ILL Irish-Trad-Meets-Hip-Hop-Performance (the sound of KOS)

Just caught wind of this ill Irish-trad-meets-hip-hop performance on DJ Mek’s FB page here.  (DJ Mek is from the legendary Irish crew, Scary Éire).  It’s an even better example of Knowledge of Self than what I talk about in the book.  Here’s an excerpt from the Ireland-centered Conclusion of Flip the Script with the musical examples I discuss:


First, there is “trad-tablism”—a form developed by Limerick-based DJs Danny Deepo, Mikey Fingers, and Deviant that exploits the continuities of compound meters (6/8, 12/8) between Irish traditional music’s reels and jigs and hip hop’s triplet-happy art of turntablism. The metric continuities are highlighted particularly well on the intro to the track “No Boundaries” by the late, great Lunitic—an abundantly obvious connection that I would never have considered had I not heard these forms in trad-tablism’s ingenious counterpoint. To add to this continuity, these forms also share a remarkably similar collaborative ethos in their respective musicking units: the Irish trad session and the hip hop cipher.

In examining how these Irish artists have reterritorialized, indigenized, and ultimately found themselves in and through hip hop, I want us to keep one gem of hip hop wisdom in mind. On the 1993 track “Award Tour” the pathbreaking Queens, NY, crew A Tribe Called Quest reflect on the globalization of hip hop. The track’s chorus reports from the “Tribe’s” voyage across the globe: “We on Award Tour with Muhammad my man / Goin’ each and every place with a mic in their hand / Chinatown, Spokane, London, Tokyo.” In the track’s first verse, the MC Q-Tip (so named because his words and voice “clean out your ears”) explains hip hop’s fundamental concept, Knowledge of Self (KoS), as he journeys to the far corners of the hip hop world: “You can be a black man and lose all your soul / You can be white and groove but don’t crap the roll (role) / See my shit is universal if you’ve got knowledge of dolo / Or delf or self, see there’s no one else / Who can drop it on the angle, acute at that / So: doo-dat, doo-dat, doo-doo dat-dat-dat.”

In the context of this track about hip hop globalization, Q-Tip explains that hip hop’s belonging is not, in fact, racially determined. A black man can be out of touch with hip hop and its soulful black musicality. Likewise, a white person can enter into hip hop’s performative community and groove along, but—punning on the ghetto dice game par excellence, “craps”—warns that one should not feel entitled in this “role.” Rather, hip hop is universal, but only for those who have found themselves through a KoS “quest.” In addition to catachrestic wordplay (“acute”/“and cute”), homophones (“roll”/“role”), and nonlexical, jazz-inflected scat, Q-Tip’s poetic lines encipher this knowledge in the hip hop memes “dolo” (an acronym for “done on the lonely”) and “delf ” (a “higher form” of self ). As such, Q-Tip’s def performance of encoded hip hop knowledge suggests that this art form is globally accessible and potentially empowering to everyone, but must be accessed through local knowledge and practice. This is the axiom of KoS that is reflected in the Rakim, Bey, and Kendrick lines above—and I want to proceed with my analysis of Irish hip hop with this axiom in mind.

As I have found in my ten years of fieldwork with hip hop communities across Europe and the United States, hip hop has spoken to countless subjects around the world. As Q-Tip suggests, it has resonated with these subjects because they are on the same quest, asking the same questions, and have generated a degree of KoS. If we are to believe him and other established hip hop artists, hip hop thus spreads not as a copy that is “adopted and adapted” to local concerns, but emerges as an always already constituent part of local knowledge and practice. In this way, hip hop’s global appeal and universal power are found through introspection and centered in/on local traditions and concerns, not taken on as an appropriative or assimilative act. As we conclude, I want to continue to take seriously these practitioners’ theorizations of hip hop, focusing on the ways that hip hop’s universal message is found through local knowledge and practice.

What follows is a whirlwind tour of hip hop’s encoded expressions of KoS in Ireland. Here I refer you to the “Conclusion” section of the Flip the Script: European Hip Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality website ( ) as we embark on this tour of the ways that Irish artists have located themselves in hip hop.


AmIrightoramIright?!  Thanks Mek!  Here’s that link again ill Irish-trad-meets-hip-hop performance

And here are the Tribe Called Quest, trad-tablism, and Lunitic examples I mention in the book.  See all the examples on the Conclusion page of the website.

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A Tribe Called Quest (excerpt starts at 0:58).




Buachaill Dána & Lunitic

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