run The Jewels, Young Fathers and Snoop Dogg and played a host of festivals. The past few years have seen each artist branch off to numerous side projects, but hopefully, 2019 will be the year Rusangano Family return to the studio and begin making waves beyond Irish shores once again.
Top tracks: Lights On, Heathrow, I Know You Know
By no means a newcomer to the scene, the artist FKA Lethal Dialect has been turning heads (and ears) since the release of his album LD50 back in 2011. Alwright’s sound has evolved since then, a fact reflected in his switching to using his real name, but that doesn’t mean he’s lost any of his ferocity.
He’s still spitting bars about growing up hard and fast in North Dublin, but he’s also capable of poignant, introspective rhymes that confront the harsh realities of toxic masculinity and deprivation. His debut LP (at least, the first LP dropped under his new moniker/birth name) Hungry, along with his collab with Maverick Saber last year, suggests 2019 is going to be a big year for Alwright.
Top Tracks: The Auld Chinaman, All Love, Seeds of Doubt
Anyone we missed? This is only the tip of the iceberg for underground Irish talent, so feel free to suggest your own personal favourites in the comments.