Nealo is an oddity in the rap game, an MC releasing his debut album in his 30s – a time-frame during which, as he notes himself, “most MCs would be hanging up their mic” and passing it on to the next generation. Stranger still is that the Northsider has migrated from the Irish hardcore scene where he sang in the much lauded act, Frustration.
Nealo could have easily stayed in that world, gone solo and retained his high status within that scene. Instead, he took a gamble and followed his gut into the Irish hip hop scene, working his way through the open mic circuit and quickly establishing himself as a standout thanks to his unique lyrical perspective.
The working-class law graduate’s debut album, ‘All The Leaves Are Falling’, is forged in austerity. It catalogues the anxiety of being a young adult suffocated by the state and needing to flee the country for the good of your mental health as well as your bank balance. In Nealo’s case, the destination was Canada but the themes of needing to escape and feeling lost, overwhelmed, and invigorated by those new surroundings is encapsulated perfectly.
‘All The Leaves Are Falling’ is both a love letter to Dublin (and Ireland) and the perseverance of its people and an educated take-down of the Irish political classes and the elites who didn’t pay the price for their crimes. Nealo speaks up for the generation who have less than their parents in a way very few Irish artists have, distilling the emotions that he was, perhaps, too angry to process properly at the time.
‘All The Leaves Are Falling’ may be the most emo rap album Ireland has seen to date – raw, tender and tearful for friends who lost their houses or took their own lives. Nealo is respectful of the sacrifices people have made and is hopeful the next generation are wiser than his and can solve many of our society’s problems. The horizon is now vital to Nealo as he has recently become a father, but he is also conscious that home is not always where the heart is or where safety can be found.
One of Nealo’s great skills as a lyricist is addressing all these issues without looking down on the people or the places deemed to be trouble and offering encouragement and support in a genuine way. Nealo is joined by a top-notch assortment of performers including Uly, Adam Garrett and Molly Sterling who bring their considerable jazz chops to proceedings.
As we look into another dark winter, ‘All The Leaves Are Falling’ is a timely reminder that we must stay united and not allow the haves to make life worse for the have nots in the coming years…essential listening this winter.
Read our recent interview with Nealo – here