'Now This I Have To Hear' is kind to the curious listener of a hip-hop album made by two Dublin twentysomethings, for much of it is devoted to the duo's personal and musical mores.
Opening with the ominously-scored mission statement, 'Domino', 'The Boys Have Had Enough' finds them soul searching after a poorly received gig. It is followed by 'Seven Cups Of Coffee And A Slice Of Apple Strudel', a tale of the writer's block that amuses as it takes us through Messiah J's housebound habits, complete with a nod to watching scores on teletext.
'Spectator Sport' gives us a rapper's perspective from the stage at a concert. Messiah J is sarcastically self-critical, wondering if some went home and "forgot the music for the new Maeve Binchy novel" or if others laughed at his endeavours. 'Something Outta Nothing' meditates on the concept of creativity itself to the backdrop of a dulcet jazz tune with clarinet and soothing female vocals. This track is among a number showing disparate elements to MJEX's sound, which at times is reminiscent of DJ Shadow.
The album's strongest and most appealing suit is that of romance. 'All The Other Girls' is a definite highlight, with redoubled strings backing a heartfelt and comic tale of love lost and won. It begins with previous failed relationships but ends upbeat with love found "between the two worst eighties songs ever" that provides someone "kinda deadly looking/ [who] introduced me to theatre and all sorts of veggie cooking".
Elsewhere on 'FR112', much musical trickery is in evidence on a rap about love departed on a year's absence. Things take an angry, despondent turn on 'For Some Disgusting Reason', where puppy love has turned to "Mr Best of bad lot meet Mrs Settle for". And closer 'No Bagsies, No Keepsies' talks about the crushing of a young crush, with an understated guest appearance from Nina Hynes.
Other themes also crop up, like loneliness in old age and the triumph of the small over the powerful, but, for the most part, the record has not much to say about the world at large, and is slow to step outside of the musical and romantic preoccupations of its creators. More of the same soundscapes and a wider lyrical compass next time could result in a great Irish hip-hop album.