If you have recently found yourself decrying the lack of socially conscious, reggae tinged, punk inspired rap metal on the local scene, have no fear. Given the diminishing returns of Marvel’s super team the Avengers in the summer, a new group of masked crusaders has arrived, aiming to keep Northern Ireland safe from corrupt business, bigoted politicians and boring dad rock: enter Bunny and the Banned Its, whose new EP BATBI Begins sees them unleash their sick rhymes and slick funk on the masses.
BATBI are fronted by grass enthusiast and bad ass MC Bunny Martinez, and opening track ‘Remember The Name’ serves as a sort of origin story, detailing Bunny’s rise up from obscurity in the mean streets of the Moy, County Tyrone, to follow his love of hip hop in spite of calls to get ‘back on the tractor’. The track builds over an epic, almost seven minute running time from a quiet, keyboard- based intro that continues to add layers of percussion and guitar until the last minute and a half give way to the song’s massive chorus (Irish hip hop, ain’t talking House of Pain/ Talking clever rhymes engaging your brain), joined by call and response vocals from the other Banned Its and finding time for a searing guitar solo on the song’s outro. A perfect opening number on the EP and it’s arena-sized theatrics will be a huge addition to the band’s live set.
Next up is ‘Open Your Eyes’, a reggae flavoured call to arms that rails against the lies that are fed to us by multinational corporations and the mainstream media the world over. Initially it sounds like The Police fronted by Chuck D, but finds room for jazzy saxophone licks between verses before the song’s punky crescendo, with the whole band joining in for the gang-like call of ‘Open Your Eyes!’ in response to Bunny’s furious flow. The chaotic punk nature along with the song’s adventurous fusion of styles and championing of the exploited recalls the finest work of Joe Strummer, containing all the genius elements that made the Clash the only band that mattered, and follows confidently in the punk legend’s footsteps.
The superbly titled ‘Super Smash Foes’ follows, in which Bunny calls out shallow nature of today’s mainstream hip hop culture over a furious funk-metal rhythm. Easily the hardest rocking song on the EP, it features superb drumming and spectacular guitar pyrotechnics that recalls the hard rocking and yet goofily fun sound of the mid 80s Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Closing things off is single ‘Motherfuckers’, a hilarious diatribe again the casual sectarianism, racism and other forms of ignorance that are a constant bugbear in both Northern Ireland and the wider world. Bunny affects a heavy Belfast accent in the verses where he spits out a selection of everyday lies (‘It’s the huns, the huns beating their fucking drums/ It’s the taigs, the taigs taking our fucking fleg’) before erupting into the Rage Against the Machine style chorus ‘You motherfucker’s full of shit’. In a year where Kendrick Lamar’s state of the nation address To Pimp A Butterfly has sent shockwaves through the rap world, BATBI have produced a hilariously funny yet painfully true companion piece with Motherfuckers, a message to search for the real truths and defy the bullshit.
All in all a shockingly confident, funky foursome from a band surely destined for greater things. No doubt comparisons will be made with fellow masked Irish hip-hop heroes The Rubberbandits (with whom they recently shared a Belfast date), but BATBI’s more overtly political tunes recall Public Enemy as much as the bawdy humour of the Beasty Boys. Believe the hype.
◀ STANDOUT ⁞ Motherfuckers ▶
◀ SOUNDS LIKE ⁞ Rage Against the Machine | The Rubberbandits ▶