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, collaborator and producer. 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.