In these doomy gloomy times you’d be forgiven for thinking that everything withers and dies when a hulking black shadow of economic recession hangs over it. But this hasn’t been the case in Ireland.
The Irish recession has bred and nurtured a new wave of creative talent. Like the Troubles poets of the 70’s and 80’s the people involved in this movement comment on the issues facing their country and their generation. But they do it through rap.
Irish rap is becoming an increasingly popular sector of the online and underground music industry, with rap battles dominating hip hop scenes and rap groups forming all over the country.
The raps comment on the effect the economic downturn has had on the lives of the Irish youth. As one rapper states: ‘We are trying to be original and base it on our lives and where we come from.’ They cover themes like living on benefits, unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse and what it’s like to live in a poor area.
Although none of the rap groups have secured deals with record labels they provide hope and inspiration for an increasing number of young people who have either been made redundant during the recession or are trapped by unemployment.
One filmmaker, Ronan McCloskey, created a documentary about this interesting musical by-product of the recession, entitled ‘Irish Rappers Revealed.’ He follows the young men and women who live in this underground world and questions why the Irish financial situation should have provoked such a reaction.
In ‘Irish Rappers Revealed’ McCloskey expresses the belief that today’s situation is similar to the wave of creative talent that came out of Dublin during the poor economic conditions of the 70’s and 80’s, eras which produced bands like U2.
He commented that ‘The Irish are known for the written and spoken word so I think people have been shocked to see these young people rapping and how they mix up the language.’
26-year-old gary Nugent was made redundant during the recession. He now raps as part of leading group The Class A’z using the alias of Nugget. He feels that young people are using rap in various ways to cope with, and react to, the Ireland’s current economic conditions: ‘Young lads no longer have jobs to preoccupy them and see rap as a means of escaping a hopeless situation.’
A feud has also begun to develop between different rap groups depending on whether their aims are for social or financial gain. For The Working Class Army rap is a way of circulating a social message but for The Class A’z rap is a way for unemployed youths to make money at a time when there are limited options available. Both groups however aim to express their strong political views.
Temper-Mental MissElayneous is a rapper who firmly believes in using rap to comment on current political and social issues as well as to inspire those disillusioned by tough economic climes.
‘When I was 17 I remember asking my friend, “Are we poor?” It had just dawned on me, all those realisations of classism and stuff like that […] Rapping is all about promoting a message and delivering it with power, strength and energy […]The lyrics are important and people can really take something from the music.’
The music produced by Irish rap groups is becoming increasingly popular online, receiving millions of hits on forums like youtube. If insiders are correct in their predictions then this emerging genre could soon be reaping the rewards of mainstream success. The Irish economy might then receive a much needed boost, and hopefully – with the euro at a three year low against the pound – in the not-too-distant future.