Kojaque review: A year after ‘Deli Daydreams’, he’s still in control

The Dublin rapper thinks about performance beyond the microphone in his hand

Kojaque: the musician and film-maker encapsulates the multifaceted creativity that is giving both the music industry and fans whiplash

Kojaque: the musician and film-maker encapsulates the multifaceted creativity that is giving both the music industry and fans whiplash

 

KOJAQUE

Whelan’s, Dublin
Last Tuesday night Phil Taggart was filling in for Annie Mac on Future Sounds, on BBC Radio 1. After playing Big by Fontaines DC, with its refrain of “My childhood was small, but I’m gonna be big,” Taggart turned his attention to its provenance. “Man, there’s something happening in Ireland at the minute, and it’s just amazing to see.”

Taggart was talking about the vibrancy of Irish punk bands, but he could have as easily been referring to Irish music as a whole, as a dozen tracks later, via a Krystal Klear remix of Jungle’s Beat 54, he premiered a new Kojaque song, Flu Shot. “Sick of playing for beans, sick of paying for clothes, so I made a couple of T-shirts and sold them off at the shows,” Kojaque raps. “Sick of being so humble, sick of being the best, I’m sick of being a beacon. I’m burning up in the stress.”

Over the past year the Dublin musician, film-maker and Soft Boy Records cofounder has come to encapsulate the type of multifaceted creativity that is giving both the music industry and fans whiplash.

His gig at Whelan’s on Wexford Street on Saturday night is to mark the first anniversary of Deli Daydreams, an eight-track project that stands out as the best Irish release of 2018.

Kojaque’s set begins with an almost unneeded building of anticipation, as the drummer Finn Mac Anna triggers spoken samples. Kojaque arrives bundled up in a jacket and cap, blasting through White Noise, a goosebump-inducing spoken-word track. As he sheds his outerwear to reveal the now-familiar white Deli Daydreams uniform, the night takes off.

Everything works: sedate meditations, jazz freak-outs, the crowd hearing Flu Shot, with its tiki-bar jauntiness, for the first time, Oisín Murtagh’s brilliant saxophone playing on Bubby’s Cream, the singalong of Eviction Notice. It’s the quality of that record and Kojaque’s artistic vision that hold everything together.

A short while into the gig he decides to turn on the projection screen above the stage, so everyone can see. He didn’t initially want it on, because he felt it would distract from the show. This is someone who is thinking about performance beyond the microphone in his hand. How can someone who is ostensibly just starting out demonstrate such presence and control?

A massive cheer goes up for another rapper on the Soft Boy roster, Luka Palm, whose bullish, insistent stage presence compliments Kojaque’s so well. Their collaboration on Politicksis is one of the moments of the night. Then Date Night provides another one.

Coming back for his encore with roses to distribute among his fans, Kojaque ends the show aloft in the crowd, wrestling his T-shirt off, legs flying.Whether or not he wins the Choice Music Prize next month, this young man and his Soft Boy friends can reflect on a remarkable year as they fly to the United States for SXSW, where bigger audiences await.

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