Zoo Ireland is the stage name of Philip McCann, a Dublin based hip hop producer. ‘Old Soul’ is his debut mixtape, one which highlights the producer’s primary influences which range from classic East Coast rap figures such as Nas and Mobb Deep to more contemporary names like Kendrick Lamar, Mick Jenkins, Isaiah Rashad and Joey Bada$$.
As the project’s name suggests, the jazzier, more soulful side of hip hop plays a huge part in shaping the sonic architecture of ‘Old Soul’ but that is not to say that this is the work of a one trick pony; as we are treated to a variety of sounds and aesthetics.
‘Old Soul’ opens with the aptly titled Small Beginnings, slowly building from chilled-out xylophone vibes and a downtempo boom-bap beat to include a dank, funky bassline, some wah-wah flavoured guitars and a woodwind sample.
This is followed up with the darker, Inner City Blues-feel of Far Away From Home, popping and crackling to give an authentic waxy feel while underpinned by mournful sax and spiralling guitar leads.
Early into the project, Zoo Ireland demonstrates a keen ear for dynamics; building up layers and stripping them away at just the right moments. However, these early moments come with their downsides, too. The sax sample on Spaces jars with the chimes that underpin it. Voices similarly features a sample that feels slightly out of place, and Free Thought fades in with an immediate, deep groove only to fade out just as quickly; feeling a little too short.
Any feeling of wanting more from ‘Old Soul’ is fulfilled the deeper into the project you go. The Statement is a twinkling, futuristic piece while Prospects pops with a hard-hitting ‘90s East Coast feel and very cleverly includes a snippet from the cult-classic Glengarry Glen Ross. The project is brought to a resounding close by the cloudy, ethereal, Clams Casino-esque Deafening Whisper, built on droning basslines and a minimal snap-beat, and fleshed out with flamenco guitar samples and sleepy, cooing vocal samples.
‘Old Soul’ is a low-profile labour of love from a hardcore hip hop enthusiast. Though at the sum of all its parts don’t always add up, it merely scratches the surface of its producer’s potential.