A music blog from Ireland.
Last Friday in Twisted Pepper, Temper-Mental Miss Elayneous launched her EP Proletarian Restitution to a packed crowd in the Loft venue. Having seen a couple of videos circulating that left me unimpressed despite recognising a promising streak in her vocal delivery, I figured a live gig was the only way to tell whether or not I liked her fiery brand of hip hop. It was a last-minute decision on my part to go along and check out the show: a decision that cost €15 just to get in the door because I hadn’t realised that !Kaboogie’s sixth birthday celebrations were taking place. Accustomed to paying €5-€10 admission to Irish artists’ gigs, it’s a sign of some satisfaction that at the end of the night, I didn’t feel short-changed by this surprise. And it was definitely a bonus to hear sets from Lakker and Replete, along with an unexpected addition of the UK’s Ms Dynamite.
Had Miss Elayneous performed badly, the story would of course have been quite different, especially as there was an excellent free gig with various artists including Katie Kim going on over at the Mercantile. However, Elayne Harrington is an assertive, engaging performer with the essential confidence rapping requires, and gifted with intelligent, searing lyrics, she has the potential to do very well. The cadence of her (local) vocal is particularly pleasant and while I personally don’t think it should matter, being an attractive young woman is not going to do her any harm on the music circuit.
Accompanied by (the fantastically-named) Barry Krishna on the decks at the gig, a studio sidekick who also handled the mastering process, it must be said that beats accompanying her rhymes are underwhelming for the most part, although live Contra-Diction sounded excellent, especially when The Cure sample dropped. On the EP, her vocals seem too low in the mix to follow easily, which doesn’t help when faced with the hurdles I’ve yet to mention. The title track of Proletarian Restitution deserves the significant placement with a fine piano leitmotif that leads to fleeting, rowdy DnB sections. Neither offensively bland or bad, the musical side of things isn’t up to scratch with the production standards apparent elsewhere in the country. And at €5 (digital or CD) for two full-length tracks (Dominos is free to download and the a capella Undoubtedly clocks in under a minute), it’s an overpriced first offering from the TMM, a profiteering move which stands at odds against the ethos delivering the product to our ears.
Female MCs have been heard on the Irish circuit before; Ophelia comes to mind immediately, an immensely gifted, ascerbic rapper who looks set to return to the live circuit this year, while newcomer Lucci Minx lands bang in the centre of what we may have come to expect from a mainstream MC, as a standard ‘street’ performer, polished and pretty but lacking in depth. Overall the number of women entering into hip hop with serious intentions has been low. When battle masters DFI announced a new event in Dublin for 3 March, I asked if there were any females taking to the stage. The answer was disappointing: they said that there “doesn’t seem to be any girls looking to battle right now…a lack of female MCs in general [is] the problem. Shame really cos there’s some good ones out there”.
So new blood is needed but has she got what it takes to go the distance and really make an impact? Unfortunately, I don’t think she’s quite perfected her act yet. The main reason being the verbosity which weakens her raps, causing them to suffer for too much wordplay, being rendered abstract from overemphasis of her intelligence. Names really matter in hip hop and here she seems to have fallen at the first fence with the stagename ‘Temper-Mental Miss Elayneous’. Awkward and incongruous, ‘temperamental miscellaneous’ doesn’t make any sense. Neither does ‘Waka Flocka Flame’ but that handle does at least serve an onomatopoeic purpose. So unless shortened to one, Temper-Mental, or the other, Miss Elayneous, it’s a name that deserves to be relegated to the rappers’ hall of shame. It may seem petty to pick on the name but I think it put me off from the first mention: if names and titles jostle awkwardly at first glance, it’s surely fair to say that the material ahead will be subjected to further modulation.
Keeping things clean and concise is important when there are loaded messages buried in the bars. As you may have gathered from the title Proletarian Restitution (which means payback for the working class but unfortunately sounds out in my head as ‘roleplaying prostitution’), Miss Elayneous ain’t spitting rhymes about sweet rides, bad boys and high times. Her accent is pure Dublin, sounding out with the distinctive Fingal intonation of rolling Rs and chopped Ts but her conviction seems flavoured more by the Marxist politics of the east, crossed with strains of punk attitude. Declaring in the freestyle clip that her people are considered “scumbags” who miss out on opportunities afforded to more privileged communities, she takes a hardline stance, lashing out against the bigwigs and fatcats who prospered at the expense of taxpayers. Watching live, she made no attempt to mask the frustration and disgust she obviously feels as a disillusioned member of today’s society, and her lip often curled in contempt as exasperation spilled out into the mic. It’s commendable that she’s seeking to motivate those within reach and rally a response that can be used to fire up the masses but Irish people have proved to be disappointingly slow in the uptake on such matters and for as long as her work weighs more than a thesaurus, she’s fighting a losing battle. Less is more, and carefully-considered, succinct points score higher and hit harder than lengthy verses that act as a foil for intelligence. While fellow northsider Lethal Dialect is leaping the social divide with strategically-placed signifiers, revealing narratives and engrossing insights into the mind of a supposedly disadvantaged young person, Miss Elayneous still has some fine-tuning before she can rise above the parapet to face the flood head-on.