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Kojaque in Vicar Street: Flawless performance as the Dubliner shows his talent and ambition

The Cabra rapper’s dresses himself up as deli-worker, devil, or dodgy Dáil-adjacent wheeler-dealer and shows his work full of complexities

Kojaque performing on stage at Vicar Street, Dublin. Photo: Tom Honan


Vicar Street

Kojaque, the Cabra rapper, producer, musician and artist with a broad vision, honed lyrical sharpness, and a vast creative palate, is back home, commandeering the first of two nights at Vicar Street in the midst of an Irish and UK tour. He comes bearing his third major musical project, the album Phantom of the Afters, which follows the radical hip hop landmark, Deli Daydreams, and the furiously energetic Town’s Dead. For Phantom, he invents Jackie Dandelion who lies somewhere between a grubby politician and a crooked capitalist. So, is Kojaque the phantom? Is Jackie the phantom? Or is Ireland itself a phantom, the place, past, and society stalking the London immigrant from afar? Located to the side of this character is the “real” Kojaque, Kevin Smith, who on Phantom liberates himself so thoroughly that one track dissolves into an emotional breakdown.

Preceding him is Monjola, a charming Dublin artist who clearly has potential hits ready to roll.

And then Jackie Dandelion appears, on the venue balcony, lit in jaundice yellow, gold-capped tooth glistening. Then he’s on stage, silhouetted, before Jackie’s suit and tie is dispensed with, and Kojaque is in raw form with Shmelly.

Prolonged cheers precede Johnny McEnroe, with its brilliant bounce. This is a big night for Kojaque, and despite the sparseness of the stage, with Kean Kavanagh for company, there’s something correct about Kojaque striking a lone figure, as he traverses the stage embracing the space minimalism offers.


Kojaque: ‘I’ve never felt more Irish than when I moved to London. I felt positively f**king Fenian’Opens in new window ]

Kojaque's work is full of complexity and heart. Photograph: Tom Honan

Eviction Notice re-emerges a true classic with a beautiful vocal from Kavanagh. Live, the latter half of Fat Ronaldo / Covent Garden creates a rhyme through time with White Noise. After it, Kojaque is unable to restart the gig due to the applause in the room.

Kojaque performs as various characters throughout night. Photograph: Tom Honan

The brilliant Cabra Drive raises the energy. Luka Palm bursts on to the stage. The crowd chants “Jackie took the soup” – the emigrant’s mantra that opens his latest record. White Noise cuts through the collective sweat as the crowd maintains a stunning silence. Town’s Dead rips the place apart, a good deal of it performed shirt off, on his back, held aloft by the crowd. And then, one of the songs of the year, Heaven Shouldn’t Have You. If you have yet to hear it, listen now.

However Kojaque dresses himself up – deli-worker, devil, or dodgy Dáil-adjacent wheeler-dealer – he is a gargantuan talent, his work full of complexities and heart. Tonight, his boldness and ambition glows with tenderness and strength. He doesn’t put a foot wrong. Flawless.

Kojaque. Photograph: Tom Honan
Kojaque on stage at Vicar Street. Photograph: Tom Honan
Kojaque. Photograph: Tom Honan
Kojaque. Photograph: Tom Honan
Kojaque. Photograph: Tom Honan
Una Mullally

Una Mullally

Una Mullally, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes a weekly opinion column