When photographer James Forde left Ireland, in 2009, homegrown music didn’t have a lot going for it – a load of landfill indie bands playing over a catastrophic economic downturn that saw thousands of people emigrate.
A decade later, back in his city, James found that things had changed.
Today, in both the north and south, Irish hip-hop in particular is thriving.
For the past year, James been documenting Ireland’s hip-hop, breakdancing and graffiti scenes in a photo series titled “Cad an Scéal?” (“What’s the story?”).
VICE: Irish rappers seem to be a lot more comfortable in their own identity these days. Is that something you’ve seen?
James Forde: Absolutely. It’s definitely a topic of conversation amongst a lot of people. I don’t know at what point that happened, but you can take a look at Scary Éire, which a lot of the artists today will reference as the original Irish hip-hop that recognised Irish identity and kind of owned it. Artists have realised there’s power in owning their own identity instead of pretending to be someone else.
It’s interesting that it’s taken hip-hop this long to get a real hold here.
Yeah, I would completely agree. Even this year, having seen numerous artists getting larger followings, selling out shows and getting headline acts and stuff like that – it’s only in the last, like, five years. But it’s been bubbling away for more than a decade, you know. The only thing I wonder is, how long will it take for the Irish accent to be accepted and normalised across the board, like English hip-hop artists have?
There are second-generation African kids in Ireland getting into hip-hop and exploring what it means to be Irish through their music. What influence has that had on the scene?
I think that’s had a big effect on the diversity of the scene. And maybe that was the kind of spark that it needed to ignite it a little bit more. There was obviously lots of talent and lots of artists here before, but maybe the culmination of all of that together is what has brought it more to the forefront.
Let’s talk a little bit about the night that some of these photos were taken, at the Wiley Fox in Dublin.
It was probably mid-July last year, and I was only really getting to grips with the project. I’d reached out to Kneecap because I’d stumbled across their stuff online. I went and met with them upstairs before the gig and chatted a little bit. One of the members was filling up bags of “coke”, but they weren’t even coke – it was just flour to be thrown out to the crowd.