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Dublin: 5 °C Sunday 15 December, 2019
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We spoke to Uppbeat, a 20-year-old rapper from the West of Ireland who should be on your radar

Trap music from Mayo. You heard it here first.

Untitled Source: Uppbeat/Instagram

THE MUSIC SCENE in Ireland is nothing short of incredible at the moment. 

Regardless of what genres you’re into or what corner of the country you’re living in, there’s probably someone living within very close proximity to you, creating music that you would enjoy. If you don’t believe that’s possible, you just haven’t looked far enough.

Although talent is coming from all over the country, Dublin is probably the epicentre of the music scene at the moment, though Limerick isn’t far behind. One week we’ve got NME fawning over Dublin’s punk scene, the next week, we’ve got the Boiler Room singing the praises of Ireland’s hip hop output. Every conceivable genre in between is seeing as much success, and receiving plenty of recognition. Last year, Tourism Ireland partnered with Spotify to promote Ireland as ‘the music island’ – and it’s not hard to see why.

But how hard is it to make a name for yourself in Ireland’s music scene if you’re entering from outside a major city like Dublin, Cork, Galway or Limerick? We had a chat with a 20-year-old hip hop artist called Uppbeat from the West of Ireland (Mayo, specifically) about his career thus far and the potential he sees in Irish music in the coming years, ahead of his upcoming headline gig in The Workman’s Club in Dublin on the 26th of April. 

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At this point, we all know that there are hip hop artists and producers making music to a very high standard all over the country, but we were curious about just how difficult it is to find a space for yourself in Ireland’s music scene, which is focused in Dublin, when you’re from somewhere like Mayo. Uppbeat told us that it’s not as hard as you’d expect, as “It’s actually a great, really welcoming scene.” 

We agreed that once you meet a handful of people in the Irish music scene, you can find yourself connected to basically anyone in the country, which is part of what makes the scene so special.

Just over two months ago, Uppbeat’s debut EP Enter Aquarius was released on all major streaming platforms, and within a couple of weeks, the seven songs on it have collectively racked up over 165,000 listens as of the 20th of March. It’s quite clear that he’s having no trouble finding his own place in the Irish music scene. We asked if there’s anyone around that he’s currently looking to for inspiration, and he told us:

I really appreciate what everyone is doing right now, there are so many top tier artists out there, doing a lot of very different things. But I think I prefer to look within myself for inspiration, because I don’t wanna do anything that’s been done already. 

And indeed, Uppbeat (and many other young artists like him) is afforded a unique opportunity to do that in Ireland, because the hip hop scene is so young that there’s plenty of room to explore all the sub-genres of hip hop without stepping on anybody’s toes. While Uppbeat’s not taking a huge amount of inspiration from any specific names in Ireland at the moment, he experiments with genres like trap and afrobeat, which are also thriving in Ireland right now (as seen in the work of Athlone-based artist Sequence and Cork’s Jay Ronic). 

While he’s doing his own thing now, Uppbeat did admit looking up to Class A’z when he was in his early teens. If you’re not familiar with Class A’z, it’s a collective that included artists like Terawrizt, Nugget, Nucentz and Redzer. Again, if you haven’t heard of any of these lads, you might have come across their music on Bebo back in the day, where Redzer was a bit of a viral hit in North Dublin, before there was even such a thing as a ‘viral hit’. You’re not from Coolock if you didn’t have this as your flashbox in 2006:

Source: stedorgan/YouTube

Uppbeat explained that Nugget was an important artist to him in his formative years (as were others from Class A’z), and that Nugget’s music began to reveal the potential that hip hop could have as a genre in Ireland. When we asked Uppbeat if any of the things he’s doing now could be possible without the internet, he replied:

I think, for me personally, I would have done this regardless, having been a 12-year-old in the West of Ireland listening to Class A’z. While the internet has been really helpful to me, the most important connections I’ve made in the Irish music scene, the ones that have mattered most, happened in real life. 

While the music scene grows in Ireland (at a speed and strength which inspired Blindboy of The Rubber Bandits to ask, “What the actual fuck is going on with Irish music right now?” earlier this week), there’s very much a feeling among many Irish artists that they’ve got to go abroad, if even just to London, if they really want to make a name for themselves. We asked Uppbeat about that, and he agrees that unfortunately it’s true, but it’s not all bad. 

Yeah, I think you have to get out of Ireland. But when artists leave Ireland, their fan-bases are already so strong and loyal at home – something you won’t find in the UK. The scene is so diverse, and nobody sounds the same (or at least, nobody who is successful) and yet, but they all have really strong fan-bases. 

When Irish artists go abroad, they usually do a pretty good job of representing the country. So much so, that Uppbeat believes that Dublin could eventually become one of those cities you associate with music like London or LA or Toronto.  

When we’ve got so many artists to be proud of already, what makes Uppbeat stand out? For him, he thinks a big part of it is his background. 

Being from the West of Ireland, I’m inspired by different things, lyrically or otherwise. I have a different perspective and there’s a different culture here, which people see as a bit traditional or whatever, maybe old-fashioned. 

Whatever drawbacks the geographic distance from Dublin may present for Uppbeat, he finds that he can learn from them. While chatting with us, he pointed out the obvious fact that a lot of people from Dublin just simply do not understand what life is like outside of their home county. He feels that he can encounter more criticism, or occasionally a different type of criticism because of this, but it is ultimately conducive to shaping and improving his craft. It also gives him the advantage of having a fresh perspective in Irish hip hop. 

If, after reading all of this, you’re curious to see what Uppbeat sounds like, here’s his most recent single, PaperWhile the instrumental sounds like it could have come from anywhere in the world, the lyrical content – which includes lines about being unable to afford tax and insurance for your car – is something that is very obviously aimed at an Irish audience.

Source: uppbeat/YouTube

What’s ahead for Uppbeat? Well, in the immediate future, aside from his upcoming Workman’s gig, Uppbeat told DailyEdge.ie that he’ll be releasing a handful of new music videos from Enter Aquarius in the coming months, as well as some brand new stuff in summer too. 

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About the author:

Kelly Earley

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