Part of the bubbling Irish hip-hop Word Up Collective, Tebi Rex’s first official release is an earnest pop-rap splash of colour, heart and kinship.
With feel-good, occasionally vapid, lyrics about relationships, sexism and race in multicultural Ireland, ‘Welcome to the Year of Our Darkest Adventures’ shows a steadfast loyalty to producing catchy, thoughtful tunes.
The impressive Dafe Orugbo possesses an inventive and tempting flow. His charm lies with his warm cadence, a Donald Glover styled beat-frolicker who enunciates certain syllables with an alluring conviction, a welcome voice in the typically boom-bap rooted stylings of many Irish MCs. Boyle takes full control over the hooks, breaking up Orugbo’s verses delicately.
The sing-rap duo are endearingly playful throughout. Even the most downtrodden, face-in-the-dirt track is bouncy and irrepressible. Opening track Blue begins with a defiant Boyle singing passionately over spiky melancholic keys. A sense of urgency builds – the keys speed up and percussion mounts as the track ascends into a radio-friendly house-pop anthem. Orugbo is especially self-deprecating here, opening the first verse with: “Sorry that you hate me/Sorry that I hate me/but lately self-loathing is poppin/The problem is I’m probably crazy”.
Pink is another unapologetically fun pop track, Boyle quips on the hook, “Cover me in pink/Fur, Gucci mink/Pour me some belaire, pour the rest down the sink”. Lead single Men Are Trash is the most clunky, uninspired cut from the short and vibrant EP. A throwaway hook overhangs, “Ding ding, bell for class/Like a test, you don’t pass/Listen up, learn fast/Chapter one, men are trash”. The beat, stiff and largely lifeless despite Boyle and Orugbo’s best efforts, is an uninviting marimba-laden tropical instrumental. Its sentiments, like much of their catalogue to date, are well-intentioned.
Ducks All The Way Down is the sprawling closing track, simple drum patterns and a crooning Boyle vocal loop allow Orugbo to spit his most assured and well-crafted lines yet. An aggressive delivery show the young MC’s versatility, even turning in a furlorn spoken-word piece that speaks regrettably to a lost one. The regret grows to an imperfect hopefulness, it’s these moments of incongruous feelings, attachments and flows that draw you to Orugbo.
Without deviating too far from the sound that has garnered them a buzz, the group have sharpened their lyrical wits. It’s difficult not to be enamoured with Tebi Rex despite their teething problems. Cumbersome hooks, less-than-adequate mixing and some forgettable, redundant instrumentals do not for one moment delegitimize their potential.