There’s an unfortunate opinion that’s far to common on the hip-hop scene that rap is only acceptable if it’s delivered in an American or London accent. This is ridiculously stupid and those that live by this are only really hurting themselves ultimately because there are so many awesomely talented MCs who have accents other than this that are putting out some of the highest grade hip-hop around at the moment. Fortunately, the age of youtube and bandcamp has made it more possible for artists to put out what they want to and for us, as listeners, to change what we hear out there, and there have been many hip-hop artists that have embraced this opportunity. One such artist is Glasgow’s ‘Ciaran Mac’ who recently released debut EP ‘Took Your Time’ via bandcamp. Ciaran made his debut at a secret council estate party in Glasgow in 2013 and has steadily been building his name on the Scottish hip-hop scene with various festival appearances and gigs.
The EP opens with ‘Arrogance’, a track that’s the audio equivalent of a punch in the face, in a good way, it leaves it’s imporession. There’s no messing about, Ciaran’s flow goes straight in fast and furious to the point where you’re left wondering how he managed to breathe. The beat sits perfectly under the vocal with the two wrapping around each other flawlessly.
Track 2 ‘Go With It’ is one of the best tracks on the record. The beat is simple but effective, starting with the kind of beautifully reflective string arrangement you could expect to hear in a Michael Kamen score, which is then accompanied by a shuffling beat and more high-grade delivery on the vocal. Ciaran’s wordplay is seriously special, there’s tongue-in-cheek moments, which are delivered simultaneously to down-to-earth lyrics and harsh realities creating an interesting and engaging juxtaposition.
Track 3 ‘Advice’ starts ominously with strings and synths which are then joined by a drum-machine beat, reminiscent of 80s hip-hop. This old-skool vibe in the drum pattern fits perfectly as when Ciaran comes in with his vocal he’s delivering lines advising his peers of mistakes they could make that would negatively affect their lives, the kind of message that old-skool hip-hop often used to be a vehicle for. The subject matter and the lines delivered belie the MC’s age of just 21 and the honesty in the lyrics add an element of relatability that isn’t often present in modern rap.
‘Good Evening’ follows as track 4 and is instantly different to the previous track, with a rag-time sampling beat and much more light-hearted lyrics including the genius ‘They say you can’t stop time I have, but / just to prove a point I get my fucking watch smashed up’. The delivery is again on top form, with Ciaran employing some expert timing that makes it hard to believe this is his debut.
Track 5 ‘Repetitive Beats’ put us back in a more serious tone with some more genius wordplay and Ciaran demonstrating that he can deliver a great hook. His Glasgow accent means that this track is probably the only time you’ll hear the words ‘house’ and ‘youths’ rhyme.
Light-hearted ‘Wind Yer Neck In’ follows as track 6 and will probably have you nodding along with the smooth beat after a few bars. Definitely another highlight of the EP this track probably best demonstrate Ciarans ability and talent for tongue-in-cheek lines and metaphors, this is the kind of wordplay that brings a grin to your face and the rhythms created by the flow are gold-standard and innovative.
The EP closes with ‘Alone In A Crowd’, a brilliant track that makes great use of sampling and has a heavy beat that powers away along with the vocal line to create hip-hop gold.
This is an amazing record, and when you consider that it’s Ciaran Mac’s debut, it becomes even more amazing. In a similar way to how Nas’ ground-breaking debut ‘Illmatic’ created an audio soundscape that gave insight into New York life, this record does that for Glasgow, giving the listener a perfect sample of real-life grit, truth and social consciousness but retaining an element of fun at the same time, just how hip-hop should be. The production throughout the EP (Bunty Beats, Sound Thief, Disco, Konchis, Cab Beats and Scatabrainz) has been handled masterfully, the producers have succeeded in bringing out the best in the MC and have created some breathtaking beats in the process, production by Sound Thief on ‘Go With It’ being a prime example. All the tracks have been kept short, the longest is 03:19. This is wise as the quality is so high each track invariably leaves you wanting more, a great place to be. Ciaran Mac has proved anyone who doubts rap with an accent other than London or American wrong and this record should see him propelled from the Glasgow scene were he has made his name, to the UK scene as a whole where he has the potential to be a big player. Highly recommended, the best hip-hop record I’ve heard so far this year.
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