Five years ago, if you mentioned the phrase “Irish rapper” to anybody, they probably would have laughed in your face. Cut to 2019, and the Irish music scene has gone through a revival, with a huge surge of hip-hop and rap artists at its forefront. Undeniably, one of the pioneers of Irish rap music is Kojaque.
The Cabra rapper has been rising through the ranks of local music royalty since he dropped his debut album, Deli Daydreams, back in 2018. Co-founder of Soft Boy Records, Kojaque has cultivated and supported DIY artists, bringing them into the public sphere and giving them artistic freedom under the label.
At an event hosted by The Phil, Kojaque was awarded the Bram Stoker Medal for Cultural Achievement on Friday afternoon. In conversation with the president of the Phil, Ryan Grunwell, Kojaque blended in easily with the students around him.
The conversation that followed the award was a candid one, and Kojaque spoke openly about the current decimation of cultural spaces in Dublin. With venues such as the Bernard Shaw and District 8 being replaced by hotels, he claimed that the “reaction [to the closures] was underwhelming. If this was happening in France, there would be riots by now.” As an artist who is in need of venues to perform and meet with fellow creatives, he described the state of the city as “fucking outrageous”. When speaking about the government specifically, his words were less than complimentary: “Fuck ‘em, that’s what I say.”
Likewise, he called out the lack of creative infrastructure in Dublin, saying that “it’s never that we haven’t had the talent. There’s amazing shit happening here.” With the resurgence of Irish music and culture, he acknowledged a desperate need to conserve important cultural sites.
For the rapper, touring offers a break from the gloomy reality of Dublin. He named Cork as one of his favourite places to play. Glasgow got a special mention too, because it’s a place filled with “mad fuckers, like the Irish but with weirder accents.”
When speaking about Green Diesel, his latest collaboration with Luka Palm, Kojaque recalled the difficult balance that comes with being both musicans and friends: “You’re trying to keep your vision in your mind… especially if you’re friends with them, you’re going to be fucking fighting.” He spoke of the way in which the artistic process can get in the way of friendship, and the pair reached a stalemate at multiple points during the long recording sessions.
Another matter which was difficult for the rapper was his time shooting the music video for his song Bubby’s Cream. Working off a tiny budget, Kojaque spoke about how they shot it in the carpark of a Tesco over three nights, only to be robbed by a group of teenagers: “Your man was like, grabbing the camera off me, ‘Do you think I’m going to rob this?’ and I was like ‘Well, you have your hands on it and I’m not going to fight you’.”
Equally as interesting was the story behind the video for Flu Shot, which he revealed to be packed full of unusual references. For example, he noted that he took his drag-influenced look in the video directly from Mac DeMarco’s My Kind of Woman.
The rapper’s influences are often hard to pin down. From literature to obscure records, countless works have contributed to his music. As a concept album, Kendrick Lemar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City has played a huge part in inspiring his music, with its multiple layers where “the more you read into them, the more you pick up on stuff.” Even though Kojaque has been pigeon-holed into hip-hop, he isn’t a believer in genre itself, and his discography reflects his interest in all types of music.
During a question and answer session with the audience, someone finally asked the question that had been on everyone’s minds: what is Kojaque’s favourite dog breed? After his recent discovery of several cross-breeds, the top two that emerged were the corgi-pitbull and the boxer-sheepdog, both of which are “sick”, according to the musician.
After multiple questions touching on topics from Lana Del Rey (who was “real nice”) to lyrics, time was up. Standing by the door after the event, a couple of fans even had the opportunity to get some photos and chat to the rapper. The talk with Kojaque confirmed that he will be leading the way to reclaim the city of Dublin for creatives, and it became clear that it’s up to us to support him and other artists the entire way.