Stevie G: Irish hip-hop has hit a high note

Much has changed over the past seven years for hip-hop here, says Stevie G in his Downtown column. The media is noticing, the music is better, and there are more voices from many cultural backgrounds
Stevie G: Irish hip-hop has hit a high note

Solomon Adesiyan, flanked by Austin Daboh and Rich Castillo, of Atlantic records.

Last week, I participated in a panel for Ireland Music week, on the subject of ‘Irish hip-hop: What’s Changed in the Last Seven Years’. The discussion was chaired by Irish DJ Arveene, and also featured singer Erica Cody, Spotify’s Joel Borquaye, and Trust It Entertainments Solomon Adesiyan.

Each participant had a unique perspective on Irish hip-hop, and each of us is optimistic that the best is yet to come.

Much has changed over the past seven years for hip-hop here. The media are taking notice, the music is getting better, and there are more voices, from many cultural backgrounds.

The infrastructure has improved greatly and we have more studios, engineers, managers, video people, and labels and collectives.

The festivals have started booking Irish hip-hop acts, too, and even through the pandemic, many artists have new opportunities to get a foothold in a very tough industry.

Some discussions about Irish hip-hop have suggested that it only came alive in recent years, and the reality could not be further from the truth.

Many artists and DJs and club nights and collectives have been doing things for many years, and there have been healthy pockets of hip-hop scenes here since deep into the 1980s.

Breakdancing, graf, DJing, and rapping all go way back in Ireland, and there’s been music coming out of here for 30 years or so, too. The list of recorded rap from the 1990s hardly matches the strength of the club scene now, but we still had significant artists then, such as Scary Éire, and in the following decade a new generation of Irish rappers took over, many of whom are still active today.

For me, things changed significantly in 2016, with the release of Let the Dead Bury the Dead, by Rusangano Family, which went on to win the Choice Music Prize for album of the year. At the time, in these pages, I claimed it was a landmark moment for hip-hop in Ireland, and it has proved to be such, being a catalyst and springboard for some of the most influential artists in the scene, such as Murli and God Knows, and, of course, Denise Chaila, who is helping lead the way in 2021.

Solomon Adesiyan, of Trust It Entertainment, grew up near the Rusangano crew in Clare, and he was expecting more of a music industry when he moved to Dublin.

Thankfully, he helped spearhead this industry himself, and he created the hugely influential Youtube channel Dearfach TV, before going on to become CEO of Trust it Entertainment, who helped release massively successful Irish artists, such as Offica and Evans Junior.

Trust It have recently signed a partnership deal with Atlantic Records, which will help sign and develop local acts here, and invest in their marketing. Together, they will also develop strategies aimed at growing the local black music market, while Solomon will act as a consultant to Atlantic Records in the UK on both the A&R and culture side of things.

This is massive for Ireland and the young music mogul already has his fingerprints over some huge success stories here, with plans to go global in the coming years.

Soloman pointed to the emergence of hip-hop at Longitude as the genre of choice as another sign that things were moving. A previously indie-orientated music festival changed to hip-hop pretty quickly and they now book loads of Irish rap and soul artists, including Erica Cody.

I’m sure that next year’s festival will feature some of the best Irish drill, rap, soul, and afrobeats, as well as some of the big hitters who feature regularly, like Kendrick and co.

I play a lot of afrobeats, so I was delighted to hear Joel, of Spotify, suggest that this is an area where he sees a lot of potential growth for Irish stars, pointing to the new single from Evans Junior as a sign of its strength.

Joel also made some good points about how we can progress further, and suggested that some artists can develop their story further through socials, something which many are already doing really well in my opinion (Erica, Tebi Rex, et al). It’s been an interesting period of growth for Irish hip-hop, but the best is certainly yet to come.

Watch this space!

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