Kojaque at his messy, earnest, angsty best...

"This town’s not dead it’s just dormant" Kojaque raps about the Dublin suburb where he grew up on the titular song of new album 'Town's Dead'. He’s not just referring to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic; the Irish capital has been his muse and motif since his critically acclaimed concept album 'Deli Daydreams' (2018) about a week in a low-paid dead-end job in a Dublin supermarket.

Since he rose to fame in 2015 with a Radiohead-inspired music video of him rapping underwater, Kojaque has made no secret of his complicated relationship with his home (he has lived in London which he says is cheaper than Dublin since October last year). 'Town’s Dead', an ambitious and genre-defying album, is woven around a narrative of a weird New Year’s Eve in Dublin, a love triangle, and references to anxiety, desire, insecurity, and violence. The songs range from boisterous energy-filled rap (‘That Deep’, ‘Part II’) and to jazzy, brass-filled beats that highlight Kojaque’s lyrical playfulness and skilful rhymes (‘Wickid Tongues’, ‘Sex N’ Drugs’).

Kojaque’s ambivalence towards his city and nation is a unifying theme of the album. In ‘Casio’ he tells the story of his insecurities as an Irish rapper: ‘used to think that I couldn’t rap with an accent / Did my best tryna mask it’. In ‘Town’s Dead’ he explores gentrification and class. Between songs he includes snippets of his friends chatting without him, taking the piss because he ‘still lives in his Ma’s gaff’ (they also do, sure, but they’re not successful hip- hop artists).

Though these between-song exchanges show Kojaque with his tongue firmly in his cheek, he is also able to display intense earnestness. He raps about a difficult fatherless childhood in ‘No Hands’ and crying himself to sleep in ‘Sex and Drugs’, a jazzy song which is complemented perfectly by the angelic voice of Célia Tiab. It’s never clear whether Kojaque is playing himself or a character but the self-deprecating ‘Jinty Boy Blues’ and ‘Wickid Tongues’ emphasise his commitment to vulnerability in his music. Like the record label he co-founded, Soft Boy Records, he is proud to be soft.

With 'Town’s Dead', Kojaque returns to the preoccupations about class, place and relationships raised in his previous music. Bringing together the longing ennui of Deli Daydreams with the passionate energy of his 2019 collaboration with Luka Palm, Green Diesel, the variety of songs on 'Town’s Dead' show Kojaque at his messy, earnest, angsty best.

7/10

Words: Rebecca Sibley

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