I was thinking about this after I received news this week that rapper Double K, of Californian group People Under the Stairs, died this week at the age of only 43. People Under the Stairs were an underground hip-hop group on an indie label, OM records, but they were one of the many great groups to visit Cork during that era, and they played here twice at Jam in Savoy.
People Under the Stairs were a superb group. Hip-hop to their very core, they used mainly obscure soul and jazz samples in a no frills studio approach that was similar to the classic rap they grew up on.
Coming on the scene in the jiggy era, it was a throwback to simpler times, but their music was really well crafted rather than retro, and stood firm alongside the newer artists emerging at the time too.
They were absolutely massive here and I remember playing the first three albums to death on the radio, and they proved they could cut it live with two great shows. One of them in particular was packed out, and it was one of Jam’s greatest ever nights.
Double K was a friendly guy, and he will be missed by many.
As for The Savoy, well those days are but a memory now. Apart from the venue itself, which was set to become apartments and retail the last time I heard, the era has moved on too.
Even in non-pandemic times The Savoy era was well over. It’s a shame that Cork couldn’t hold such a great medium-size venue for longer as The Savoy had a rich history as a venue here, going right back to the days when the Rolling Stones played there in 1965.
In the era when I worked there we had some of the biggest names in music, and it was the place more than any that established big hip-hop shows here.
All through the 90s, as the hip-hop and r&b scene exploded, Cork was more a place where we developed our own scene. In Sir Henrys, it was pretty much resident-driven, and though we had the odd guest DJ and big act, it wasn’t really a venue that hosted much live rap, bar Scary Eire and a few more.
The Jungle Brothers visited the Metropole for the Souther Soul and disco festival while De La Soul played down at the Marquee one summer in an MCD gig in the early 2000s before Aiken took over the Marquee yearly in 2005.
Live at the Marquee went on to bring Kanye, Jay Z, Snoop, 50 Cent and many more huge acts, but The Savoy had already shown how popular rap was here in its first few years.
Run DMC, Public Enemy, De La Soul (again), Jazzy Jeff, Blackalicious, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and affiliated pioneers like Gil Scott Heron, Lee Perry and Roy Ayers all played there, while later on Wu Tang Clan visited for a memorable show too. People Under the Stairs were more on the independent tip, but this was an era where we had both pirate radio and a decent club scene, plus mainstream coverage both here and on my radio show too. You could break acts by having weekly events such as Jam, and we also had a steady stream of youngsters coming through with Jam Junior benefitting from the popularity that hip-hop was seeing post Eminem and 8 Mile.
Those times are gone forever but while it was great to have all of these wonderful acts here, it’s more exciting that Ireland is now developing its own brilliant live acts that will be ready to rock once the pandemic ends. By the time Jam moved to The Pavilion in 2008, the days of packed gigs weekly were gone, and despite some big shows both there and in Cyprus Avenue and elsewhere, it was harder to get huge numbers all the time. But the future looks good, and many of the best acts are now from this country, so by the time we do get back to gigs we are set up for more great nights and more great rappers and DJs in Cork city and beyond.