2019 was another stellar year for the development of the Irish urban scene. With more debut releases than ever, we’re highly optimistic for 2020 as our nation finds its sound. To pay tribute to the hard work that’s occurred, we’ve compiled a list in no particular order of what we feel are the top tracks from the past 12 months.
Mango X MathMan – Deep Blue
Mango X Mathman returned from hiatus with this lead single from their highly anticipated debut album, “Casual Work”. Deep Blue is love letter to Dublin city as Mango spits hard-hitting lyrics over another quality production from Mathman. Lisa Hannigan’s chilling vocals pierce through the resounding drums on the chorus to tie the track together. Listen as the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Versatile Ft. Coolio – Escape Wagon
“Ringsend to Compton on the track, what the fuck’s up with that?” Versatile have had a stunning year of breaking down boundaries after selling out the 3Arena, playing mainstage at Longitude and topping it all off with a feature from Coolio. We have absolutely no idea what’s coming next from these lads but we can’t wait.
KhakiKid – Uppercut
Did someone say moshpit? This track surely gets the engines running with non-stop action and heavy bass from start to finish. The upstairs of Whelan’s will be buzzing for Khakikid’s headline show this February. Grab your tickets while you still can!
Soulé Ft. C Cane – Love Tonight
Having dropped back in February, this feel good anthem about the honeymoon stage of a new relationship has had everyone dancing all year round. It features upcoming UK artist, C Cane and is accompanied by a top-quality music video. What’s not to love?
Kojaque & Luka Palm – SPIT DAT OUT
SPIT DAT OUT is our pick from the collaborative “Green Diesel” project. The Soft Boy Records duo don’t hold back as the track is laced with braggadocious lyrics delivered with unapologetic attitudes. Add this to the list of heaters already on their resumé.
Joy Crookes Ft. Jafaris – Early
Regardless of this only being a feature from Jafaris, we feel it was too good to leave out. “Early” is a wonderfully crafted single with dual meaning, depicting a love story doomed or destined to last as the pair wrote it when “experiencing the opposite ends of love”. With catchy verses and beautiful harmonies on the chorus, their natural chemistry is clear to see. Can we get a Joy and Jafaris round 2 please?
Dubzeno – Know Your Place
This single announced the arrival of Dubzeno as he stamped his new style on the scene and hasn’t looked back since. The music video even features Katie Price’s pink Range Rover! Talk about making an entrance.
Alex Gough – Breakfast
This funk jam makes getting up in the morning that little bit easier. Alex glides over the chill beat with a hook that was written on a bus home from Longitude in 2016. It’s impossible not to bop along.
Evans Junior Ft. S1, Chuks & Reggie – Bang
Our favourite from Evans Junior’s outstanding debut album, “Organised Mess”. This banging mix of trap and drill demonstrates his innate ability to write a catchy hook as he fuses together each cold verse from some well-known acts. Turn the volume up for this one.
JYellowL – Ozone
This single made it onto the official FIFA 2020 soundtrack, need we say much more? Born of Jamaican and Nigerian parents, JYellowL drew inspiration from all aspects of his cultural influences on this bouncy number. A true milestone for Irish urban music.
Shiv – Golden
Golden is a song that encapsulates the feeling of falling in love, discussing the push and pull that comes with having feelings for someone whilst playing hard to get. It is the epitome of a Summer tune with its upbeat production and light-hearted lyrics. Sit back, relax and give it a listen.
Offica – Naruto Drillings
One of the most innovative tracks on the list. Offica combined his love for “Naruto” with his passion for music over a genius beat from KidSpryal. It also saw him debut his now signature mask and start a “SkiddiBop” dance trend. Not to mention the fact that YouTube mogul and rapper, KSI, hopped on a remix of the tune 2 months later. You just can’t predict this stuff!
Hare Squead – 100 Miles
After an 18-month absence, Hare Squead finally re-emerged from the shadows to release 100 Miles and we couldn’t have been happier. With an easygoing tropical vibe, “this song is about doing the most for the one that you love” and was inspired by Aretha Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer”. Here’s to many more from the lads!
Bobbi Arlo – Berries
Bobbi initially wrote this song as a joke after a popular tweet slagging her colourful fashion sense. It soon evolved into a light-hearted anthem drawing inspiration from a relationship she had where the person wanted nothing more than fun. A slightly unconventional method of song writing, but if it leads to gems like this, then we’re all for it!
J.B2 X Poundz – Mourinho
Another Irish and UK link up. After a breakout 2018, J.B2 was back at it again with his crazy flows on Mourinho. Whether you’re a fan or not, you can’t argue that he doesn’t bring something different to the table. We hope to see him make more waves in 2020.
Malaki Ft. Matthew Harris – From Grace
Malaki experiments with a variety of hip-hop styles, poetry as well as spoken-word. “From Grace” displays his ability to craft witty, tongue-in-cheek lyrics whilst Matthew Harris comes through with a delightful chorus.
C.O.B – NonChalant
NonChalant provides a unique sound and rhythm never before seen on the Emerald Isle. The continuous change of pace keeps us engaged throughout the entire 4 minutes and 23 seconds. Make sure to check it out!
Mac – Winning
It’s fair to say the flute, which wasn’t originally the go-to instrument for a trap song, has become somewhat of a household sound in the genre. It colours itself around Mac’s assured bars on his hunger to succeed, quite literally in fact; “I got some food on my plate, so I cannot wait I wanna get stuffed”. Keep your eyes peeled for the return of the Mac in 2020.
Gaff – Toxic
This melodic delivery from Gaff was a much welcomed breath of fresh air over an acoustic based instrumental produced by himself. Gaining a feature on Lyrical Lemonade for the second time, Toxic was the moment that Gaff fully established himself as a force to be reckoned with in Ireland.
19 Honourable Mentions:
. Dania X New Machine – Broken Filter
. Happyalone. – L U C I F E R
. Skripteh – Secure the Bag
. Kae Ft. UNQ – Can’t Love Me
. Bitter Rocc Ft. Flynn Johnson – Man Cub
. Tebi Rex – Lotus Eaters
. Awkward Z – To You
. Danny Bones Ft. Odeal – Let It Go
. RTL.Bluuwoods – Settles
. Nealo Ft. Molly Sterling & INNERSPACE – Just My Luck
. YZ FT. Cubez & JugJug – Confessions
. Ama – Queen Latifah
. KNEECAP – H.O.O.D
. Pat Lagoon Ft. Evan Miles – Let Loose
. Nonzus Magnus – Fight Club
. Rushes – Glimpse
. Chuks – Swing It
. Celaviedmai Ft. Hudis – For Me
. Jehnova – Eudaemon
From these tracks, we can see that Irish urban music is not a one-trick pony. A multiplicity of experiences and styles are available. From the everchanging sound of Jafaris to the raw lyricism of Kojaque, we are not at a loss for diversity. This is what makes our music great. There seems to be something for everybody and a song for every mood. With such a competitive environment, we can hope to see the quality improve exponentially as time goes on.