The diamond studs in his ears twinkled under the lighting in the cosy surroundings of the Academy 2, but it was his brimming smile and his vibrant manner that stood out most as Lethal Dialect, AKA Paulie Alwright, cooly strutted off stage after a sound check to greet me prior to his show on the 5th of December.
Arguably Ireland’s leading name in terms of Hip-Hop, he was visibly excited before his first show in Dublin in over a year ‘I can’t wait to get back on, the purpose of this gig is to go into the New year with the same energy we finish this year with’. He was true to his word too. The gig was scintillating from beginning to end as he featured newly written songs as well as a mixture of tracks taken from 1988, his last release, and classics that won the crowd over. This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill Irish Hip-Hop gig. It featured breath taking vocals from Jess Kav throughout, along with a full band that elevated this from a Rap concert to a musical showcase ‘Nobody’s done it before so I’m hoping that with every step I take, I’m kinda setting a little trail that people can look at and open a few doors that maybe people couldn’t have opened before’. The show also brought two incredibly unique supporting acts to the fore; Ollie Bell and Farrell. Bell sang soulfully while playing the keyboard as the talented Lee Frayne on the drums added a gritty element to his melodic voice, while Farrell, joined on stage by a band, hypnotized the crowd with his energetic performance.
The supporting acts represented a very surprising turn that Irish Hip-Hop has taken. Even though they technically weren’t Hip-Hop acts, they still had that gritty and more importantly, real and authentic style that is surrounding the Dublin urban music scene at the moment. It’s clear that artists are now drawing on inspirations from other genres and mixing them together in a clever and very Irish way. Bell believes that ‘Irish Hip-Hop has a lot of storytelling aspects. Ireland is a place of Saints and Scholars as they say, we are a very creative and intelligent group of people and we’re proud to say we’re Irish’. Frayne says that ‘Whatever you lay down musically is like a painter doing a portrait at a certain time and place, it’s like a measurement of what’s going on in that period of time, which is great to look back and very beneficial as you’re always developing as an artist’. Most importantly these are people that’re overwhelmingly passionate for music and more than willing to work hard to achieve their goals. ‘The lads are definitely motivated , I think from all the lads doin their stuff like Paulie, GI, Costello and all them, they’ve sort of inspired everyone that wanted to do it but couldn’t find their voice and now there’s a lot of people coming up that have their voice’ says the supporting acts’ close friend, Adam Mohamed. What stood out to me most about the whole night, was their glaring desire to succeed and develop their gifts and talents. Lethal Dialect himself said that his experience touring with Glen Hansard and Damien Dempsey opened his eyes as to what it takes to be successful ‘You don’t perform tracks around the world from not putting in work, both of them are grafters, and that’s the thing about both of them, their work ethic, that’s the key thing for me’.
In terms of Irish rap and Hip-Hop as a genre, Lethal Dialect believes that ‘If people just focus on themselves, the whole thing is gonna push on forward and then it will be a worthy genre because there’ll be a slew of acts doing their own thing.’ It’s hard to disagree with him on this sentiment as for a long time there was no real variation between the work of one Irish rapper to another, whereas now the fashion of labelling yourself as part of ‘Irish Hip-Hop’ is dated and many artists such as Rejjie Snow (Who is supporting Madonna during her upcoming ‘Rebel Heart’ tour), Fifth Element, Dah Jevu and of course The Original Rudeboys are becoming quite successful by sticking to their trademark styles, all of which, in one way or another, fall under the umbrella term ‘Irish Hip-Hop’, even though they haven’t advertised it as this. Frayne and Farrell also expressed the importance of this type of music to them and those around them ‘Irish working-class records would put you in a trance just by listening because of the realness of it’, ‘It’s a reflection of the youth of our generation. With other styles you mightn’t be able to portray the exact feeling, now Irish Hip-Hop is mainly a reflection of what everyone is going through’.
With all that taken into account, Lethal Dialect himself stood out to me as an incredibly down to earth and interesting person. Drawing inspiration from a surprising bunch ‘I might listen to Marvin Gaye in the morning and by the end of the night I’m listening to Mobb Deep Hell on Earth, with some Teddy Prendergast thrown in the middle’ it’s clear that he has a burning passion for music and the creative process. ‘I got into beat making, chopping samples and all, but I just fell more in love with the samples than the beats I was trying to make and I was like, I want somebody to sample me, I wanna create something original’.
He showed visible pride in his own identity and most notably, his accent: ‘It’s a huge thing because, everybody else does it, imagine an American singing in a British accent and how ridiculous that’d be. We seem to be a little bit unsure of our own identity, but I think when you hear the likes of Sinéad and Damien Dempsey why would you want to do it any other way?’. In a weird way LD reminded me a lot of Conor McGregor himself. Not because they’re both from Dublin and both quite charismatic but because they both share a same ideal to stay true to who they are and where they come from no matter the scale of their success or the size of the stage they’re put on.
Hopefully, this becomes the trend with Irish stars across the board because in the past we’ve seen many others (Who won’t be named) try and be something they’re not.
Apart from music, LD has an intriguing interest in all things to do with science ‘It’s always been the alternative path that I could’ve taken, I always keep up to date with the latest science stuff. To me science is truth, the fundamentals of science are the utmost truth and trying to figure out what it’s all about’. But apart from that there seemed to be nothing more than the simplicity and creativity of music that appealed to him (Sadly, he’s a Chelsea fan too).
The main thing that stood out to me over the course of the night was the approachability of everyone involved and how there was no big egos or no one ‘too big’ to talk to. There were multiple big names in the crowd such as Jon Connors who is starring alongside LD in the upcoming ‘Cardboard Gangsters’ film set to release around May, Damien Dempsey who features on the track ‘Brave’ on LD’s 1988 as well as Collie Collins who I was fortunate to enough to get a picture with. Everyone was receptive and open, something that really stood out to me because for a group made up of mostly young lads, they carried themselves like professionals but were still normal human beings: ‘I’m still the same person that was rapping on corners in Cabra, but now I just don’t be rapping on corners in Cabra’.
(You can hear the full Lethal Dialect interview, as well as tracks from Ollie Bell, Farrell and more on January 13th on Me and Patrick O’Malley’s radio show Waveforms on Flirtfm 101.3. The link to the show’s page is on the Homepage.)