When John the DJ met God the rapper
Shannon rapper God Knows Jonas and Clare producer and DJ mynameisjOhn have come up with a cracker of an album – and there’s more to come from their wider musical collective
Aisle communication: mynameisjOhn and God Knows Jonas
John Lillis is sitting on the right-hand side of a sofa upstairs in the Stormy Teacup café in Limerick. A producer and DJ who goes by the name of mynameisjOhn, the Clareman has been making and releasing dynamic EPs for a couple of years. He’s also been involved in a rake of interesting musical happenings over the past decade in the west and southwest, from the Community Skratch collective to Ennis Street Festival.
God Knows Jonas is on the left-hand side of the same sofa, drinking tea and eating a massive slab of cake. Born in Zimbabwe and reared in Shannon, Jonas is the rapper with the all-knowing eye and the flow to turn observations into sharp lines.
Together, Lillis and Jonas have come up with a humdinger of an album in Rusango/Family. Full of energy, vigour, excitement, innovation and lyrical realism, it’s an album with the kind of width and depth rarely experienced in music around these parts. You certainly never get it with such a head-rush of sounds and excitement.
While there may be just two names on the album cover, there are appearances also from Shannon rapper MuRli, guitarist Steve Ryan from Windings and Guide. Indeed, as we’ll discover, Lillis and Jonas are part of a mob of talents.
The God Knows and mynameisjOhn collaboration began through work Lillis was doing as a music project manager with the Clare Youth Service. “I was doing workshops and I booked God Knows for gigs because he was the only act in Clare at that time who was doing anything remotely interesting in hip-hop,” says Lillis.
“I’d been writing for a long time, but when did I get good is the question,” says Jonas about his days as a tyro in the game.
Back then, he listened to stations such as Rinse FM, BBC One Xtra and Hot 97 to build up his knowledge. There was already music in his family background. “My uncle, Lenin Chingaira, was in a group called Slice who were huge in the 1980s in Zimbabwe and I would have seen him on the television. For me, that was inspirational because he was my uncle and came to my house regularly and drank tea with us.
“After I came to Shannon in 1999, when my father got a job here, I was working out how I could make music myself. I was lucky because it was around the time of the technological shift when the technology to do so was being put into our hands.”
Lillis says it began as a friendship. “We were basically feeding each other information on music and life back and forth for a while. I knew for a while that I wanted to work with an MC but I wanted to stay away from the Irish hip-hop scenario because I wasn’t looking for a rapper. I didn’t think that would be reflective of where my head was at or what the live shows would be like.”