Interview with Mango

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How long have you been rapping?

“Just over ten years. I’ve been writing raps since I was about 14. But obviously, I was shite until I got to about 18, so thank God there was no Soundcloud back then. I started doing shows around 19 and then just got a job as a builder and fell out with it. Then I got into the Animators when I was about 20/21 and I’ve been doing it solid since then.”

What inspired you to want to be a rapper?

“I think it was my environment as a kid. Unlike most kids, my ma was hip to a lot of rap and she used to have tapes of De La Soul and Arrested Development in the jammer. She still has a burnt CD of 2pac songs she keeps in her car. Not just Dear Mama but like Troublesome 96 and all. So it was that, mixed with pirate radio and probably an interest in something that was different then my peers. Rap wasn’t as accepted as it is now for teenagers. Back then it was ‘wigger music’. I listened to albums religiously and when I heard Irish rap around the mid 00s I thought, Irish people can do this and ARE doing this and that I can do better than these lads are so I started then.”

Has there been one artist that you have constantly looked up to since you first starting writing?

“With me the influences change and whoever I get stuck on at a particular moment affects my writing. Mainstays would be Andre 3000, Busta Rhymes and Nas. But if it’s one person who really has influenced me musically and personally it would be Mike Skinner, from the OPM era.”

What led to break up of the Animators?

“I don’t really air out my dirty laundry in public and would never put anybody on blast, because even though there’s a serious divide and split between us, I still consider every one of the lads my brothers and I love them. It was more to do with the fact we were all grown men when we got into the group. I was the youngest at 20, so if we were all school mates or grew up on the same estate we might have had more of an organic relationship. We just were musically on the same wave for a few years. There was outside factors like people with kids or issues at home. Mix that with all of us having different ideas of how to continue musically, it stunted what should’ve been an easy progress. Also there was work ethic shit, where some people weren’t as into is as the others. But this all comes down to the first point of us being used to being solo artists with our own vision and styles for so long before coming together. We’d been through the mill with drama before and that turned a 9 man crew down to a 5 man crew at one point. Which was for the better as we got the people who really wanted to do something with the Animators together, but eventually the strain was too much.”

What is the most important thing you learned from your time in the group?

“There was a few things and I mentioned them on our track Me and My Crew. Things that have made me the calibre of MC I am now, I got all from the lads who, because they were older than me or had different styles, could teach me. RV taught me a lot about flow. Richie expanded my vocabulary and my thought process. Smokey made me put soul and heart into what I was writing. Of course my brother Fogo always got the best out of me and as a song writer and a producer, not just a beat maker. He would help me with structure and delivery and how to fully make a song. Out of the whole experience I would say it was how to work with a crew. Our live shows were unmatched and I don’t want to say that to be big headed but i see so many Irish hip hop acts go on and the crowd aren’t feeling it. And that took time. The most important thing at the end of it was to keep the attitude of a high standard. Not just good enough, or good enough for Irish rap. Great music, and something you can stand by forever. Set the bar mentality.”

What are you most proud of?

“The music. I still listen to Draw Together frequently, and not with rose tinted glasses. It’s an album I had an honour to be a part of. It’s exactly the rap album I want to listen to, so personally it embodies everything I wanted to do since I was 14. I have the album logo tatted on my chest. There was great nights like meeting my heroes like Big Daddy Kane Kane, the Pharcyde, Afrika bambaata,.. and becoming friends with Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Playing sell out shows in the Village or the Academy. But it all boils down to the music. To me I have an album I love that I made. You can’t really buy that.”

What exactly happened at the Grandmaster Flash gig recently?

“To be honest it was an unlucky night. Apparently he only uses rane mixers, which of course the venue booked. When it arrived it was in bits ,with parts missing and he wouldn’t use it. Which I completely understand. I wouldn’t use a battered mic that no one could hear me through. Flash also won’t use decks the support act uses. So there was actually another set of turn tables right beside his ones which were perfectly fine, but it was a pioneer mixer so he wouldn’t use it. I don’t blame the venue or him. But I know that if I was there and a big crowd was screaming for me I probably would’ve just used the other decks. His manager had a row with the sound guy on stage and as far as I’m aware, he was playing a festival in the UK that day. He got a very late flight and arrived too late for it to be sorted all out, which meant everyone had to get refunds and he didn’t play. It’s a shame because I hope it doesn’t affect people putting on hip hop nights in Dublin which we really need and especially in great venues like Hangar, which I can’t say enough good things about.”
What festival are most excited to play or to have played this year?

“I’ve played two this year already which were great. Life festival was fucking freezing but I saw Nas so it was worth it. BARe festival, which I would encourage people to check out, was small and great crowd with BYOB and no hassle or a Garda in sight. But it has to Electric Picnic. The last two times I was there I kept seeing Irish rap acts there like Lethal Dialect and Hare Squead and said to myself I should be playing this. Unfortunately we were too late with material with the Animators in the year for bookers and then obviously the next year we had split. But I’ll be playing two shows down in trenchtown with The Dirty Dubsters crew which I MC with RV. I’m only bleedin buzzin for it! It’s the one festival I can count all the lads to come down to so they’ll get to see me onstage.”

Top 3 albums of all time?

“If you asked me this tomorrow it would be a completely different answer. It’s tough to nail down but seeing as we’re chatting about rap I’ll just give my rap albums:
Original Pirate Material – The Streets
Outkast – Aquemini
And I have to rep my city so probably Bitter Rocc – MMXIII”

If you could feature alongside any artist, dead or alive, who would it be? And who would produce the beat?

“Q-Tip or maybe Wiley. Beat
-wise, a lot of rappers would say Priemo or Kanye but honestly it has to be my bro Fogo AKA mathman. His versatility and quality Is unmatched and that’s as unbiased as I can be.”

Finish this sentence: ‘Irish hip hop needs…’

“To stop looking for a handout and a pat on the back. We need to be self dependent. Make our own scene like grime in the UK. It took them a long time, but staying true to your sound with belief does pay off. Hoping for a co-sign from some one who doesn’t care or have any impact on our scene is cool, but it won’t get you far. Less of a mentality of Irish hip hop, and just call it hip hop. It needs unity and less fragmentation. I was guilty of this in the past hating on other crews and whatever cause I was so focused on my own one, but all in all if your doing it and doing it right, I’ve nothing but respect and I’ll support. Most of us don’t even buy each other’s albums.

Also, keeping it boom bap and gully and New York ’95 style is all well and good but we also need more people expanding and growing creatively, and that’s not a shot at anyone. There’s people who do that really well here and have created their own lane. I come from an era where in rap the most important thing is being original not jacking someone else’s style just cause it’s popping at the minute. We need quality control. Stop posting bullshit demos on soundcloud and create something that is on par with the standard not just good enough for you cause your only rapping a bleeding week. We also need more songs for the radio or media exposure cause that’s how we made moves and got places. And of course less snakey shit, keep the gossip and the hating to aul ones putting out their line.”

Mango and Mathman are set to release their new album soon titled Casual Work. Keep an eye out for it!

(Another) Interview with Trackstar the DJ

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Do you think you’re getting used to touring at such a frantic pace?

“I think as much as you can get used to it, we are. I’m a pretty easy going guy so it’s not that hard for me anyway. I’m cool with doing different stuff everyday and the frantic packing and repacking. I do pretty okay with it.”

What has been the most surreal moment for you so far?

“Honestly they all are, I’m such a nerd about it. Madison Square Garden was crazy.Maybe Letterman. We got to play that twice which was awesome.”

When we last talked you told me how you saw Killer Mike’s phone number in a magazine, rang it and unexpectedly ended up working with him. What was said during that call that landed you the job ?

“Well I didn’t expect it to be him. I thought it would like a fan line where you leave your email address after the beep to get new updates or whatever. Just something like that with a personalised message from Mike. So I thought ‘I’d like to hear Killer Mike’s fan line, it might be interesting’. All of a sudden he answers the phone and I had to come up with something to say because I didn’t have a plan So I introduced myself, told him that I was playing his records in St. Louis, which records and what type of responses they were getting. I was really heavy into mixtapes then, I was doing about 20 a year so it was natural for me to ask him if he wanted to do a mixtape. On the spot, I came up with the idea of a Best of Killer Mike and asked him to host and he said he was down. Everything else proceeded from there and it’s been pretty crazy!”

Are you a big record collector?

“Yeah definitely. I mean, I don’t have as many as I used to or as many as other people do, but I definitely have a few thousand. I buy records regularly; it’s definitely my main hobby. If we’re on a bus tour, I’m able to buy records all the time”

What was the first record you ever bought?

“The first record I ever bought new was Wu Tang Forever and a reissue of Protect Your Neck. Which is crazy because I got that signed by seven members when we opened for them in Utah.”

Who has had your favourite solo career out of all of Wu Tang?

“I mean, it’s pretty not to give it to Ghostface, but they’ve all had great solo careers. We toured with GZA and it was one of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do for sure. It’s hard not to say Method Man too. I really love Tical, I feel more than most, and he’s done so many great guest appearances over the years.”

It’s rare to see an act stand by their DJ as much as Run the Jewels have with you. Why do you think that is?

“They’re both loyal guys. They’re both loyal guys in all sides of all life. They’re loyal to their families; they’ve stuck with their managers for long time. They know whose down for them because they were down before big things happened. That’s just how they are. I’m really grateful because I see other artist/DJ relationships that don’t last at all.”

How long has your clothing line Rap Fan been on the go?

“Since summer 2012 during the first Killer Mike/El –P tour. I wanted to come up with a brand that was as true to me as possible and something I’d still want to wear and be proud of in 5 or 10 years. Not something that was trendy or taking advantage of a moment.”

Have you ever tried to rap or was being a DJ always the priority?

“At first I was definitely just a fan. I kind of started DJing by default because I tried to rap but it wasn’t serious. I never thought I had the voice for it and I dint have the passion to do it that I feel that you should have to do that. I didn’t feel like I had anything to say. I started DJing in college for the radio station and that gave me access to all these records I wanted to listen to.”

Who are your top 3 producers of all time? (Excluding El-P)

“I’d have to say RZA, Kanye and Organized Noize. Just Blaze would be in there also… Premier, Pete Rock.

What has been your favourite album of 2015 so far?

“I really like Oddisee’s album. I listen to that a lot. Action Bronson and Earl Sweatshirt too. There are songs on Drake’s album that I listen to more than a lot of stuff but I don’t really listen to the whole project. But as a complete album, Joey Badass might take it.”

What’s your favourite track to perform every gig?

“Well the cheating answer would be Pew Pew Pew because that’s where my scratch solo is. ‘Get It’ is pretty hard to bear with Mike dancing and I get to cut quite a bit on there too. I might say Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry)’ though. It’s towards the beginning of the show and it’s really when everything comes together with the excitement of the first song and then second one is off the new record so I think I’d go for that.”

Who scratched on ‘Go!’ from R.A.P Music?

“That was DJ Abilities. It was crazy when I found out because I heard the scratches and they were super dope. I’m Madison, Wisconsin so I’ve got Abilities mixtapes on cassette.”

 Did you catch Rusangano Family during their support set at the last RTJ gig in Dublin?

“I thought they were really dope. They were one of the best opening acts we’ve had. Great energy, nice kids. Some of the beats are crazy.”

If you only had 3 albums to bring on holiday what would they be?

“DJ Shadow – Entroducing, Wu Tang Forever, ATLienes. I always say you’ll never like any music more than the music you were listening to the first summer you were getting stoned.”

-Ross Logan

Forbidden Fruit 2015

Looking at the Forbidden Fruit festival, lineup aside, it really is quite an exceptional festival. Considering it is right on the edge of Dublin city centre, everything really went of without a hitch. There was no huge traffic jams throughout the weekend, just about every act was on time and the atmosphere is one of a kind. With plenty of great food and attractions, it really is easy to get lost in the festivals characteristics before even reaching a stage.
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After a brief sit down in the Hotpress tent for interviews with Rusangano Family and Joey Bada$$, the first act I saw perform was Earl Sweatshirt. Completely abandoning his older material in favor of a set that is very heavy on his new album works wonders for his show. He fully immerses himself in each track, something that couldn’t be done on older songs that do not fully represent where he is at now in life. He may not like to go outside, but he is not as much of an introvert as his album title would have you think. He commands the stage with a new found decisiveness but is always willing to keep it playful throughout.
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Next up, Joey Bada$$ delivered something a lot different from the last set. Where Earl commanded the stage, Joey owned it. This being his second festival set in Ireland in as many years, he’s very comfortably on the larger stage. He bounds and leaps around through tracks Christ Conscious and No 99, never missing a beat or a line. With Statik Selektah on DJ duties the show was s always going to sound crisp. His live cuts and scratches add an essential air of improvisation to create a classic hip hop show for the young emcee.
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Only the Wu Tang Clan could really follow the great sets from the last two artists. There is always going to be doubts and fears going into a Wu show, mostly concerning the lineup but also the overall quality. However, they proved that even without two vital members (Method Man and Raekwon) their legacy holds up regardless of who is there. GZA and Ghostface Killah seem most at ease controlling the pace of the show. They break out all the old material, including their solo work, leaving little to no room for anything from the November release, A Better Tomorrow. It seems like an odd decision not to push the album, but they obviously have listened to people opinions on it and are not willing to sacrifice the energy of such a well executed show. It may run a bit shorter than advertised but they no doubt left their mark on the main stage. As far as their live shows go I think we got the best possible one available from Wu Tang Clan in 2015.
11281704_902161956511497_630921381_n On Sunday, the Undergrowth stage got very full, very quickly in anticipation of Run the Jewels‘ set. Walking on stage to ‘We Are the Champions’ is a sure fire way to get any crowd hyped for a show, but what followed was chaos that was bound to happen, Queen or no Queen. Their self titled opener and subsequent ‘Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry)’ only drew more people into the tent to expend the last of their energy before making their way home. Killer Mike ,El-P and Trackstar the DJ all looked as happy to be on the stage as the mass amount of their fans watching them. Mike’s signature dance moves during ‘Get It’ were in no way stifled by his arm in a sling and El-P is as charismatic as ever, controlling the crowd at the helm of the show. The closing encore of ‘A Christmas Fuckin Miracle’ and ‘Angel Duster’ no doubt left an imprint of the letters RTJ on anyone who had stumbled into that tent unknowingly for the best set all weekend.
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Words & pictures by Ross Logan
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