A great amount of column inches and bandwidth have been spent in recent years singing the praises of the rapid development of Irish hip-hop and its related culture, with a vast amount of videos, music, and documentary content of various kinds providing the genre with a massive bottom line on which to continue its growth.
As the broad fragmenting of listenership continues within the music industry, and younger musical palates are nourished by access to an unprecedented array of artists and styles via streaming services, Irish hip-hop’s rise is tied not only to demographic phenomena but social change in Ireland. A new generation of multicultural artists whose lives, experiences, and creativity centre around Ireland and its society have vested the genre with their hard work, vision, and ambition.
Central to this development among a new generation of Corkonians have Outsiders Ent., a group of creators brought together by common artistic goals, in the manner that’s been happening all over Cork music in the post-recession environment. Threading together music, visual art, photography, conceptual art installations, fashion, and publication over the past number of years, the Outsiders’ gutsy take on keeping all of these things up in the air is, as is usually the case nowadays, a matter of necessity, according to co-founder YP.
“When I was still in uni, (co-member) Olympìo and I thought of creating a collective. Like, a place to include any person that we vibed with. But it wasn’t until, like, late 2016, that we really started doing anything. We were both kind of busy with life, and still trying to figure ourselves out. To be honest, we still are. But now we are more focused than ever before. We’ve decided to fully commit and put 100% into the year, and hopefully, we get something in return, and help boost the hip-hop and music scene in general.”
The various members of the Outsiders have been steadily releasing singles and EPs online over the course of the past few years, almost entirely off their own steam in the absence of any established infrastructure outside of the community. The learning curve has led to the lads looking at their own goals as individuals, and as DIY musicians, as opposed to industry-centric heads.
“We’re not really like that to be honest”, says YP. “Like, we really just want to leave a big impact in the world, more than anything else. We don’t function like a business yet. Although we are working on that this year. I think maybe it’s necessary to think of ourselves as more of a business to maximise our chances of success. We are trying to get more organised, and more precise, and just better at doing things for each other.”
The road to the group’s endgoals goes through the Outsiders Festival at Cyprus Avenue, an all-night gathering of like minds that happens on Saturday, March 2, from 9pm, co-produced by Dublin-based outfit Word Up Collective, of which YP is a working affiliate. Alongside collaborative and solo performances from the Outsiders themselves, firm festival faves like Tebi Rex and JYellowL are joined by emergent voices like Belfast’s Jordan Adetunji, and hosting proceedings is this parish’s own Stevie G.
For YP, the gravity of this event is heightened by circumstance, as he, like others, is weighing up his options in Ireland. But in the now, it’s about getting the event over the line. “In terms of organising, it hasn’t been easy. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to organise events like this. But we are lucky. Just because of the venue and the Word Up family, even though we actually recently had to cancel the daytime part of the event because we were worried about the overall costs.
“But Ger, who is the owner of Cyprus Avenue, and Eoin who runs the show there, have been super in helping us make this happen. Ger has been one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met. So they’ve made it as easy as it could possibly be for us. I suppose the hard part was really getting all the artists, figuring out fees, and trying to promote the event. These are the parts that can be very hard. The Word Up collective was pivotal for that. They helped us get in touch with the artists, and contacted some of their connections to get the word out about the show as well. We’ve had help along the way. You’d be surprised by how helpful people are sometimes.”
The event’s stated goal is to represent a celebration of Irish hip-hop and urban culture in its current form, and what it’s come to, as well as where it’s come from in the form of host Stevie G’s involvement (see panel).
It’s a combination of time, place and talent that deserves to be celebrated at this point, as the genre’s mainstream presence in Ireland continues to grow.
“It’s looking like it’s gonna go pretty far,” opines YP. “The talent, at least for me, is at its peak. I don’t think there’s been this much buzz and quality in terms of urban music at least in my time. I also feel the artists are more internationally-friendly in terms of their sound. Better production and everything. Even the music videos look way more interesting and creative than before.
“So we think the potential is huge, and hopefully, it becomes huge, and we play even a small role in making that happen.”
- The Outsiders Festival happens on Saturday, March 2, at Cyprus Avenue, with kickoff at 9pm. Tickets €12.50
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