Aidan Crilly explores an exciting Dublin label
Despite gaining some traction over recent years, for the most part Irish hip-hop remains a relatively underground genre. Soft Boy Records is one of the leading Dublin-based independent labels providing a platform to elevate local hip-hop artists, as well as hosting its own events and radio shows.
The label was founded in 2015 by Kean Kavanagh and Kevin Smith (Kojaque). The two first met while working in the Gaeltacht in Galway, and their mutual love for hip-hop, soul, and jazz resulted in a strong friendship and musical partnership. Since then Soft Boy has grown in size and reputation, now hosting a sonically eclectic roster of acts including Gaptoof, Henry Earnest, Matt Finnegan, Peter Brien, Five to Two, as well as the two founders.
Kojaque has emerged as Soft Boy’s most prominent artist. One of the label’s early successes came in 2015 with the striking music video for ‘Midnight Flower,’ which features Kojaque rapping the song with his head submerged in a tank of water. Kojaque claims that this was inspired by watching a tadpole drown in air, while being held over a mug of water, “I wanted to know what that would feel like to be a tadpole sized human held over a mug of air,” he told District Magazine. ‘Midnight Flower’ quickly went viral, and was featured on websites like Vice and Joe.ie.
Kojaque’s festival performances, particularly at Electric Picnic, have gathered him, and Soft Boy, further recognition. In 2016, he was described by the Irish Times as “pure fire,” and the same paper awarded him four stars for this year’s set. In September, the Rubberbandits announced that “talented bastard Kojaque” would be supporting them for their Vicar Street show.
The influential Nialler9 has shown plenty of support for Soft Boy, having featured Kojaque’s ‘Wificode,’ producer Henry Earnest’s ‘Good Day,’ and the label’s compilation tape, Soft World, on his website. Recent releases from the label include ‘Latinvader’ from jazz outfit Five to Two, and ‘Can I Lie With U’ from Belfast producer Peter Brien. The first release from his Tandem EP will be dropping in December.
Soft Boy works tirelessly to promote home-grown hip hop, collaborating with District Magazine and the RnB Club to host events. Recently these have included ‘Soft Sundaes’ in the Bernard Shaw, and a sold-out night at Yamamori Tengu on 20th October.
With Irish hip-hop becoming increasingly popular, there is certainly a lot of room for this independent record label to grow. With more events and more music coming, the Soft Boys are a crowd to which we should pay close attention.