New Irish Sounds: Rob Kelly

The name: Rob Kelly.

The deal: Wexford’s long-standing rap innovator with friends in very high places, Rob Kelly is already a decade into his career, but, after threatening to break into the mainstream a dozen or so times, the razor-sharp rapper is finally getting the attention he deserves, and it’s all down to a deliciously threatening number called ‘Jack The Ripper’. The rumour mill hints that he’s already signed to a record label in the States but, for now, at least, he’s keeping details of the follow-up to 2006’s Bragging Rights under his hat.

The sound: frankly, a little bit scary, if you’ve got any reason to believe you’re in Rob’s bad books. Choice lyrics include, ‘So play me sweet, get a cavity, I’ll have your front door looking like the fucking sons of anarchy’, ‘I got the hots for a fist fight, a Jones for a bare-knuckle scrapping, I’ll box your teeth in, now try rapping’, and ‘Seriously, I am going to murder you all’ (actually, I just added the last one for fun). Clearly, this is one rhymer who’s been around too long to bother with mincing words, and his trouble-starting tunes are all the more powerful for it.

New single ‘Jack The Ripper’ is Kelly’s grimiest, lushest, most addictive track yet, thanks in part to the vintage-sounding production of Zombie Computer man Scimon Tist (incidentally, have you heard the only massive Robin G-sized anthem he made with DJ John Gibbons and Rebecca Creighton of X Factor 2010 fame? Here it is. Good, right?)

There’s no denying that Kelly has a way with words, but for all his bombastic lyric-weaving (a personal fave; ‘PG Tips monkey always see me with the hot-tie’), there’s generally a softness or slickness to the melody that keeps cliché at bay.

He says: ‘Sinister rap, put your head in your hat/Hit your wifey on the neck, leave her dead in your lap.’‘Jack The Ripper’

I say: Pre-Coco Ice-T famously noted that ‘Pimpin’ ain’t easy,’ but what he couldn’t possibly have predicted was just how difficult pimpin’ would be in post-bailout, unemployment-ridden, property tax-torn Ireland… that is, very difficult indeed. As evidenced by the video for ‘Jack The Ripper’, Kelly’s figured out a way to simultaneously embrace and ignore our economic calamities, all the while pimpin’ harder than On Gangs-era Ross Kemp and Snatch-era Alan Ford combined (although, in fairness, I sort of have to say that, lest he murder my wife.)

For lovers of: Scimon Tist and John Gibbons, Action Bronson, Terawrizt.

In a word: dark.

What now?  Look out for news of Rob’s long, long, long-awaited album Black Irish Rogue and have a good root around his back catalogue to pass the time.

Like: Rob Kelly on Facebook.

Follow: @RobHKelly on Twitter.