Amid the rapid rise of Irish hip-hop in recent years, Galway has sometimes seemed a bit like a missing link next to the growing scenes in Dublin, Cork, and particularly in Limerick.
Why that is isn’t entirely clear, but the west-coast city does have its own burgeoning scene, with rappers like Saul Blake keen to play up the accented style that gives them a unique feel west of the Shannon. Blake had been quiet for several years, working away behind the scenes, but recently returned with ‘Empty Homes’, a punchy political track about Galway and Ireland’s troubles with homelessness.
I asked him all about it…
At the risk of getting you to explain the obvious, tell me how you feel about the homelessness crisis in Ireland…
The Homeless crisis in Ireland is honestly a disgrace. I see it as a completely resolvable problem, and I feel like the people in power should be ashamed for taking so long to take any real action and for renting out properties at mad rates for their gain.
What made you decide to write a track about it?
Early last winter, just before Christmas, I was walking around Galway city. I have lived in Galway for most of my life and spent a lot of time walking the city’s streets, I’d never seen so many people sleeping rough. Tents were scattered around the pathways where the luckier people slept, others barely had a sleeping bag.
I was freezing walking around in a jacket and I couldn’t even imagine how hard it must be to have to sleep out in that cold and rain, not to mention how unsafe they must have felt knowing how Galway’s nightlife can get pretty wild. It made me sad at first but then I just got angry that things were able to get so bad and began to work on ‘Empty Homes’.
Can you tell me a little about your background, musically speaking?
I started playing the guitar and writing lyrics as a young teenager, starting up a few bands with mates, mostly kinda rocky stuff. I’ve always loved music but Hip Hop wasn’t a thing in my house growing up, it wasn’t till I was 17 that I started listening to it, and within a month I’d say I started rapping (I sucked) but I kept going and along the way ran into the lads from the red-eyed rollers (Mark and Merlyn).
To be honest they both taught me a lot and I wouldn’t be anywhere if it wasn’t for them (especially Merlyn) somewhere along with the way we became a duo (me and Merlyn (dynamoslugz)) known as the Rap Scallions. Some of the best days of my life were making music with dynamoslugz but we went our separate ways and I started finding myself as a solo artist.
How do Rap Scallions impact on what you’re doing now?
If it wasn’t for that time with the Rap Scallions I don’t think I’d be anywhere as an artist, to be honest. That time both gave me a medium to work on my craft and I think it gave me the love for it. It definitely helped make me driven!
You took a big chunk of time away from music recently. Did it feel different coming back?
For me, I didn’t take time away as much went off for some “alone time” with music. I learned to approach my writing in a different way during those few years. But coming back on the scene was definitely different. It feels so much more serious than it did, less like a hobby, more like a job I’ve been waiting for my whole life!
While hip-hop is going through a real moment in Ireland, it doesn’t seem to be particularly big in Galway What can you tell me about the scene?
Right now it’s tough to say with the lack of gigs available, but there is some definite talent here and Galway hip hop will be catching up with limerick and Dublin very soon. 😉 I think Galway’s accent is so suited to feel good rap as well, we sound smooth as fuck!
What’s the story with Gravity Verse – is there a bigger picture plan there?
Gravity verse was awesome craic, my partner Amy and brother Luke were great to work with I still work with them a lot, but, Gravity verse was a collective working with multiple artists and right now I’m focusing on my projects so much I don’t have time, but maybe in the future, who knows.
Have you had a chance to spend any of the shutdown on your music
Yes! As bad as things are it’s given me a lot of time to work on projects. I’ve managed to finish writing my album and network with lots of awesome people I’m going to be working with. Right now I just want to be able to gig again though, haha.
What are your hopes for the future?
I just hope people like my music and if I’m really lucky it will speak to a few of them. I have plans for multiple releases over the coming months and hopefully get to play some shows soon. Hopefully, play a few festivals when they are back on too and make lots more music.