The land of saints, scholars, and rappers

Over forty years have passed since the birth of hip hop in the United States, since then it’s become one of the most popular genres of music among young people. However, across the pond Ireland’s hip hop scene can escape you almost entirely, unless you put in the effort to seek some out.  In fact, unless you go searching for Irish rappers, it can be hard to ever hear their material, or know what Irish rap is all about.

 

“It’s a really self-contained culture, the same people have been at the gigs since I started going, and that’s 13 years ago” explained Gary ‘Nugget’ Nugent.

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Gary “Nugget” Nugent

Rapping since he was 17, Nugget shares how he feels there has been a lull in the last few years and that the Irish hip hop scene has stopped moving forward as rapidly as it had been.  While the genre has never been more popular, he thinks the lack of rap battles and better organised gigs are holding Irish hip-hop back from being taken seriously by a wider audience.

  

“I think the accent puts some people off at first, people think of an American accent when they think of rap music, but the diversity of the Irish accent is a key defining feature of Irish hip hop,” he added.

 

The comedic storytelling with the unique Irish humour and the variety of tones, accents and backgrounds are other defining features of Irish hip hop, according to Alan Newman.  “I suppose it comes from the background of the Irish being good poets.  Irish rappers are the poets of this generation, Irish rap is just real, and it deals with real issues and real people” he said.

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Alan Newman. Photo: Jason O’Callaghan

 

In 2014 Alan set up Boss Level Series, a group that brought Irish rappers together to collaborate on music projects.  The producer and rapper who moved to London when he was a ten year-old credits his time spent living in the UK for his musical interests.

 

“The music in the places I was living was eclectic.  I was hearing reggae and afro beats for the first time.  It was a culture of cliques of rap artists collaborating and I was trying to achieve something similar with Boss Level over here when I came back” he said.   

 

While the Irish rap scene is a lot smaller in size than that of the UK and US, the talent is not lacking. Ireland has a long history of famous poets and storytellers, and a generation of Irish hip hop artists are emerging hoping to rival the likes of Joyce and Wilde.

 

“Some of the most talented and lyrical emcees I have ever heard are from Ireland, there’s a very poetic value to it here.  Most of us rap about what we know or what we see, it’s not all about sex, drugs and money like in other countries, but you still get some of that” explained rapper James Costello.

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James Costello

Costello says the inspiration for his raps come from things he sees walking around North Dublin.  “I like to tell a story with my raps but I’ve been fortunate to not have many struggles myself” he said. “I write about the things I see walking around places like Finglas and Ballymun, near my home, and what life’s like for my friends, family and other people living there,” he added.

 

Getting the support of the media and the general population has been an ongoing struggle for Irish hip hop artists.  “It’s hard to get over people’s misconceptions about what Irish rap is” explained Nugget. “Some people just think it’s a joke, it’s very hard to get something on TV or radio promoting Irish rap in a serious way.”

 

However it doesn’t help that Irish rap keeps getting compared to its US and UK counterparts, explains Alan Newman.  “I’d love to see Irish hip hop appreciated for what it is, and not constantly compared to things it’s not.  Like should be compared with like; you wouldn’t compare Dizzee Rascal to Kendrick Lamar so you shouldn’t compare Irish hip hop to US hip hop” he said.

 

One of the biggest struggles for rappers and producers making Irish hip hop is financial strain.  “Paying for studio time, a producer to make beats if you don’t do it yourself, and someone to do music videos costs a lot” said Costello.

 

But it’s not all struggles and negativity; some great things come from having such a small contained sub-culture.  “Everybody knows everybody really, and there’s a lot of respect among the artists, it’s kind of like a friendly competitiveness,” explains Costello.  

 

While all have differing opinions on what defines Irish hip hop, be it storytelling, the poetry or the Irish humour, one opinion they all shared was that the Irish accent and the purity of the craft is what makes Irish hip hop special.

 

(Originally published in FILTR magazine http://www.filtrmagazine.com)

CEILI SA CHLUB: ALTERNATIVE NIGHTS OUT IN DUBLIN CITY

By Sarah Ruane and Mary Kate Hickey.

Thecity.ie went along to ‘Céilí sa Chlub’ organised by Conradh na Gaeilge in search of an alternative night out in Dublin City.

This hidden gem on Harcourt Street promised a great atmosphere with lots of dancing and music and it delivered in every way.

(Originally posted on TheCity.ie https://thecity.ie/2016/11/12/ceili-sa-chlub-alternative-nights-out-in-dublin-city/)

IRELAND’S BUSINESSES ARE AMONG TOP SOCIAL MEDIA USERS IN EUROPE

By Mary Kate Hickey & Rachel D’Arcy

Ireland has been named as one of the top three countries in Europe for social media usage by businesses.

In figures posted by the CSO, it showed that Ireland came second to top, just behind Malta. 64% of Irish businesses, employing 10 people or more, used some form of social media in 2015 – an increase of 16% since 2013. The EU average for social media usage, such as Twitter or Facebook, in a business is 39%.

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“I have to say I am surprised by those statistics,” said social media expert at Fuzion PR, Greg Canty. “I do social media training for local enterprises and I am astounded by the amount that aren’t on Facebook, Twitter and the likes. Perhaps this could be due to us having a big SME (small medium enterprise) culture in Ireland, and maybe smaller businesses are embracing social media more than larger ones who may get caught up and feel more anxious about it,” he commented.

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Malta had the highest percentage of enterprises utilising social media at 72%, with the Netherlands coming in third, with 63% of Dutch businesses using social media for promotion or otherwise. Poland ranked bottom of the list, with just 22% of Polish businesses utilising social media in their businesses.

“I think many businesses may misunderstand how to effectively use social media. A lot wonder how they can use social media presence to get more sales,” Greg explained.

“I think social media can give businesses a platform to have a conversation with their clients, and not hit them over the head with goods and services they are trying to sell them,” Greg said, on how effectively he thinks Irish businesses are using social media.

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In data released by Eurostat, it shows that Irish enterprises upped their usage of Twitter and similar sites by 3% since 2015, with 30% of businesses now using the microblogging site. YouTube usage also increased by an impressive 7%, meaning that 21% of Irish businesses now use multimedia websites to promote their products or                                                                                                                               services.

“A lot of businesses push out posts, but don’t take the time to engage with customers on a personal level. Social media gives businesses an opportunity to show their own personality, which is difficult to do on a website or in an ad campaign,” Greg said.  He added that businesses could even use social media to share stories about the team that works in the company, and really engage with their customers on a more personal level, to humanise the business.

“I’d also advise businesses that if they’re going to exist on social media, then put in the effort and really exist – don’t half do it.  These things need to be maintained at a professional level to keep an open and interesting conversation with customers.  By responding to customers on social media, businesses  can make themselves look really good and customer friendly, and it’s really easy to do,” Greg added.

As well as increasing social media usage as a form of promotion, a whopping 53% of large Irish businesses had e-commerce sales. These e-commerce sales accounted for 50% of all total sales, meaning half of all sales by Irish businesses included in the survey are made online. “E-Commerce has become a big player in the Irish market, and I think that’s due to it making the ‘pain in the arse’ tasks a lot easier to do. Reliable online shopping makes the annoying tasks less so,” Greg explained.

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However, more businesses made online purchases than sales.  70% of larger Irish enterprises made purchases online in 2015, which accounted for 42% of overall purchases by large businesses.  Medium businesses made around 20% of their total purchases online, with 58% of this size of enterprise purchasing materials or services online.  44% of small businesses made purchases online, or 12% of small business purchases overall.

“Without a shadow of a doubt it is imperative that businesses use social media in this day and age,” Greg told us.

“It’s all about storytelling – telling the customer about who you are – and now social media gives businesses a chance to have a conversation with customers to add to their story.  Engaging with the customer is where that little piece of magic lies in selling a business I think.”

Smithfield Christmas Market and Light Ceremony

The City’s Mary Kate Hickey went along to the lighting of the Smithfield Christmas Tree, and talked to some Dubliners about their favourite Christmas memories.

 

(Originally posted by TheCity.ie https://thecity.ie/2016/11/28/smithfield-christmas-market-and-light-ceremony/)

INTERVIEW OF INTEREST: Darren Thornton

Mary Kate Hickey speaks to Darren Thornton, director of A Date for Mad Mary about winning at The Galway Film Fleadh, his inspirations, future projects and more. 

A Date for Mad Mary is Darren’s first feature film, which he co-wrote with his brother Colin.  The film starred Seána Kerslake, of Can’t Cope Won’t Cope fame, as Mary.

“It was really cool winning Best Feature at the Galway Film Fleadh. Honestly, it was one of the best screenings we’ve had and the audience responded really well to it, it was really special because it was our first feature film,” Darren said.

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A Date for Mad Mary was based on Yasmine Akram’s theatrical monologue of the same name, which Thornton also directed.

“It all went very organically,” he said about the adaptation from play to feature film. “The characters stayed very similar, but we tried to put more emphasis on the relationship of Mary and her best friend when we were writing the script.  While the play was out and out comedy about dating, the film is more of a drama about real life with comedy in it.

“Myself and Colin are always very interested in exploring deep into relationships and looking at characters and how they’re feeling.  When we’re writing a script we tend to come up with a broad idea, and then use that to tell something that’s quite intimate and personal.”

They changed up the dynamics of some of the relationships when adapting the play for the big screen.  “In the play Mary falls in love with a boy, but we changed that for the film.  In the film she falls in love with Jess, we thought it would be more interesting to explore how the other people in her life would feel about this relationship, would they be okay with it, and would Mary herself be okay with it.”

Mary’s grandmother also played a larger role in the play, being the person who helped to raise Mary, but Darren and Colin felt it would be more interesting to explore Mary’s relationship with her best friend Charlene and her mother more deeply.

A coming of age story of a girl who should have come of age long before, but never got the chance because of her behavioural problems was the story they wanted to tell.

“I’d say some of my inspiration comes from the likes of John Hughes, those coming of age stories are movies we grew up with, and I think they give us a lot of inspiration for the types of movies we like to do,” said Darren. “We’re also big fans of Alexander Payne, Steven Soderbergh and Mike Nichols, and of course some Irish and UK directors too.”

A Date for Mad Mary was filmed mainly in the brothers’ hometown of Drogheda.  “It was great filming at home in Drogheda because I could just roll out of bed and be on set in ten minutes!” Darren laughs.  “The really great thing about filming there is the great support we got from the local community, the nightclubs and pubs literally opened their doors to us, and if we were in need of extras, some of the locals made themselves available to help.  It was brilliant, and it’s not something you’d regularly get anywhere else,” he added.

Darren, who has been making his own films with his friends since he was in secondary school, always knew he wanted to end up in film. “I’ve been leading up to making a feature film for a while now.  I’ve directed plays, shorts, and TV shows before this,” he said.

“My biggest ambition is to continue making films that I love, and to get paid for them would be great too,” Darren said.

The brothers have plans to make more feature films in the future. “We’re currently writing two more feature films, and a TV show, so hopefully we’ll have something new coming out soon,” Darren said.  “The plan is to hopefully do two more films in Ireland and then we would like to go further. We were in LA for the last few weeks, and we would really like to make a film over there at some point,” he added.

A Date for Mad Mary was released in Irish cinemas in September, and will be released in the UK an the US in the New Year, along with a DVD release afterwards.

 

(Originally published on TheCity.ie https://thecity.ie/2016/12/07/interview-of-interest-darren-thornton/)