I’m genuinely convinced that there is no decent reason for anyone to pay active attention to Irish politics, and I’m not just saying that as I’m forcing myself to write about it again. If I was trying really hard to be smart I’d claim that Ireland serves as a textbook example of what neoliberal class unity looks like – there are no functional differences between the two “main” parties (read: the ones the media don’t hate), our current Taoiseach somehow ended up feuding with LCD Soundsystem, and our former Minister for Justice published a romance novel that’s surprisingly hard to find used copies of. Any differences are purely aesthetic, any movement that captures the attention of the wider public eventually gets sucked into some soulless coalition, and Danny Healy Rae is perpetually on Soundcloud rapper drugs. One of the main complaints that sane people have about our political system is that its “boring” – our party leaders are essentially just chopped and screwed remixes of soulless neolibs in more interesting countries, our politicians all shop in Marks & Spencer, and our media is a glorified regurgitation of whatever’s going on across the pond. Irish politics has essentially been reduced in the eyes of most functioning humans as a glorified playpen for the failsons of property – instead of picking which particular representative of the oppressing class are to misrepresent us each five years, we just pick which local careerist gets to write our RIP.IE condolences. It’s hard to get mad at this system due to how undeniably mundane it is – there is no person on this island who can maintain active emotion when thinking about Micheál Martin for over five minutes and perhaps that’s why he’s about to become our next Taoiseach. Now this’d be the point where I’d usually launch off into a pseudo-Marxist rant about how we need to reclaim the political but today I thought it’d be fun to look at something different – Irish political rap songs.
Ireland has always had protest music but it’s unclear as to when we decided to start rapping about politics, or even why we’d think about doing as such in the first place. I feel like it’d be fair to say that Irish artists are drawn towards the ironic – none of us seem to have the self-esteem to do serious projects a majority of the time, so we inevitably resort to adding a wink and a nod to whatever we put out there. Our work is a joke until it suddenly isn’t (and that shift usually happens when non-Irish people notice it). Because of this vague irony it’s hard to write about these tracks objectively – it feels clear that most of these people are taking the piss but it’s hard to know for sure and this weird state of semi-irony arguably defines a lot of Irish culture. Because of this I feel like it’s time to return to the listicle format – something that clearly went well the last time I cynically employed it. I’ve decided to order the songs based on how ironic they seem, with the most blatant parodies towards the top and the vaguer tracks towards the bottom – if I’ve made an error please imagine that I’m ordering the list like ‘Eurovision’ semi-final results. In the interest of fairness I’ve decided to use a rating system universal to the Irish experience – how much second-hand embarrassment I feel as I listen to the track. I’m not sure what the purpose of this listicle is but let’s all pretend that making fun of a few rap tracks is equivalent to deep political insight, mainly just so I can finish this draft and continue my writing streak.
TPM – TPM Don’t Have Your Money
I felt like it’d be fun to start this post by talking about TPM, a comedy rap group based out of our culutral capital – Dundalk. TPM consists of brothers Charles and Andrew Hendy, who formed the group in 2015 after being “influenced by the dole, depression and anxiety” – the group’s name is short for “Taxpayer’s Money” and their work is based around parodying the experience of being stuck on the dole. ‘TPM Don’t Have Your Money’ was released just before our elections this year, essentially just soundtracking the weird period wedged between that exit poll and the coronavirus lockdown. This song has a major advantage when compared to a majority of Irish political rap songs – it’s actually really fun to listen to. The track was co-produced with Fomorian Vein and perfectly captures the best aspects of tacky 90s rap beats – it isn’t necessarily the most innovative beat I’ve heard in ages but it’s actually catchy, making it one of the best tracks on this list by far. Also notable is the chorus – which solely consists of the sentence “fuck Fine Gael and fuck Fianna Fáil too”, perfectly capturing the mood of all five of us deluded enough to spend our time performatively posting about politics.
How Much Embarrassment I Felt Listening To This: Not much.
Messyng – Leave Eamon Ryan Alone T’fuck (Green Party Rock Anthem) [ft. Craic Boi Mental]
The first time I was sent this track it was by some Green Party member who didn’t seem to realize it was ironic so I internally just wrote it off until I started doing research on this piece. Messyng produce “North Kerry politico indietronica” and are linked to Scauldwave, a record label that’s essentially just Death Row Records for people who spent all of last year making fun of the Naas Ball. The record label uses the term “culchie surrealism” to define their output and I feel as if this track is a perfect encapsulation of that ethos – there’s references to cutting turf, Michael Healy-Rae samples, and a producer tag stating that “North Kerry has arrived”. This track is similar to ‘TPM Don’t Have Your Money’ in two main ways – they’re both ironic and they’re both genuinely decent songs. This track also has a feature from Craic Boi Mental, a Cork-based rapper whose essentially our equivalent to Lil B (in the best way possible) and will probably feud against this blog if I play my cards right. I plan on writing something more in-depth about Scauldwave at some stage in the future, presumably whenever I actually get around to coming up with slightly more interesting things to say about the label that isn’t just “oh this is cool”. This track is scarily decent, that or I’ve given myself Stockholm syndrome listening to the two other tracks I plan on covering.
How Much Embarrassment I Felt Listening To This: A little, but mainly just from feeling like Michael Healy-Rae was dunking on me for writing this at four in the morning.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wESDtNmTW-8 (wouldn’t let me embed 🙁 )
Alex Homits – Sounds From Sunday Morning
Now this is the point where things get slightly interesting (and these paragraphs get slightly less shite). Alex Homits is the leader of the Connolly Youth Movement, a Marxist youth org mainly known for (rightfully) making the lives of any right-wing weirdo involved in student politics significantly harder, having a squat in Cork’s city centre, and for constantly posting. A while back a friend of mine joked that the CYM were just what’d happen if you let a bunch of seventeen-year-olds off Discord form a political grouping and I feel like that perfectly encapsulates what’s good and bad about the group – they’re the exact people that’d Zoom bomb a YFG meeting and I respect them for that, even if they’ll probably swarm me for having shite takes at some point in the future. I feel like this idea ties in with the story behind this rap – the CYM are the only grouping who have a leader who’d make an ironic rap song, take from that what you will.
The thing about this track is that the story behind it is arguably more interesting than the track itself but nobody seems to know anything about it. I first found this track through people poking fun at the CYM and was struck by how surreal it felt – I have genuinely no idea as to why it exists but trying to guess as to why that’s the case melts my brain whenever I attempt to do so. I’ve zero clue as to why the leader of a Marxist-Leninist youth org would change the lyrics of ‘Gangster’s Paradise’ to make them about killing trots but there’s something extremely funny about that fact. Perhaps this MP3 will be up on Marxists.org after their revolution, sitting beside a polemic decrying me as a bourgeois hack for making jokes about them on Twitter.
How Much Embarrassment I Felt Listening To This: I can’t state as such outright or it’ll be used against me during the show trial.
GMC Beats – The Alan Kelly Rap
Sometimes I feel like I’m a sleeper cell agent – ‘The Alan Kelly Rap’ by GMC Beats feels like the thing that’d activate me. I feel like to explain how surreal this song feels I think I’ll need to start by explaining the person this song is about. Alan Kelly is the leader of the Irish Labour party, a glorified battle royale in which our country’s most blatant careerists try to work out who can keep their TD seat on life support the longest. Kelly’s mainly known for an interview where he claimed that power was his drug, being linked to the infamous (failed) introduction of water charges, and getting concerningly excited when he retained his seat in the 2016 elections. Kelly’s arguably the human depiction of all the problems with his party – he constantly goes on about how the party shouldn’t be apologetic for enabling austerity during their time in government and is probably quite depressed that he isn’t going to become a junior minister in the hellish FG/FF coalition we’re rapidly headed into. It’s hard to tell what he actually believes in, arguably by design. The Labour party has always stuck to this “less socialism, more coalition” mentality but at least in the past it snuck the starry plough onto it’s election material – Alan Kelly doesn’t even make the effort to pretend to care about socialism, proudly standing for fuck all. Clearly this makes him the perfect target for an unironic rap song.
‘The Alan Kelly Rap’ is surprisingly hard to find at times, constantly being taken down and reuploaded each time I try mentioning it. It was originally produced by GMC Beats around the time of Kelly’s 2009 bid for an MEP seat and has floated around the internet ever since, presumably haunting all the people who chose to vote Labour in the 2011 election. The funniest thing about this song is how utterly competent it is – it isn’t necessarily bad (or good), just passable. For lack of a better comparison it feels like one of those AI-generated composites of every single US Senator – by being so thoroughly normal it falls into the uncanny valley, it becomes odd by being so tolerable. It feels like the kind of music that people make during a YouTube tutorial – it isn’t bad per se, just oddly soulless. I’m not sure who this track is for and that adds to how surreal it is – this is the kind of music that a serial killer would play in an awkward attempt to not seem suspicious while trying to hide a body and it’s melting my brain. This song wasn’t made to be dissected in a shite blog post over ten years down the line, it was intended to be a disposable aspect of some election campaign and that disposability makes it morbidly interesting. This song wasn’t made to have shite blog posts dissecting it (or even to be thought about) – it was just intended to get people motivated in something fundamentally boring (and/or shite) and that’s oddly funny. This was the hardest post I’ve composed this year solely due to this fact, I falsely hold this view that music is a solely emotional thing and then basically just shit the bed when I hear a song that’s solely functional. Perhaps people around me are sick of the blunders and I need to get used to that fact, even if it makes these blog posts even more boring. The Alan Kelly rap has broken my brain, perhaps we should have seen this coming.
How Much Embarrassment I Felt Listening To This: I genuinely considered giving up writing.