Denise will some day release a full debut album but this should not be treated as such. Thrust into the spotlight even faster than expected this year, expectations are obviously very high, especially after landmark performances at both the National Gallery and on the most mainstream stage of all, The Late Late Show. Here her interview was a rare high profile appearance by an Irish rapper on such a stage, and she spoke eloquently about racism in Ireland and the abuse she received herself.
Denise is one of many Irish artists who has been outspoken on such matters and she said she would “regret the things that I do not say far more than I would regret anything that I do say”.
It’s been quite an overwhelming few months for Denise and to her credit she continues to handle herself amazingly in these circumstances. I said at the time that I couldn’t think of anyone who I would prefer representing Ireland in this situation and Denise has always been one of the most intelligent speakers and lyricists on the island.
At the top of the year I predicted that 2020 would be hers and on ‘Can’t Stop me Here’ she raps with typical hip-hop bravado that “you can’t stop me here, you know you can’t stop me here, went in the booth with a panic attack, went on the offence like ‘This is my year’.”
Even at her most braggadocious Denise shows a vulnerability that gives all of her material an extra charm and on tracks such as ‘Move’, ‘Go Bravely’ and ‘Holy Grail’ we find her in full flight.
The catchy crossover hit ‘Chaila’ is the commercial standout here and while radio and other music industry people might be scratching heads wondering what’s next, anyone who’s seen Denise live will be very aware that this mixtape is just the start.
It’s not really the start though is it? Denise has been around for many years now and her striking appearance on Rusangano Family debut in 2016 led to a further consolidation of her career alongside rappers God Knows and Murli, who produces all of her material here.
This is an in-house self release on Narolane that is very much a family affair, here and on stage. There is a unity musically that often gets lost on rap releases, and it’s great that they have kept it in-house with Murli rather than throwing too many others in the mix.
Denise and the team have kept it as organic as possible, with the wider Limerick hip-hop community of PX Music also being part of her most recent live shows too.
Denise has previously worked with Sim Simma Soundsystem too and ‘Man like Me’ was one of my own highlights of last year, a song so catchy my kids know all the words.
Her first masterpieces, ‘Duel Citzenship’ and ‘Copper Bullet’, also came out in 2019, but those in the know here know that this was no overnight success. The media and even radio here, are finally paying attention to hip-hop, and it’s great that the likes of Denise have a platform.
She was always an artist who was gonna experiment, and this mixtape offers a cool opportunity for Denise to do some singing too, on a few tracks which suit the overall vibe of a chilled collection of songs.
Another big highlight is ‘All that’, where Farah Elle’s keys provide a backdrop to a beautiful little jazzy exploration into her own mindset during some turbulent times. It’s a classic.
Don’t be fooled though, there’s no one more capable of blasting out rap bars with the best of them, you only have to check ‘Copper Bullet’, or her verse on the South West remix of ‘Who’s Asking’ to highlight her rap prowess.
Being able to do the mellow, the jazzy, the soulful and the poetry aswell as some of the hardest bars in the country illustrate that Denise really has it all. She is gonna be one of the most interesting artists to watch in the next few years.