Northern Ireland and Hip-Hop could hardly be called happy bedfellows in recent years. The genre has been dominating our air waves but it has struggled to find it’s place in the local gigging scene. However as we head towards NI’s biggest festival (Tennent’s Vital), Strabane Rapper Gerard i2 sets his sights on smashing the stigma towards Irish Rap as he prepares to open the Main Stage on Day 2 of the Festival. We caught up with him to chat about winning his opportunity to play the festival, his Debut album and more.
► Having recently won the Tennents Untapped competition along with Lurgan band ‘Trucker Diablo, you have been selected (against fierce opponents) to perform at T-Vital 2012 in Belfast, to support the likes of Florence and the Machine and The Stone Roses, how do you feel?
Gerard: Its honestly the best possible thing I could ever ask for. I entered the untapped competition thinking “why not”, but I never even expected to get into the finals never mind go on and win! Especially against the acts in the final 16, everyone was amazing. Chances like this come along once in a lifetime and I’m extremely honoured to play the Vital stage. Its scary and amazing at the same time, I can’t wait to get up there.
► As a hip-hop artist in Northern Ireland, do you feel the current music scene supports Hip-Hop artists such as yourself, or do you feel that more could be done to achieve maximum exposure for the talent we have here?
I think more could always be done to support what we have here and more exposure would be the main thing. There are many hip hop acts around and the talent is there but its still very unknown and unheard of. Any time I go and play to a new audience most people say its the first time they’ve heard irish hip hop. Saying that, the support I’ve received is unbelievable so the support for this music is definitely there.
► You have a terrific album out at the moment, ‘What I Like and Love’ for free download on your bandcamp page. How has the record been received by your listeners so far?
Seems to be very good! I put it up as a free download hoping it would get to a wider audience and its gotten a few hundred downloads so far and its still getting more every week. I wasn’t sure how it would be received as it was more laid back and very different to my first album but thankfully its going down well, a lot of people appreciate the use of samples and how the overall quality of the music has improved.
► Where was this record produced? How did you find the process, do you prefer studio work or live performances?
I produced and recorded all the tracks myself in my home studio. Really enjoyed doing this album because I focused on making the kind of music I like and not what I thought everyone wanted to hear, hence the name ‘What I Like and Love’. It also taught me a lot production wise. I love both studio work and live performance, studio works amazing because of the technical side of it and the feeling you get when a track starts to come together, also taking a sample and flippin it into something completely different is brilliant, but, you can’t beat the live shows, especially now I have Chris Patton along with me on the drums, makes the live show 10 times better, no better feeling than when you get a crowd bouncin!
► Have you any plans for a follow-up release to this album? Having amassed over 1000 fans on your facebook page, we’re sure your fans are hungry for new material!
I’ve been working on the next album for a while now but I’m still at the early stages of it yet. Experimenting with a few different genres on this aswell and trying to incorporate more of a live feel to it so I’ve been taking my time to make sure I’m 100% happy with each track and make sure although I’m playing with other genres I still keep my own sound on it if that makes sense?haha. In the meantime though ill be putting out a short e.p. And maybe a mixtape very soon.
► Who would you regard as your biggest influences and how do you feel they have shaped you as an artist?
I listen to loads of different styles of music from old school and new hip hop, motown, soul, rock, electronic and dance, dubstep and even classical, I take my influence from bits and pieces of each genre. Some of my main musical influences would be A Tribe Called Quest, Kanye West, Mos def, Chase n’ Status, Skrillex, Daft Punk and The Temptations to name a few. They all influence my productions, I love the sampling style of old school hip hop and using that style in electronic and dance music aswell as rap, so most of my music has some sort of sampling in there, be it from other songs or making my own new songs and sampling them. The influence for the lyrics comes from the people and characters around me and everyday life and experiences.
► You have been making music for the last few years, and the progression is clearly evident in your latest success! What would be your top three pieces of advice for artists attempting to kick-start their musical journey?
Firstly I’d say practice practice practice, make sure you have everything perfect and doing the best you possibly can, nothing worse than playing a gig where you haven’t practised for it and you make stupid wee mistakes that you know are your own fault. Secondly play as many gigs as possible, I’ve played loads of strange gigs with barely anyone there that seemed pointless at the time but later on someone at them small gigs saw me and booked me in for bigger gigs, you never know who’s there. Thirdly is trying to get to know the right people that are into your style of music, knowing who to send your music to will save a lot of time and effort, also get to know other acts and bands at gigs, doing gig swaps makes it much easier to get playing in different areas and every gig counts.
► To someone who has never heard your album or seen you perform live, how would you describe your music?
That’s very hard to answer as I make many differents style of music but I’d say a very different, mixture of up beat hip hop to old school style mellow tunes with plenty of aggression, with something in there to suit everyone!’
Gerard i2’s Album “What I Like and Love” is available to download for £free @ his Bandcamp
Facebook ► /gerardi2official Twitter ► @gerardi2