Hard to beat: Cork creativity shines in lockdown 

With pandemic lockdown after lockdown, many of the best music producers are honing their skills, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Hard to beat: Cork creativity shines in lockdown 

Music producer Adam Gould, aka Gaptoof, has been holding collaborative beat sessions online on Saturday nights.

Many of the best music producers spend most of their lives indoors, in the studio, so it’s no surprise that, with pandemic lockdown after lockdown, they are honing their skills.

One of the few positives of this this third lockdown, for me, has been watching Cork producer Gaptoof’s beat sessions on Instagram, live, every Saturday night. In only a short time, these sessions have built an impressive community of Irish music producers, from big names to newcomers, and they are all bumping out some amazing beats every weekend.

The idea is simple. Gaptoof (Adam Gould) sends out a sample early in the week and the various producers do their best to develop it and enhance it, and send it back to him. He listens to them and plays them back on his Instagram, live, on Saturday night and the people offer their opinion. Gaptoof runs the rule over the entries like a hip-hop Simon Cowell (with better jeans), but it’s very much about the fast-paced, live interaction of those watching it to reach a consensus on the week’s winner, the best elaboration of the sample.

Gaptoof tells me he decided to do it as the “collaboration element was lacking” and he’s delighted that this little community of producers and musicians are “sharing their skills and inspiring each other”. Each time I’ve watched the sessions, I have felt like just firing up the MPC and getting to work, so I can testify that it’s successful in inspiring others. As a DJ, I’ve been blown away by the quality of music on offer, and if you are a singer or MC, I’d urge you to go and seek out some of the producers who have been taking part. It has a community aspect, too, and there seem to be no hierarchies, so you can find big-hitting Irish artists, like Alex Gough, Brién, Wastefellow, Luka Palm, and Marcus Woods, alongside many more who are not established as of yet.

There have been some great contributions to the beat series, including last week’s winner, Rhoshi, and another previous winner, The Main Event, who’s a long-term DJ partner of mine from Dublin and one of Ireland’s best producers, too. Cheesemore, HEADSGONE, and Zissou are also supplying the heat and it’s great to see youngsters, such as Sam Healy, getting involved; this young guitarist is collaborating with Gaptoof on a forthcoming project. There’s also a discord community developing, and, like I’ve said before, with the Cutting Heads Collective crew and others, it’s through collaborations and sharing that scenes can develop and grow. We are all isolated at the moment and any communication is great for the mind, and this is a no-frills step into the raw world of beats, rhymes, and life.

Gaptoof himself was inspired by the greats, such as Dilla and Madlib, and he’s back in Cork, but getting ready to return to London soon. His highly acclaimed Looks Like Rain 10-tracker, from last year, can be found on Bandcamp and all streaming services, and it features Kojaque, Kean Kavanagh, Kofi Stone, Yenkee, Mimikat, and Celia Tiab. He’s another great young producer, who’s making dusty, soulful beats with a unique twist, and he tells me he’s just keen on developing his sound.

I’ve written extensively here about how Cork has much better producers than MCs and some of them are gaining great recognition. The producers are often low-key and more modest than the people out front, but it’s great to see standards so high.

Equipment is not as expensive as before and you can make entry-level beats on almost anything now; it’s changed from the days when you needed to buy a ton of records.

The spirit of digging and flipping and twisting old to new remains intact, though, and youngsters all over the land will continue to get creative in tiny bedrooms, come rain or shine.

This beat series is a great way of building things up at a time when it feels like we are further from ever from festivals and gigs. Initial vaccine optimism has disappeared in recent weeks, and January has been very tough for everyone. All of those involved in the music scene are struggling, but the tracks that we will eventually be seeing on stage, in late 2021/2022, and beyond, are being cooked right now by some amazing young talent up and down the country. Let’s get it!

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