RíRá, Demo Straights, Unreleased and Underplayed
It’s just over a year since RíRá released his critically acclaimed debut Horses Work for Donkey’s Wages. Now the ex-Scary Éire man is back with a collection of remixes, B-sides and demos with Demo Straights, Unreleased and Unplayed. Irish hip hop is still a delicate matter. For many, too many, it conjures up images of young [...]
It’s just over a year since RíRá released his critically acclaimed debut Horses Work for Donkey’s Wages. Now the ex-Scary Éire man is back with a collection of remixes, B-sides and demos with Demo Straights, Unreleased and Unplayed.
Irish hip hop is still a delicate matter. For many, too many, it conjures up images of young lads from housing estates in Shamrock Rover’s jerseys riffing lyrically about dealing drugs and fighting the Gardaí. Tell someone that you’re into Irish hip hop and they’re likely to look at you as if you’ve just said that you’d fancy a go on Twink.
And it’s a crying shame, in the last few years, Ireland has punched well above it’s weight with the quality of hip hop that’s been coming out. We’ve had Messiah J & The Expert, Captain Moonlight, The Rubberbandits, Exile Eye, The Infomatics, Collie and we cannot leave out Super Extra Bonus Party (SEBP), although, of course not all of their out put is strictly hip hop. And that’s only a few.
Let us return to SEBP for a moment. Before their second studio album they released a remix album Appetite for Reconstruction, to keep us going until they released Night Horses. I must admit something now, I’ve never heard SEBP‘s first album and now I never want to. The remix album is fantastic and I don’t want to hear the originals. Ok, it was good enough to win a Choice Award but I doubt it could be better than the remix album.
I mention SEPB‘s Appetite for Reconstruction because like that record RíRá has released Demo Straights to keep us going until the mighty Tullamore man releases his next record. The remix album can be tricky and to be honest most of the time it can become a mire of second rate claptrap. Just ask Linkin Park, they gave the world the god-awful Reanimation and then teamed up with Jay-Z for the abomination that was Collision Course. Thankfully Max Tannone (Formerly Minty Fresh Beats) came along and fixed the situation by awesomely mixing an album of Jay-Z lyrics over Radiohead music called Jayiodread.
Thankfully RíRá hasn’t done a Linkin Park and butchered the songs here. The remixes make the songs sound new and fresh, with the exception of one or two, and the “new” songs illustrate his mammoth talent and proves without a shadow that he is the most gifted rapper in Ireland.
The only way to look at the release is to forget Horses Work for Donkeys Wages and treat this as brand spanking new. If we do that then we can take this record as an accumulation of RíRá‘s ability to take on the many different aspects and qualities of the many hip hop genres with relative ease and guile.
But not only that, “this culchie mullagh from Tulla’” can quite easily turn his hand and mic to Concrete, Dub, Dancehall, Rock, Lounge and even some trad if the mood takes him. It seems that he can just about take any element of modern day music and put his own unique twist on it. Heavy Metal even get a look in thanks to a remix courtesy of Collie with his version of Put a Wobble in yer Cerebullem.
However this track is a bit of a strange one. It’s something akin to a track off the Judgement Night soundtrack, where such bands as Therapy?, Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth rubbed shoulders with the likes of Cypress Hill, Del La Soul and House of Pain. The song works but, only on headphone. Listen to it through some speakers and it sounds a bit flat. I don’t know why or even how to explain it but for some reason it only works through headphones.
The record opens with a couple of new tracks that, more than likely you won’t have heard. See Ya There, Bla Bla Blarney and Pop Idle sees that Demo Straights gets off to an aggressive start and grabs you round the neck. Pop Idle is a particularly strong track. Poking fun at the glam and bling of modern day popular hip hop and the karaoke culture we live in where any clown with a nice smile and shiny clothes can win a singing contest. Borrowing from OutKast‘s So Fresh So Clean and LL Cool J‘s Phenomeon it lays bare the fact that modern day rap culture has become a parody of itself and has, fully lost it’s way. Plus it includes the genius lyric, “something like a big amadán, something like a big amadán…”
Remix wise, we get, as said earlier Wobble in Yer Cerrubellum, 25 O’ Clock in the Morning, which is given a kind of chilled out-scary lounge music remix. You know that pub Solas on Wexford Street, well, if the DJ was on a scary trip this is what he’d play. It’s really an excellent version of the track. We’re also given an extended version of To Be an MC and an really fantastic chilled remix of Front Bar by Adrian Sherwood.
There’s a dancehall/dub track called Clash in Mash Up which really should have been on Horses Work for Donkeys Wages, I guess it wasn’t included as it may not have fitted with the overall sound of the debut but it’s a great track that’ll have you reaching for the Rizlas and Bob Marleys.
There’s also the inclusion of two live tracks from when RíRá appeared on the Tommy Tiernan and Hector O’ hEochagáin radio show on 2fm. If you haven’t heard the tracks before you’ll be in for a treat, both tracks are given a trad flavour which complement both greatly.
RíRá’s not afraid to experiement and be brave with his music, not enough of Irish hip hop groups, or should I say crews, or artists are willing to experiment enough and that’s why so many sound like cheap American drival which only turns off potential listeners from exploring the genre before they are even given a chance to discover the likes of RíRá and his old group Scary Éire, Captain Moonlight, Messiah J and all the above that I listed earlier.
This is a good time for Irish hip hop, it’s just a shame that enough people aren’t hearing about it.
There’s one track that’s bitterly and disappointingly omitted from the new release a track called Knuckles to the Marrow though this is probably something to do with licensing as it appeared on the soundtrack to an Irish film called I Could Read the Sky. It’s completely different than the normal hip hop any of us are used to and takes the experiemtal elements to RíRá‘s talents to the forefront.
So, a conclusion is in order. Demo Straights isn’t as good as Horses Work for Donkeys Wages, it could never be, but it does highlight that RíRá is a monumental talent and an outstanding rapper/producer and song crafter. Unlike so many hip hop artists out there he is not one to let himself fall into the traps of hip hop and become a cliché of himself, instead he pushes his music and talent by re-inventing his sound, his lyrics and his delivery over and over again, proving that he is one of the highest quality rappers out there, Irish or not.
Drop-d Rating: 8/10
The album is available here
Tags: Captain Moonlight, Collie, Collision Course, Demo Straights, Demo Straights Unreleased and Underplayed, Exile Eye, Horses Work for Donkey's Wages, jay-z, Jayiodread, Linkin Park, Max Tannone, messiah j & the expert, Minty Fresh Beats, OutKast, radiohead, RíRá, super extra bonus party, The Infomatics, the rubberbandits