It was recently brought to my attention that most people don't no shit about the Irish hip-hop scene so I did some rummaging around and threw some questions this guys way. Read him talking about his own work as well as the Irish scene in general
Wassup, thanks for your time. Could you start by introducing yourself and telling us what you do?
"Y'all know me, still the same Ay Cee…" I'm Ay Cee from The Gudmen and I'm an MC & producer (not as much any more) from Ireland. I also run www.irishbeats.com a site dedicated to showcasing up and coming Irish Hip Hop acts.
Where about in Ireland are you based and what's it like for a hip-hop head living there?
I'm originally from a town called Kildare, which is about 30 miles from Dublin. When I was growing up there, I was the hip hop scene! I was the only person there who was deeply into Hip Hop. I used to get a lot of stick, people saying I wanted to be black etc. It was just narrow minded, small town bullshit. I'm sure it was the same in every small town around the country. Nowadays there's a lot of younger guys listening to rap. It's the usual G-Unit, 2-Pac shit, I think it was better when they were all listening to techno
What have you released so far, either as vocalist/producer or both?
I haven't released anything yet. The reason being, I'm not really ready. I personally feel I'm get better per each track I do. I'm pretty happy where I'm at now, so with The Gudmen (myself, DJ Lee & 21 Crooks) I think we're at the point now we're we've got some tracks which we can hold our heads up high to. I mean it's not like I'm embarrassed by the older stuff I've done but that was then, this is now. People say to me, "Initiative" (conspiracy track) is a great track and I should make it available for people. But I'm not happy with the flow on it. See the thing is I've always known what my weakness is…flow! I've always known my lyrics were decent, but my flow wasn't great. But I've been concentrating on that more, hence why I'm happier with my newer tracks. See, it's one thing to have "rapper ego", believe you're the best, but it's another thing to recognise where you can improve.
What are some of the lyrical approaches you go for, eg subject matters? And how'd you describe your production flava?
I prefer to focus on different subject matter. I don't like to just do battle/ "I'm great you're not" type tracks all the time. There's no personal challenge in that. For every 1 or 2 battle tracks I have I have a "story" track. There's tracks like "Why?!" (suicide), "I Wish…"(growing up, reminiscing), "Streets Of New York" (based on a Wolfe Tonnes song, emigration) "The Game" (the state of Hip Hop now, the number of "MC's" who've popped up since Eminem) etc.
People always tell me that these "story" tracks are my forte and that not a lot of other rappers come close to me on subject matter. I think the reason for that is they lack focus. I mean if you look at a lot of rappers they digress on the track, they'll mention something, talk shite for a few bars, then come back to the matter at hand for the hook. I always try to structure the track before hand. In an essay or movie type manner, beginning, middle & end!
Like, sometimes I'll have a subject matter in mind and I'll tell Lee what sort of beat I'm after. Other times then the beat will dictate to me what the track should be about.
Re: my production, it would probably be a bit eclectic. I think the reason for that is when I was growing up none of my friends listened to Hip Hop so I got to listen to other genres and appreciate good music for what it is…just good music! I was talking to GURU after the gig the other night and we were discussing the music being played in the club after ward, we were vibing along to different tracks saying that's cool, that isn't. We were saying how a lot of people just don't appreciate anything that isn't hip hop. I mean you're never gonna find interesting samples if all you listen to is Hip Hop
What's the situation for artists in Ireland in terms of getting the opportunity to release something to the public?
It's tricky getting stuff out there. Most majors are only looking for another Eminem, for that American sound. I'm not from America so I'm not gonna sound like I am. They never realise that if you give people the opportunity to hear something new they will appreciate it. One thing I love about playing live is that a lot of people come up to me and say "WOW! I've never heard Irish Hip Hop before, that's great! I was a bit sceptical before but now…? Another popular one is "It's great to hear pure Irish Hip Hop! None of these poxy American accents, fair play to ye? All City Records are cool though, they put out the independent Irish stuff. Ri Ra & Rele, they're some good 12's no matter where you are from.
One of your producer aliases is Tyler Durden (Fight Club). Is being part producer part rapper like having two seperate identities?
Yeah I guess it is. I mean if I'm in "producer" mode then that's what I concentrate on. Like, if I'm listening to other tracks then, I'm focused on the hi-hats, listening to the way bass line goes or what ever. I probably don't even hear the lyrics on the track. That could be just down to my personality though. I kinda get blinkers on when I'm focused on something. Nothing else matters only what I'm concentrating on. Lee's always on to me like "did you write something for that other track?" And I'm like "No, sher I'm working on that other track still". I just hate leaving something unfinished, pisses me right off!
Although there's a lot of stuff that is quite different to a lot of other stuff here in England, there seems to be a sort of UK hiphop sound. Is this the case in Ireland?
Hmmm, I think the sound is still developing. Well no, that mightn't necessarily be true. I think any country outside of the US with a rap scene will have a sound that falls into one of 3 categories. First is just totally sounding American, total Americanisms, American accents etc. I hate this shit! If you're not from America, don't sound like you are. I mean it's ok to be influenced like that. We all grew up listening to US rappers and naturally that's gonna influence you. But there's already a Jay Z & Eminem, there's no point in having clones. Be original…be yourself!
Second, I think is that generic hip hop sound. This can be good but it can also lack identity. I mean you listen to a track and you think "hmmm, where's that guy from? Is that a London accent? NY?" There's nothing specific to that rapper if you know what I mean?
Thirdly, is just totally representing where you are from! "Keepin' It Real" as the cliché goes. The problem with this is, people who don't know you can't relate to what you are saying.
I think if you can find a happy median between the second and third category then you are doing well. If you can represent yourself in a way that people can understand and can relate to you'll get the respect you deserve. I'd like to think my sound would fit in there somewhere. It's Hip Hop sprinkled with an Irish flavour.
It took a fair few minutes to research out some of the names in Irish hiphop worth talking to for a clear view of the scene. What could be done to increase the exposure of things?
I think the net is a great way to get exposure. But you have to remember to get out there and do shows too. It's grand putting MP3's on the web but you have to realise that a lot of people don't have access to the web. Do up your own CD's and tapes, drop them in to shops, hand them around to certain people. Word of mouth is great. When I first start listening to Hip Hop, there was no web or MTV. Someone would pick up a tape some where, tell the lads about it, you'd get a copy of it and that's how it would work. That's why I'll refer to myself in the 3rd person on tracks. You'll hear me say "Ay Cee…" so if you're just listening to a track and you don't know who it is…I'm telling you : )
A lot of out of London heads end up moving to the city to benefit their music career in uk hiphop. Have you ever been tempted to do this?
It's kinda hard for me to do anything because I got a family : ) But, if I was young and carefree I'd definitely hip hop London or New York or anywhere else where there's opportunities.
In Ireland, aside from the music, is there much breaking and graffiti going on anywhere and what's the standard like?
Yeah there's a pretty healthy breaking and graf scene here. You'll spot a couple of b-boys at some shows bustin' some moves. Or you'll catch a piece on the street. To be honest I don't know a lot about these scenes cos mine is the music. I mightn't know the guys but I know what they're doing is good. It's like "I don't know art but I know what I like" : )
What current projects are you working on, or releasing soon and can you let us in on a bit about them?
Probably the main one I've been working on is the video for "Why?!2 That's the track I did about some guys I knew who took their own life. The Samaritans are with us on that one. They see it as a way "to reach the young people" We're gonna get that video out to a few people and see what happens. We've got a few DJ's on mainstream radio lined up for interviews etc. Hopefully we can get that out as a single, who knows what will happen then : )
Do you do many shows on or off your home turf and what can people expect to see at one of your performances. Ever gonna come and rap for us mainland UK heads?
I suppose home turf to us would be Dublin. But we've just got back from Galway after playing with GURU. We played with GURU in Dublin too. We've also played with Blackalicous, Aesop Rock, C Ray Walz, Cannibal Ox, DJ Woody & Yoda. We do a few showcases too, Hip Hop and non-Hip Hop. When we do a show we just go out and have a bit of craic. Since adding Pee (21 Crooks) to The Gudmen the show's really improved. It's great not having to do all the work : ) If we're asked to play any where…we'll go! Playing live is what it's all about man!
Have you got any shout out's, plugs or anything you want to send into the big wide world?
I wanna thank any body that's supported me or The Gudmen. Weather it's saying "Hi" after a show, buying a CD or just taking the time to listen to the music. Shout out to all the Irish & UK heads doing their thing. Major shout out to www.hiphopnews.co.uk for taking the time for the interview. It's all appreciated. You can get in contact with me via Irishbeats.com