Hope for Irish Hip-Hop? The Animators

The Animators are a Hip-Hop collective from Dublin. After finding out they were supporting Earl Sweatshirt at the Academy on the 26th of March I decided to give them a listen just to know what to expect while waiting on the main man himself.

Normally Irish Hip-Hop to me is like nails on a chalk board, the Dublin accent being the only thing I can pay attention to. The beats always sound, to me, to be out dated and the rhymes being somewhat mediocre. The most famous ‘rap’ group to come out of Ireland are the Rubber Bandits, yes they make me giggle every now and then but I do tire of the old stereotype of the Irish fool.

The Animators smash this stereotype to pieces, offering a fresh new approach to Irish Hip-Hop. They are not just ‘good for an Irish group’ these lads have some serious talent and seem to know exactly what they want. Their debut album ‘Drawn Together’ really showcases their skills as a group and also as individuals. You can hear how they have improved throughout the album from earlier songs like ‘Marvellous’ to the beautiful ‘Those Were the Days’. The album has been in the making for a long time because they are self-funded. The end product shows what they are capable of and that they are anything but a ‘pack of illiterates playing with alliteration’ (Dog Day Afternoon).

‘Drawn Together’ treats us to short interludes or instrumentals throughout, these are one of the best parts about the album. My personal favorite is ‘Soundboy’, sounds to be influenced by ska music and very reminiscent of The Specials. These little snippets show just how good the producer Mathman is, he portrays all the music that influences him within his songs, making this album a dynamic one.

The song that first made me say ‘Wait! Maybe these lads are onto something’ was ‘Those Were the Days’ featuring The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Those of you that don’t like the Irish accent in rap there is still something for you. The unreal beats they rap over and the very catchy refrains sang by Smokey J give the Animators the possibility to enter the international Hip-Hop market.

Their rhyming style is similar to that of classic Hip-Hop such as De La Soul and A Tribe called Quest. They mix light hearted humour in with topics of seriousness making for a very entertaining and easy listening album. We can all relate to love, loss and money problems of a rapper but not always the guns, killing, drug dealing and countless bitches. To hear things that you remember from your own childhood is refreshing to hear makes the album easy to relate to and proves that there is talent here at home if we look for it.

You can stream ’Drawn Together’ here: http://theanimatorsireland.bandcamp.com/album/drawn-together

 

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Earl Sweatshirt, The Academy 26 March

Two nights ago, Earl Sweatshirt played the Academy in Dublin, his first solo show in Ireland since his return from a boarding school in Samoa. He has played here with Tyler, The Creator at an Eminem show last August but this is different as this is the first time we finally got to see Earl on stage by himself, performing solo material. As a huge Odd Future fan, I’ve been waiting for this show for about 3 years and I remember seeing the group in the Academy in 2011 and throughout the gig the fans were chanting ‘free Earl’ and they even ended the show with his self titled song. The hype that was built up around this time worked as a blessing and a curse for Earl, as he arrived back to Los Angeles with a horde of fans waiting for him, as well as a huge reputation to live up to. This gig definitely showcased the skills that he has gained since his return in 2012.

The night started off with Irish hip hop group, the Animators taking to the stage, playing for about 30 minutes. They have a great onstage chemistry and they definitely made the most of this opportunity, gaining many new fans in the process. They are, in my opinion, Ireland’s greatest hip hop act. They clearly have quite a lot of fun on stage, cracking jokes amongst themselves and the crowd and I believe it is their chemistry as a group that will be the secret to their success. Good examples of this working in the past are the Wu Tang Clan and Odd Future themselves. With the right team of promoters and support slots like this I can see the Animators going a lot further than most previous Irish hip hop acts.

Lucas Vercetti, you may remember his face from album covers and hoodies is Earl’s DJ for the night and he hits the stage to spin a few songs to get everyone warmed up. He does a good job in getting the crowd moving but it isn’t until he plays instrumental track 523, that the excitement really starts to build. Earl hits the stage, opening with Kill from his first album and it is at this moment I saw what the crowd was really capable of. Almost every person in the building is either moshing, dancing, screaming or trying their best to get a look at Earl as he storms from one stage side to the other. It is very clear that a lot of the people here are diehard fans who need no winning over, but are simply glad to see him back and doing what he does best.

When examining this gig, it is important to realise that Earl’s first live performance was in New York to a sold out crowd of Odd Future fans, all trying to reassure themselves that he was actually back with the group. It would be daunting as an 18 year old, at the time to have that much hype surrounding you, with only an 8 track mixtape under your belt. Looking back on footage from that concert now, it is great to see how much Earl has grown as not just a rapper but a performer. Instead of having his face buried into a microphone, he spits his lyrics with venom, rarely missing a beat and often going acapella at the end of songs. As people in the crowd shout every single word back to him he just looks up and smiles, continuing to play old and new songs such as ‘Hive’, ‘Whoa’ and ‘Couch’. It is nice to see him having such a good time performing, as he is now past the stage of being over whelmed by his fame and is now welcoming it with open arms. This was never more evident than when the crowd begins an ‘olé’ chant and he takes it all in, watching everyone and saying that it makes him feel like a warlord. Although this may not be true, it is very clear that if he was going to battle that everyone in the Academy would swear their allegiance to him and go to war.

 

MF DOOM, The Sugar Club 23 March

Elusive & mysterious rapper, MF DOOM played The Sugar Club in Dublin this past Sunday and although he may be known for being less than reliable when it comes to live performances, he put on a fantastic show. Due to a couple of dodgy booking agencies, DOOM has supposedly sent imposters in his place to a couple of his scheduled appearences in this past, so this left us all wondering if he would show up and whether or not it would actually be him. This is of course a man who has a lyric, “he plots shows like robbiers, in and out, 1, 2 ,3 nobody’s pleased.” Luckily for us, this wasn’t the case.

Opening act Mobonix hit the stage about 9.15, playing for about 20 minutes. He did a great job in getting the crowd to the stage and getting people moving. His style was perfect as a opener for an MF DOOM gig, as he bounced in between lyrics with a style similar to Mos Def over some of DOOM’s own beats from his instrumental series, Special Herbs & Spices 0-9. He also kept moving between the stage and the merchandise stand to get more of his CD’s to throw out for free, a good tactic to guarantee that people will still remember you the next day and you don’t fade into support act obscurity.

By the time Mobonix left the stage, the crowd was well and truly warmed up and ready for DOOM. After a half hour wait the buzz within the crowd was starting to die down and after another half an hour, they were getting restless. For some, it didn’t look like it was going to happen as it was approaching 10.30 and his live drummer was standing beside the stage with as much of a clue as we did on the villain’s whereabouts. After a long 5 minute wait, there was a lot of movement by the door and the drummer took to the stage for DOOM’s entrance. I have to say that the addition of this drummer to the show is what makes this such a unique experience as he rarely stops playing throughout the entire 60 minute set.

DOOM and his hype man, Big Ben Klingon finally hit the stage and spent about 10 minutes warming up the crowd, cracking jokes and throwing high fives, while the drummer played some instrumentals. This may have gone on a tad long as it was just an hour’s set, but DOOM is clearly a man who does what he wants, how he wants, which is a lot more than most artists can say. Opening his set with ‘Hoe Cakes’ was a great choice and other older tracks like ‘One Beer’ and ‘Rhymes Like Dimes’ went down very well. A lot of the set list was composed from DOOM and producer Madlib’s classic album Madvillainy, which turned 10 years old this week. ‘Curls’ and ‘Figaro’ were personal highlights for me

My only problem with the show is that with such a vast discography, he has many songs that would have gone down a treat that he chooses not to play. We heard most of the classics but I’m sure that myself and several others would have lost our minds hearing ‘Absolutely’ or ‘Beef Rapp’. However, for someone who is such a veteran at this stage, he performs with the same enthusiasm and charisma as an energetic beginner. It is clear that he has perfected his act to the way he wants it and luckily for us, he is having trouble getting home to the U.S, so hopefully there will be a few more DOOM gigs in the future, before he retires and “sits up somewhere in the sun and breath fire”. It was definitely one of my favourite and most enjoyable shows that I’ve ever been to, but then again it’s not every day that you get a salute from the villain himself.

Indiependence 2014

Another day, another line up and today’s is Indiependence, in Mitchelstown, Co. Cork. Heading the bill are Public Enemy, Dan le sac vs Scroobius Pip, Fun Lovin Criminals, Tom Odell & White Likes. The full line up includes varies Irish artists such as Delorentos, Damien Dempsey, David Holmes DJ Set, The Sultans Of Ping, Lisa O’Neill, Orla Gartland, We Cut Corners, The Academic, Walking On Cars, Chloe Howl, FYFE, Jacques Renault, Deep Shit & Horse Meat Disco. If you get your ticket before July 1st it is €99 and €109 anytime after. It’s definitely going to be a good one and if you need any incentive to go then check out the Dan le sac vs Scroobius Pip live review on our site. Indiependence is on August 1st – 3rd, 2014.

“A Long Way From The Shell Tops And The Bells That L Rocked”

Last night I watched a documentary about the beginnings of American hip hop festival Rock The Bells and although the events that take place were 10 years ago, in 2004. I believe that anyone with any sort of passion for music or anyone who wants to be a concert promoter needs to watch this. Festival organiser, Chang Weisberg sets himself the task of not only setting up a hip hop festival in California, which at the time was easier said than done, but reuniting the Wu Tang Clan for a headline set also. It was clear Chang knew from the start that this was going to be no easy task. All 10 members of the Wu had not been together on stage for several years and fans, promoters and artists believed that it couldn’t happen. When questioned about whether or not he thought they would show up he says “I knew it from the moment I booked them that they would”, and he genuinely might have been the only person who believed it at the time.

The documentary itself covers every area of setting up a huge concert like this. We get a glimpse into the bickering artists, dodgy security, sound problems, egos and lack of staffing but above all it is Chang’s passion for hip hop that saves the day. He goes from one end of the festival to other all day, sorting out everything from weed for Redman, who refuses to be interviewed without it, to getting his mother off festival grounds for fear of a riot breaking out. Even when he has an over packed crowd waiting for a headline act who may or may not show up he simply says ‘We’ll deal with it’, when asked about the possibility of them rioting. It is clear that this is a man who can roll with the punches.

Wu Tang’s founder and leader RZA, clearly sees what Chang is trying to do with the festival and comes to his aid when a completely drugged up Ol Dirty Bastard threatens not to show, offering him his own fee for showing if he will just come and sit on a speaker for the whole set, which he did in the end. You can tell that most promoters would have just carried on without ODB, or not have offered lesser known member Cappadonna a helicopter to the venue because he had missed 2 flights, but Chang did not give up and seeing him on the verge of tears by the time the Clan actually hit the stage is one of the most satisfying things about the documentary. This man was going around answering fans questions, stopping riots, and overcrowding his venue while still managing to get every member of a 10 man group on stage that night, something that I believe no one else could have done. As RZA said “It wasn’t a lucrative thing for me to be there, but it was lucrative for my heart.”

I chose to write about this documentary because it is an underdog story of one man who had a vision and stopped at nothing until it was realised. It shows us the in and outs of organising a festival and what the live aspect of the music industry can entail. Rock The Bells is still held every year and even resurrected Ol Dirty Bastard and Eazy E with hologram performances last year. However, due to technical issues this Wu Tang Clan were not happy with their set, with Method Man saying “This is some bullshit Chang…” before storming off stage, but from watching this documentary it is clear that this will not slow down Chang Weisberg in any way, shape or form.

Best Of: Movie Soundtracks

Many film soundtracks introduce us to some of our favorite music and can help shape how we feel about music in general. Here are some of my favorites:

Friday

A classic movie in it’s own right written by and starring Ice Cube, Friday has a great soundtrack featuring many of the time’s popular hip hop acts such as Dr. Dre, Cypress Hill, Scarface and Ice Cube himself. The inclusion of artists like Rick James, Bootsy Collins and the Isley Brothers help to give the film an old school feel, using many of the artists that producers at the time grew up with and that were sampling constantly.

Get Him To The Greek

This soundtrack used Russell Brand’s fake band, Infant Sorrow, throughout and although you may think the novelty of Brand singing may wear off, there is no denying that many of these songs are not only funny but incredibly well written. Furry Walls, Bangers Beans & Mash and the Clap are all great examples and there’s even some very suggestive Jackie Q songs on there too.

Almost Famous

This film is as important to music as many of today’s classic albums in my opinion. It showed into what it was like to be a music journalist at the time as well as offering an insight into life on the road for a band. The tracklist is a who’s who of the music of the time, including Led Zeppelin, The Who, David Bowie, Simon & Garfunkel and Elton John. Not only did this film give us an insight into the music industry, it also provided us with plenty of cracking songs.

Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is a classic movie and I believe that it is not only his superb directing that makes the film, but also his choice of songs. He is known for being a huge music lover and it shows throughout the film as songs like Son Of A Preacher Man or Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon, help to accentuate many of the brilliantly written scenes throughout.

Trainspotting

The best thing about this soundtrack may be that fact that there are two of them. Both of them feature many of the same artists but every song manages to capture the gritty feel of the movie. Artists like Iggy Pop, Blur, Lou Reed and Pulp are all featured throughout the main character’s struggle with heroin but it is Underworld’s Born Slippy that will always be associated with the film and it’s classic ‘choose life’ speech.

R.I.P Phantom FM

As we all know, Dublin’s alternative rock station Phantom FM, has recently announced a restructuring of their station, along with 16 members of their full-time staff being made redundant. This news may have been somewhat expected but it is still a shocking blow to the music industry in Ireland, for several reasons. Not to take anything away from other Irish stations, Phantom is the only one that provides such a variety of new and old music to the public and it is the only one that caters to certain music lovers favorite genres. For many of us, this will be our final straw with Irish radio.

We live in a time live never before, in that there is such a wide variety of music readily available to the public on command. Although it may not seem like it right now because we are just a click away from anything, we do need Phantom in our lives. Where else in Ireland are you going to hear a 2 hour heavy metal show? Or a show like Richie & Richie? Which, is in my opinion, the only music/talk show in which the presenters seem to have a genuine rapport. I’m pretty sure that there is no other station in Ireland that you are going to hear Cliff Richard, MF DOOM and the Hot Sprockets all in the same hour.

It is Phantom’s variety that will be sorely missed of all. Like many, many people today, I have a group of friends whose music taste’s all differ and this station is the only one that we can put on and it will keep everyone happy. We can tune in and not be subjected to some, probably fake,  caller complaining about the state of Dublin or their welfare, or some ‘Dad rock’ songs that we have all heard a million times ten years ago. Not to take anything away from any other stations but for myself and large group of other people the mediocrity of their output simply won’t do.

Now, I know that the public have not been tuning in as often as I may have implied, but for anyone who thinks they won’t miss Phantom, just give it some time and a dodgy restructuring and we will see what you want to hear then. In the meantime, I tip my hat to a team of presenters and producers who seem to be the select few in Irish radio with a passion for music.

Forbidden Fruit

Forbidden Fruit have announced the first few acts that are due to play at the festival at the end of May. The Flaming Lips, Bell X1, Fuck Buttons, Nils Frahm, Young Knives Vann Music are among the acts playing this year, as well as a special 3D set from Los Angeles producer Flying Lotus. Early bird tickets are available from http://www.ticketmaster.ie and the rest of the line up is to be announced tomorrow so we’ll keep you updated. Tickets are €60 for a day, €110 for the weekend. In the meantime, check out a bit from FlyLo’s set at the Odd Future carnival last year, this is a show that you do not want to miss!

UPDATE: Sunday’s acts have been announced and the headliners are 2ManyDjs. Others acts include Public Enemy, Warpaint, Totally Enormous, Extinct Dinosaurs, Little Dragon, Gold Panda, Klangkarussell and Brian Deady.

Stones Throw Documentary Coming To Dublin

Legendary underground record label Stones Throw have recently had a documentary made about the movement and following they have obtained since their humble beginnings in 1996. ‘Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton’ features in depth interviews with the artists that Stones Throw have signed and others who they have inspired in their own work. Some of the artists associated with the label are Madlib, the late J Dilla, Madvillain, Aloe Blacc, J Rocc and of course the label’s founder Chris Manak, better known as Peanut Butter Wolf.

The documentary has been chosen as part of the Los Angeles, Leeds and Stockholm film festivals and is a must see for die hard fans as well as causal film goers. It is to be screened in the Sugar Club in Dublin on April 6, along with a Q & A with Peanut Butter Wolf. Tickets are €12.50 and are available from http://www.entertainment.ie

UPDATE: Here is a special preview of the first 5 minutes of Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton!