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Who are KNEECAP? Everything you need to know about the Irish rappers in trouble with both BBC and RTÉ

These lads are pretty proud of their ability to cause controversy.

IT’S A VERY well known fact that the hip hop scene in Ireland is thriving at the moment. 

The genre is as diverse in Ireland as it is outside, with the likes of Jafaris, Rejjie Snow, Mango x Mathman, Kojaque, Hare Squead and Tebi Rex all making different styles of hip hop to a very high standard.

Up in the North, the most popular act at the moment is KNEECAP, a gang of three lads whose stage-names are Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap and DJ Provaí. They’ve been touring the entire country with sold out gigs in Dublin and Galway, and regardless of what the media thinks of them, fans are obsessed with them.

What makes KNEECAP stand out is that, apart from being fairly controversial, they incorporate the Irish language into all of their tunes. Until KNEECAP began releasing music, the only modern pop music teenagers encountered online in Irish was made by kids in Coláiste Lurgan who had translated Despacito with the help of a teacher. KNEECAP could not be further from that. 

Their first single, C.E.A.R.T.A. (or R.I.G.H.T. in English) was likely released in response to the Irish Language Act (which is a divisive topic in the North), but it doesn’t deal with the political issue head-on. In fact, the lyrical content of the song is basically just about doing a load of drugs and having a laugh, while hoping the Royal Ulster Constabulary don’t spoil their buzz.

Mar tá cóisir ann anocht ‘s níl fáilte roimh an RUC.

While your mam probably wouldn’t like the lyrics, which are laden with mentions of ketamine and MDMA, it’s nothing kids wouldn’t hear on the streets (or in English language rap music made in Ireland). 

Source: 3CAG/YouTube

It didn’t take long for the boys to attract media attention, for very obvious reasons. They’re from Belfast, referring to the PSNI as the RUC while wearing balaclavas in their music videos and rapping in Irish. Surprisingly (or perhaps, unsurprisingly), the first media outlet to react negatively to KNEECAP’s music was RTÉ, who pulled the track from an afternoon radio show’s playlist for the drug references and cursing.

Móglaí Bap and Mo Chara defended the song, calling it satirical and observational:

A lot of my friends don’t vote Sinn Fein and they’re not republican. We’re proud of Irish culture, but we don’t want to be defined by it. We wanted this song to break stereotypes. We’re not saying we agree with using RUC as a term for the PSNI, but it happens in Belfast. 

There was a petition signed by 700 fans calling for the song to be put back on air, and Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit Belfast said it was “a great display of artistic and linguistic talent.” Seamus MacAindreasa, who works in the West Belfast Gaeltacht pointed out to the Belfast Telegraph that there’s a huge double standard in terms of what Irish radio will allow on air: 

In terms of what RTÉ have done, they pull a song like this, but not half of the ones in the current Irish charts. Many of these songs objectify women and glorify the drug taking lifestyle on a daily basis. 

All of this controversy took place very early in 2018, and while the lads in KNEECAP have received plenty of praise from critics (like Nialler9 and the Irish Times), they’re still making plenty of people uncomfortable a year later, as a recent BBC new story proves. 

Over the weekend, KNEECAP performed in the Empire Music Hall in Belfast, a day after Prince William and Kate Middleton paid a visit to the venue. (It’s where Kate was pulling pints of Harp, if you forgot they even paid a visit). Between songs, KNEECAP chanted “F*CK RTÉ” and “GET THE BRITS OUT NOW!” 

The concert made it onto BBC News and into a number of printed newspapers, with comments from the DUP who were very unhappy with the sentiment.

A Belfast band has been condemned for chanting anti-British slogans at a Belfast bar with Prince William had spoken 24 hours previously. The incident happened at the Empire bar in south Belfast and has been criticised by the DUP. 

If there’s one title that a group like this would wear proudly, it’s the words “Condemned by the DUP.” 

Christopher Stalford from the DUP told BBC News, “If someone were to say, ‘Get out!’ to any group of people, what would that make them? I think it’s really sad that this was literally the day after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were there. Their message was about bringing people together, in comparison to telling a group of people to get out of Northern Ireland… I just think that’s a very stark contrast indeed.” 

View this post on Instagram

Upa wha

A post shared by KNEECAP (@kneecap32) on

At the time of BBC’s coverage of the story, KNEECAP had not made any public comment. In the hours following the gig, however, they’ve embraced the controversy. This afternoon, KNEECAP uploaded an Instagram video entitled, “KNEECAP’S OFFICIAL STATEMENT IN REGARDS TO STALFORD’S COMMENTS”, which featured a remixed version of the song ‘Come Out, Ye Black and Tans’. 

Clearly unfazed by everything, KNEECAP uploaded another Instagram post that said, “FOC ME, I HAVE A FUNNY FEELIN THE EMPIRE MIGHT NOT HAVE US BACK AGAIN.” They also changed their Instagram bio to “Brits out rappers”. 

This definitely isn’t the last you’ll hear of them, anyway.

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About the author:

Kelly Earley

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