Northern Ireland

Irish Rappers Revealed: Meet the new stars of Ireland's booming rap scene

Ireland's recession has caused a boom in one of the unlikeliest sectors of the music industry - Irish rap.

Hidden away in the underground hip hop scene, groups are appearing in almost every housing estate in the country.

In their ranks are many young men and women who, having been made redundant during the recession, now see rap as a means of escaping unemployment.

Despite some online success however, none of the bands have as yet managed to secure a deal with a major label.

Rap groups have popped up across the country with groups in Dublin, Cork and Strabane in Northern Ireland.

Ronan McCloskey, a filmmaker from Omagh, has been exploring this underground world for his documentary Irish Rappers Revealed which has been shown on RTE and BBC Three.

"People all over the world are obsessed with rap. How each culture interprets it is intriguing," he told the BBC.

"The Irish are known for the written and spoken word so I think people have been shocked to see these young people rapping and how they mix up the language."

'Hopeless situation'

Mr McCloskey believes the economic downturn is now leading to a highly creative and indeed competitive music scene. He said it was reminiscent of Dublin in the seventies and early eighties when poor economic conditions created a wave of groups including Thin Lizzy and U2.

With internet hits now clocking into the millions, some music insiders are now suggesting that mainstream music success could also be on the horizon for Irish rap.

The Class A'z are an Irish rap collective whose members include Terawrizt, Nugget, Siyo and Redzer. They are considered leading figures in Ireland's underground hip hop scene.

Image caption Some music insiders suggest success could be on the horizon for Irish rap

One rapper from the group is 26-year-old Gary Nugent from Ballyfermot who goes by the name of Nugget. A former tradesman made redundant in the recession, Nugget said that the downturn in Ireland's fortunes has undoubtedly caused a boom in Irish rap. "Young lads no longer have jobs to preoccupy them and see rap as a means of escaping a hopeless situation," he said.

The documentary also explores the beginnings of a rap feud between different groups across Dublin.

The Working Class Army see rap as a means of spreading a social message and are prepared to forgo commercial success and give their music away for free. The Class A'z however are rapping with the intention of making money. This has caused a public feud between the two groups.

What unites the rap scene is the wish to express a strong political message.

The majority of raps focus on unemployment, living on benefits, struggling at school, drug and alcohol abuse and coming from a poor area. "Irish rap is fairly new so we are developing the sound as we go along. We are trying to be original and base it on our lives and where we come from," said Terawrizt from The Class A'z.

Temper-Mental MissElayneous

Elayne Harrington, 24, from Finglas, aka Temper-Mental MissElayneous also sees rap as a means of spreading a political and social message.

"When I was 17 I remember asking my friend, 'Are we poor?'

"It had just dawned on me, all those realisations of classism and stuff like that. There is a stigma attached to us because of where we come from," she said.

Most of the rappers come from North Dublin in particular Finglas, Coolock and Ballymun.

Image caption Temper-Mental MissElayneous aka Elayne Harrington from Finglas wants to spread a social and political message through her rap.

MissElayneous has been getting some gigs and now has a strong online following. She has been using her rapping skills to keep other young girls in the Finglas estate to express themselves through rap.

"Rapping is all about promoting a message and delivering it with power, strength and energy," she said.

"The lyrics are important and people can really take something from the music."

The disillusioned state young people are finding themselves in is clear with young rapper Kieron Ryan aka Redzer.

He is part of the Class A'z and raps to try and make money, but he is struggling; "I don't get paid for the gigs that I do, I can't even afford to travel to the gigs and get back home which means its hard to progress," he said.

Redzer wants to set up home with girlfriend Ester but neither have the funds to do this. "I really want him to do well and earn money from rapping but some days I think why can't he go out and look for a proper job," she said.

This new generation of rappers continue to struggle through Ireland's tough economic climate, the conditions of these impoverished estates are inspiring young people to express themselves in a new way with the hope of getting their voice heard.

Whether or not Irish rap ever turns into a commercially successful music scene, the genre certainly has a lot to say about where the country currently is.

Irish Rappers Revealed will be shown on BBC Three again on 16 July 2012 at 00:30 BST and is available to watch again on BBC IPlayer.

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