Irish hip-hop is having what you might call 'a moment'; some of the most exciting and most relevant music of any genre is being made by rap and hip-hop artists right now.
Many of those acts could go toe-to-toe with any of their international peers and it's only a matter of time before these 'best kept secrets' light up stages across the globe.
Until then, these are the five names that you really ought to check out...
She introduced herself with an excellent turn on the Rusangano Family track Isn't Dinner Nice, but Denise Chaila struck out on her own in thrilling fashion with the same socially-aware brand of rap on her Duel Citizenship EP last year. The Zambian-Irish, Limerick-based MC has an academic background in sociology and politics, so it's little wonder that her songs cover everything from feminism, gender, racial identity and more; as she raps on the EP's title track, "I could show you the spirit of Lucan, Limerick and Lusaka." On top of that, she's also been blessed with a killer flow and a generous serving of charisma, which also helps. Her debut mixtape is due for release this year, and could make a big, big impact.
This duo (formerly a trio) made headlines in the UK and Irish press last year for unexpected reasons, after bumbling UK politician Rory Stewart referred to them as 'minor gangsters' when they politely rebuffed him on a London street. Lilo Blues and Tony Konstone did what any rappers worth their salt would: turned the experience into a song. The nose-thumbing Minor Gangsters (Gully) is only the tip of the iceberg for the London-based Tallaght natives, who have been releasing material since 2016. Back then, they were signed to Columbia Records but the deal soured before they really had a chance to make an impact. After losing founding member Jessy Rose, their recent material shows just how far they've come over the past four years – and how much potential they still have to blow up.
'Straight Outta Maynooth' may not have the same ring to it as the well-known NWA slogan, but this duo are putting the Kildare town on the map. We first heard of Max Xanga and Matt O'Baoill when they released their 2016 single Black Enough; since then, their eclectic brand of hip-hop (which bulldozes through soul, jazz, r'n'b and electropop) has come on in leaps and bounds and their recent releases suggest that they're only hitting their stride, with I Got My Whole lending their sound a newfound commercial appeal. They recently had two tracks featured on the uber-cool Normal People soundtrack, so 2020 could well be their year.
You could count the number of hip-hop and rap albums that have been nominated for the Choice Music Prize on one hand – so for Jafaris to make the 2019 shortlist with his debut and give established indie schmindie acts a run for their money is an impressive feat in itself. Fresh out of the exciting Diffusion Lab production house in Dublin, Percy Chamburuka (who also acted in John Carney's Sing Street) released Stride to critical acclaim last year, earning comparisons to the likes of Chance the Rapper and placing him as one of Irish hip-hop's brightest prospects for international success. Whatever he does next will be very interesting indeed.
Jean-Luc Uddoh is a perfect example of how putting every element of yourself into your music pays dividends. Born in Nigeria to Jamaican and Nigerian parents and raised in Ireland, the young rapper draws on all threads of his cultural heritage to make something unique, as heard on singles like On the Estate and Tek Time, while new single Jewels is a stone-cold banger. With a degree in politics from UCD under his belt, and influences as diverse as Damian Marlay and Fela Kuti in the mix, there's both wisdom and bags of personality in his songs.