Mango is one half of Mango x Mathman whose debut album Casual Work was one of my highlights of 2019. Recently, Mango has been doing a weekly radio show called Smokebreaks and Handbrakes which is deadly.
Here is his top tracks of the year.
Novelist – Dun Know
Novelist has been the MC of 2020 for me hands down. Starting this year with a mission statement of 52 weeks of fire he has been busy. Releasing 4 EPs this year along with 4 stand alone singles. As the golden kid of grime he has forged his new sound of 80’s infused synth rap. Novelists music is like John Carpenter, King Tubby and Dr. Dre made music for South London MCs. Dun Know’s lyrics are a spin of lyrical go-to’s from Novelists repertoire, firming the grime influence on the repetition of his bars.
This song is for driving through a city at night with an attitude.
Prospa – The One
I really got into Prospa the last year. I was at a mad gaff party around Christmas last year and someone must have played ‘Prayer’ at least 25 times on loop on the Bluetooth speaker so maybe I was just hypnotised into loving their tunes or I was absolutely cabbaged (Probably both).
Their push to bring breakbeats back to the forefront with loud drums and rave sound staples mixed with ecstatic yet melancholic harmonies are perfect for that eyes closed face to the ceiling moments in the throes of a whopper rave. I’ve had a limited amount of them this year but it’s tunes like this that have me itching to get back behind a set of decks and upend the place.
Tame Impala – Breath Deeper
This whole album was the soundtrack to me growing my hair to an embarrassing length and trying every night to perfect the pour of Guinness from a can during the first lockdown. This is a standout. The drums are perfect, the keys somehow make me do the bass face. The second half of this makes me angry that he doesn’t let more rappers on his productions as this would be perfect for Jay Z to go off on.
I funnily enough only got into Tame Impala early last year which is mental as I live with an Australian DJ who’s love for this band is unmatched. I’m very glad to be on the buzz now. Cracker of a tune.
Gemma Dunleavy – Stop The Lights
Gemma had 2020 in a chokehold. One of my favourite artists in Ireland eventually landed in everyone’s earphones this year with a Garage inspired tune called ‘Up De Flats’ which let’s be honest is probably the most up my street Dublin music has ever been. The EP is amazing, full of love, incredible artistry and off kilter productions in the best way. ‘Stop The Lights’ is a beautiful song about a young person trapped in a cycle that so many slip into and the chaos and the demons that follow them. It’s powerful, sorrowful and just bleedin’ deadly. Gemmas vocals on this are top notch. This EP is so good that I bought it on tape and I haven’t used a bleedin’ tape player since I was failing me leaving cert.
Chika – Crown
Chika is the business. I first seen her on her brilliant Tiny Desk Concert. Her flow on this is so in the pocket. The squeaky sample mixed with Gospel vocals feel like she’s showing Chance The Rapper how to really do it. Her lyrics are uplifting, fun and to be quite honest something I needed to listen to this year instead of gloomy rap tunes while looking out me window yearnfully thinking about the lost craic or cackin’ meself any time someone coughed beside me in Centra. It’s a standout from the EP and a perfect example of what I’ve been telling everyone, that women in rap have been head and shoulders above this year and last year in rap music.
Nealo- You Stole My Soul Like A Nine to Five
I have always said there is very little music that makes me cry.
Irish artists have been kickin the shit out of that theory this year. Pillow Queens, For Those I Love, and is that big Jack is up there with 2pac and Biggie I shed a tear during ‘Put ‘em Under Pressure’.
Nealo made one of the albums of the year and if I don’t see it up there on the top of lists this year there’ll be holy war. From the first voice note about tubs of grease to this incredible finale. ‘You Stole My Soul Like a Nine to Five’ punched me in the feels with a right huke. It starts with a familiar scenario to so many of us, talking to a friend and how they slipped off down a gloomier road despite their goodness. It turns quickly into Nealo talking to himself what he wants what he feels, what he misses, what he doesn’t, and he proclaims that all he wants is to be is himself and love is all he really needs. Amen brother.
Adam Garrett’s vocals nearly pull the emotions out yer eyes.
The auto tune in Nealo’s vocals mixed with metal singing and crescendo of drum symbols feels like an internal primal scream. His last line “I don’t know, I’m sick of waiting for it all to go wrong,” Hits you like a bus.
I love this song and I love Nealo.
Manga Saint Hilare – Escape Plan
Manga is a Grime staple, an MC famed for his outrageous radio sets and freestyles. He also dropped one of the most underrated albums of 2020. His standing as an outsider in Grime and one of the better talents that never fully benefitted from Grime’s resurgence has potentially given him the duty or possibly freedom to make some of the most forward thinking Grime.
Many people felt Grime was becoming too nostalgic and self referential. Make it Out Alive is the antithesis of this. While undoubtedly a Grime album, there is fresh productions and topics in this album. ‘Escape Plan’ is Manga’s hard look at himself, his own mental health and his own failings that have led him to the place he finds in this world. An awesome intro, with minimal production that lets the lyrics do the leg work. This is is Grime in 2020 and hopefully where we can see more Grime going.
Pillow Queens – Holy Show
I can imagine everyone with a pair of ears is going to have Pillow Queens on their top ten this year. In Waiting is a masterpiece which is a sum of all of its parts so it pained me to pick just one song. I had to pick ‘Holy Show’ on listening to this album three times to pick a standout. Pam’s vocals on this are immense, her accent wrapping the song in a beautiful embrace, the crescendo of drums to convey the intense emotion of young love. The chorus is an ear worm. Look, I’m actually unsure how to properly describe why or how much I love this tune but I do and I know yous feel the same. Pillow Queens a fuckin rapih.
Lethal Dialect – Get To My Dreams Part 2
‘Get To My Dreams’ is an Irish Rap Classic. To revisit a classic to put another spin on it can be a dodgy endeavour. Yet LD thrives on this process throughout part 3 of the LD50 trilogy. An older and wiser LD surveying the changes in patch of the world he’s still in, the people around him, the society we live and how fuck all has really changed. More so the only thing gained is a new perspective and acceptance of how life for artists and people from certain postcodes will always be in Ireland. The sequel of GTMD is a hard look at the years put into a hard game as he put on ‘Better Man’ “when all ye get from Dublin Rap is a couple of claps”. A self review of the choices made to live a life outside of what is expected for young working class men, and down the line what the sacrifices made have cost you and more importantly if they were worth it. This is a familiar story to me, something I’ve lived, this cuts close.
The lyrical ability of Lethal Dialect should be no surprise to anyone who’s listened but to keep such tight couplets for most of not whole verses while expressing a deep and complex theme is incredible. The second verse is where he really shines. The conversation with his Da, where he feels like he may have failed as a man for not being able to buy a gaff, a wedding ring or have children of his own because to truly be himself and more importantly to be a young person in Ireland, these dreams are largely out of your grasp. His fathers reply that he spent his life driving a van and was never given the luxury of chasing dreams hits like a slap in the face, to wake ye up and still chase your dreams because life is short and ye better do what you like because it’ll be over soon. This song is one of the greats from one of the greats.
Monjola – Feels Right
I’ve know Monjola for years, I never knew he sang. Yet here he is out of nowhere making belters in 2020 and I can imagine 2021 is gonna a big year for this fella. The jazzy back beat production on this is nearly Neptunes-esque.
The singing mixed with rapping flows effortlessly and that chorus will be stuck in yer head for days. His flow is right in the pocket and it’s just a groover.