The Dublin-based music collective that is redefining the Irish music landscape

Éamon Goonan

Softboy Records is the trailblazing Irish music collective that is changing the face of the Irish music scene. 

The collective features several musicians each making their unique individual contribution to the group’s artistic output, with prominent members including rappers Kojaque and Luka Palm, as well as singer and producer, Kean Kavanagh.

Kojaque, arguably the most eminent name among this talented squad, made his initial mark on the Irish music scene with his 2015 single ‘Midnight Flowers’. The song features poetic lyrics over a laid-back jazz-sampled instrumental, a combination that would prove seminal to his trademark sound.

The music video garnered hundreds of thousands of plays within a few days due to its shocking visuals, which involved Kojaque submerging his head underwater and rapping the song for its full duration of nearly three minutes.

In the Boiler Room produced ‘Softboy Forever’ mini-documentary, Kojaque proclaims that holding your breath underwater isn’t a matter of “lack of oxygen, but a build-up of carbon dioxide,” that can be overcome using mental technique. The stunt exemplifies Kojaque’s willingness to overcome physical and mental stress in order to provide quality art and establish himself in the music business.

Kojaque established himself as a filmmaker prior to pursuing his interest in hip-hop, and his talent for visual arts permeates his live shows, which provide stunning multimedia displays to match his sonic offerings.

Kojaque made a splash in 2018 with his choice award nominated debut studio album ‘Deli Daydreams’. The album narrates the life of a young male deli assistant, exhibiting an unflinching portrait of the working-class youth in Dublin. Songs such as ‘White Noise’ are the emotional culmination of the recession-era anxiety the members of Softboy Records grew up in.

While Irish hip-hop remains a young and exciting movement, it is important to recognise those who laid the initial foundations for the scene, such as Ireland’s bona-fide hip-hop export Rejjie Snow. Rejjie’s early work, as well as his latest album ‘Dear Annie’ features instrumentals rich in sampled jazz, which seem to have inspired Kojaque’s sound. On the other end of the Irish hip-hop spectrum is Versatile, a satirical Dublin duo that has recently attracted criticism for their controversial and disparaging lyrics. Softboy Records, as the name pertains, provides something more earnest; the honest and vulnerable soundtrack of youth culture in Ireland today.

Softboy Records are taking advantage of the new wave of support for contemporary hip-hop. In recent times we have observed media facets such as District magazine and hip-hop centric festivals such as Longitude facilitate the surge of interest in the genre. The music collective has worked their way up from grassroots specialist music blogs, to a new Boiler Room mini-documentary which observes their rise to prominence. Softboy Records are the product of the post-genre musical landscape artists find themselves navigating today; a Brockhampton-esque group of friends working together to do something legitimate within the new parameters of the music business.

‘Green Diesel’ is the latest release from Softboy Records. The album, which dropped on the September 6th, 2019, features rappers Luke Palm and Kojaque straddle 808-centric bangers such as ‘Airbnb’ as well as smoother, R&B flavoured cuts like ‘Paris, Texas’. With tracks produced by Softboy Records members such as New Machine, Kean Kavanagh and Matt Finnegan, ‘Green Diesel’ provides a platform for the more obscure members of the collective. One member in particular who stands out on Green Diesel is Luka Palm, whose indefatigable stage presence compliments that of Kojaque’s.

The duo is currently playing a support slot on Slowthai’s European tour, and with a nationwide tour under their belt already, it’s safe to say that Softboy season is well and truly underway.

Éamon Goonan

Image Credit: Softboy Records Facebook