Hip-hop duo Tebi Rex’s new album ‘It’s Gonna Be Okay’ is the culmination of a long and complex road for Kildare natives Matt O’Baoill and Max Zanga, one that started in a deeply buried Irish scene that has transformed in the intervening years.
The pair, a strong part of healthy hip-hop collaboration Word Up Collective, have spent the early parts of this year putting the finishing touches to the record, and then bringing its pointed message to international audiences. Whilst still barred from gigs at home, they’ve starred virtually at Dutch newcomer festival Eurosonic and American industry giant SxSW.
“It’s mad to think how recently things were really underground,” Matt O’Baoill tells us of the early days of the band and the changes that followed. “We used to have to pretend we weren’t a hip-hop group to get a gig. And we’d go to slam poetry sessions with our guitar and say it was a gig.”
“I think there was a view that hip-hop was a US or UK idea, and that the Irish idea of music was a couple of white guys and a guitar, or a pretty girl lamenting something. We didn’t have many rappers, and the ones we did have were like MCs from Dublin talking about poverty, a lot of it quite grim and not very palatable to people outside of their scenario. Fast forward five, six, seven years and there’s hip-hop acts everywhere. It makes things a lot easier, and makes the scene a lot less threatening.”
The new album, out now, is divided into ‘chapters’ as opposed to songs, a nod to the storytelling side of the band.
“We’re kind of storytellers posing as musicians, ” O’Baoill says. “The last album was in ‘acts’, and this time it’s in chapters so we can have a lineage and a storyline going through it. We want people to see it as a story.”