The thought of Irish rap music will leave many a reader grimacing, a reaction that could hardly be described as hasty given the genres history, or lack thereof, in this country. Looking to change that opinion is Lethal Dialect. Having earned underground success with his first two albums, the MC is back after a two year hiatus with ‘1988’, a collaboration piece with producer JackKnifeJ.
While its yet to reach ‘Chinese Democracy’ levels of notoriety, this album feels like it’s been on back-burner forever with a couple of release dates already postponed. The last of these delays was due to LD securing new management, who thought that extra time was needed to promote and push the album, a reasoning that makes sense given ‘1988’ is LD’s most commercial work to date. What doesn’t make sense, given the commercial push, is the idea to open the album with a song that stretches to almost seven minutes in length. If you’re opening an album with a lengthy song then it has to be of immense quality and unfortunately School Dayz Are Over isn’t. Not only does it suffer from its extended running time but it’s also hampered by its slow, plodding pace. It all makes for a stumble, rather than a burst out of the blocks.
After the marathon first track things settle down with LD dropping two of the albums singles, 13 ‘till Infinity and Headstrong, back to back. Both are much stronger cuts than the opener; the former benefiting from JackKnife J’s excellent jazz tinged production while the latter has the album’s best hook supplied by the impressive Jesse Kav. Things get even better with the excellent 26 Laws, on which the more upbeat tempo gives the rapper the opportunity to properly demonstrate his flow.
Still A Darkhorse further supplements the run of good tracks but it also highlights one of the album’s main flaws, that being, lyrically, LD has a habit of using recycled and repetitive subject matter. Taking the aforementioned track as an example, the rapper waxes lyrical about the price of success and the jealousy it brings. However true, this has all been heard before. It’s not the only track either, Set You Free is even more tiresome; a rumination on the complexities of trying to juggle a music career and a love life.
On the flipside, when he does deviate into weightier matters he shows he is a skilled lyricist. The brilliant Beast Mode is the perfect example; a Plan B-esque tale of urban grit and unfettered everyday life. It’s an aptly titled song as it kick-starts a very strong finish to the album with the closing two songs both of high quality also. Energy is another soulful groove with a killer hook while Brave is a twelve minute epic that, unlike the opener, justifies its lengthy running time.
This album is by no means perfect, in fact in the realm of global rap music it’s distinctively average. Taken in the context of the Irish music scene though it serves as a breath of fresh air and as a jolt to the burgeoning hip hop scene. It certainly offers the perfect starting point for Irish hip hop fans who are looking to embrace the local scene.