I dedicate my rap career to pal who died the day we were due to record together

The death of his friend and musical collaborator had a profound effect on Gary Thompson who, as rapper Trigger, is determined to remember him through his music, he tells SHAMIM MALEKMIAN
I dedicate my rap career to pal who died the day we were due to record together

Rapper Trigger, whose real name is Gary Thompson, holding a photo of his late friend, Corey O’Callaghan.

IF Cork rapper Trigger could go back in time, he would talk to his best friend Corey O’Callaghan more often.

Corey died six years ago, three weeks before his 21st birthday, and Trigger, whose real name is Gary Thompson, has fond memories of their time together as young musicians.

Indeed, they should have been recording a song together on the day Corey died.

Now, Trigger has made keeping Corey’s memory alive a priority of his career, by trying to encourage others to open up about their feelings.

“If you need help from someone to get you through that, why not ask? The worst they could say is no, and I don’t think anyone would tell you, ‘I’m not going to talk to you,’ if you tell them you feel a certain way,” Trigger says.

The 26-year-old hip-hop artist has gone from being homeless and living in dismal conditions in Cork city, to sharing the stage with world-class rappers in Los Angeles. And his only regret is not having Corey by his side.

Trigger and Corey met while participating at a youth art programme aimed at providing facilities for Cork adolescents to hone their artistic skills.

“We used to go up there every Tuesday night, and one day I heard Corey’s song and thought ‘He’s brilliant, like’,” recalls Trigger.

Although talented, Trigger says Corey didn’t come up to practise that often. At times, his friend was embarrassed by being derided as ‘the boy who raps with a Cork accent’.

“Back then, there was this stigma attached to being a Cork rapper, it was being seen as if you were trying to be a person you were not,” explains Trigger.

“Even though everything we rapped about was 100 per cent us, we used our own accent, we rapped about the things we knew growing up.”

He and Corey, hip-hop loving teenagers, became best friends, sharing dreams of becoming successful rap musicians — with a Cork accent.

After a few years they began working on an album, which was later released by Trigger, with one song, called Let ’Em Know, dedicated to Corey’s memory.

“So, we had that planned, and that was in 2013, then one day I get a phone call that he had died by suicide, and that day we were meant to record a song in Dublin,” Trigger says.

Trigger (right) on stage with Corey
Trigger (right) on stage with Corey

After Corey’s death, Trigger went through bouts of depression but tried to rap his sorrow away.

He also felt a need to achieve their mutual goal of becoming internationally-recognised Cork rappers.

“I think his death gave me this spark; I said to myself I have to do it for Corey.”

He has recently been part of an American hip-hop project called Make Rap Great Again, and has collaborated with legendary American rapper Tupac Shakur’s band, Outlawz.

Caroline Crotty, a Cork-based psychotherapist, says people with suicidal tendencies often refrain from revealing their emotions, especially in Ireland, although she admits the situation has significantly improved.

“Historically, we don’t talk about suicide, when talking about it also means discussing the reasons for living,” she says.

Ms Crotty thinks some people falsely believe that by bringing up suicide in conversations, they are “planting the idea in someone’s brain”.

“People are afraid of naming it, and they would quite often ask, ‘How low are you feeling’, hoping the person would say ‘I’m suicidal,’ she says.

“Asking someone if they are feeling suicidal is not going to cause suicide; it is going to prevent it.”

She recommends Safe TALK, a Cork-based suicide training programme aimed at preparing participants to identify people with suicidal tendencies through conversation.

Trigger says he can’t remember a single occasion when Corey complained about depression, on the contrary, he was well known for his vivaciousness and swagger. 

“He was never a person to complain about being depressed, he had it all bottled up inside,” Trigger reasons.

Last year, 392 people died from suicide in Ireland with 312 of those being male, a group often inhibited by patriarchal mores to express their emotions.

Trigger thinks there may

signs he had dismissed, like Corey’s fascination with Kurt Cobain, late lead singer of US rock band, Nirvana: “He liked Kurt Cobain, and he had referenced a line that was on his suicide letter in one of his songs,” says Trigger.

In 1994, Cobain fatally shot himself at the age of 27.

Ms Crotty thinks that when celebrities die by suicide, the subsequent disillusionment that a life of accolades will not guarantee happiness can turn someone’s mild depression into actionable despair.

“When the actor Robin Williams killed himself, many people I was attending would ask, ‘If he had everything to live for, if he had these millions of people that loved him, and he killed himself, what do I have to live for’?’ The problem is we don’t see these people as humans, we don’t know about their problems, the pressure they feel, these are people who can’t even go outside to get a coffee without bodyguards.” 

Regardless of your social status, she believes suicide is often down to loneliness, and that having someone to discuss your suicidal thoughts with is a good way to prevent it. The only way to prevent suicide is to talk about it, opening up a conversation and not being afraid to discuss suicide.” 

FAMILY MAN: Trigger with girlfriend Chloe and their baby son
FAMILY MAN: Trigger with girlfriend Chloe and their baby son

Trigger is now a father to a nine-month-old boy and has the unwavering support of his girlfriend Chloe — two things that have given him a compelling reason to live.

If you’ve been contemplating suicide and feel like you don’t have anyone to turn to, you can talk to volunteers at Cork Samaritans through 116123, or reach out to Cork’s suicide prevention charity, Pieta House, at 021-439-5333.

You can also receive therapy without GP reference by contacting volunteers at www.grow.ie

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