Anybody who’s known me for more than five minutes knows that I have a bit of a hard on for Irish music (I run a blog exclusively devoted to the stuff here) and those who’ve known me a little longer know that I have a special place in my heart for Irish hip hop, which is nothing like the oxymoron that it initially appears.
Ireland has been producing underappreciated rap for years, going back to the innovative trip hop of Marxman through Scary Eire and modern acts like Messiah J & the Expert, the Infomatics and Melodica Deathship. Unfortunately, the general view of Irish rap is dominated by half-baked acts like House of Pain (though some of Everlast’s solo output is legit) and… well I don’t even know what the fuck this is but it needs to be fucking put down immediately.
I know Irish-Americans are proud of their roots but I cannot stress this point enough: embracing all those negative (though admittedly somewhat true) stereotypes does not endear you to actual Irish people… it just makes us think you’re a bunch of cunts. I’m sure you’re all lovely and sincere but, seriously, bunch of cunts.
Which brings us neatly to the cultural switcharoo that is Dublin rapper Lecs Luther, known to his ma as Alex Chiedu. Lecs’ debut single – originally titled ‘Luther’ but now apparently called ‘Dia Dhuit,’ a misspelling of the Gaelic greeting “Dia duit” – dropped on the internet last week and was quickly picked up by Ireland’s most popular and best bloggers respectively. A few days later, the smashingly-produced Earl Sweatshirt-biting video for the single surfaced, and the Fish & Chips EP will apparently follow in the coming week.
Lots of words have been written about Lecs already: many of them because he’s the first black rapper from Ireland to make any sort of breakthrough, and that’s interesting, but also because he raps in what is obviously an American accent despite the fact he’s from Dublin and talks just like me (and nobody wants to hear me rap). He’s since responded that his next track will be in Dublinese, but I’m not really sure it’s a bad thing to begin with.
This kind of snobbery tends not to seep into debates about rock music. Few people criticise Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong for singing in a London accent jacked directly from Joe Strummer, and did anybody really think Mick Jagger picked up that southern drawl from ‘Wild Horses’ on the streets of middle class London? It’s a bit weird that rappers would be held to a higher standard.
Part of it could be that hip hop is the music of the streets and is supposed reflect real life more than rock music, which surrendered to cliche decades ago, but the sound of the streets from which hip hop grew is American. Some great hip hop has come out of England, France, Germany, wherever, etc. in recent years, but still the defining sound of rap music is the New York accent and, on a micro level this past year, Tyler’s LA lilt. So why shouldn’t Lecs Luther imitate that?
What’s been overlooked in the debate so far is that Lecs is only 18 and this is his first single. Everybody starts out imitating somebody else, and in this case he’s jacking the shit out of Earl (I may have expressed the exact opposite sentiment on Twitter a couple of days ago, but I’ve listened harder and changed my mind) and MF Doom, while another track, ‘Trumpets,’ has Lupe written all over it. But he’s a young rapper starting out and right now he’s got a whole load of potential and the originality will come later. He’s got a great flow and, while the lyrics are mostly so-so, he clearly has a way with words and I can’t wait to hear what the EP’s got to offer.
Lecs Luther – ‘Trumpets’ (feat. Fergus Allen)