New Éire: Exploring Ireland’s Soulful Hip-Hop Sound

New Éire: Exploring Ireland’s Soulful Hip-Hop Sound

It's set to breakout in 2020...

Irish music is on the rise.

Pulsating with the type of raw energy that can only stem from humble beginnings, the hip-hop, R&B, and soul scene on both sides of the Irish border is flourishing like never before.

If asked to describe Irish music, the response is unlikely to be jazzy, lo-fi soul or melodic, autotuned trap. Yet this lack of expectation has instilled an underdog mentality in the streets of Dublin and beyond, creating a ferocious vigour inside a gifted community.

The breakthrough of the silk-tongued Rejjie Snow in recent years opened doors for Irish talent, following a string of infectious releases that received international recognition. Now, the next wave of artists is building on this to form their own stock.

Take Jafaris, the vibrant MC from Dublin; his unique blend of nineties nostalgia with contemporary eclecticism evokes a young Kendrick Lamar, with a touch of JID. This resonant lyricism has been carefully paired with incredible visuals (see ‘Invisible’, ‘Found My Feet’), presenting a captivating artistic offering.

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Equally impactful are Dublin’s Hare Squead. Their link up with the US rapper GoldLink on the irresistible ‘Herside Story’ exhibits the carefree, positive energy beating under the streets of Dublin that we have come to associate with the funk-tinged hip-hop reverberating out of California.

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Indeed, this parity with the sound of California is increasingly apparent across the board from contemporary Irish artists. An unlikely marriage enjoying a fruitful honeymoon period.

Yet that is not to say the scene is confined to the grooves on the West Coast. The melting pot of influence also draws on heritages from Africa, Asia, and beyond. Not restricted by race, religion or colour, there is a freedom in expression that mirrors Ireland’s historic openness for discovery around the world. This unprejudiced stance means expectations of rappers are different.

Enter Kojaque, the white “soft boy” rapper, also from Dublin. His imprint Soft Boy Records has shone a light on some the nations next big things. Not to mention, his own encapsulating style that flits from crazed anecdotal sleaze to romantic, reflective records like that of his label’s namesake.

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Perhaps the most important shared featured amongst this swathe is their ability to shake off elements of Ireland’s musical past, evading cliché while retaining a strong connection to the nation’s sense of identity and heritage. The sound is united both in diversity and patriotism. Proud of their origins while open to influence, the new Éire faces out to the world rather than in.

And this is only the beginning.

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Words: Angus McKeon

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