Kojaque may be a member of the ‘Soft Boy Records’ collective, but he’s on a mission to get people angry with his music.
The rapper, who was born Kevin Smith in Dublin, Ireland, pulls zero punches when it comes to his wordplay. Covering issues such as repealing the 8th Movement, gentrification in Dublin and male masculinity, Kojaque’s introspective and incisive lyrics are unapologetically Irish in every single syllable.
Kojaque’s rise and backstory has previously been chartered by Boiler Room, a platform that first broadcast the Soft Boy Records crew and wider Irish hip-hop scene back in 2019. Fast forward two years and primed with plenty of new material – including a new album due out in the summer – the world will be watching as the rapper readies himself for the Jameson Connects Jessie Reyez + Friends global livestream on one of the biggest days of the year for any Irishman: St. Patrick’s Day, on March 17.
If you’re still sleeping on the Irish rap scene, Kojaque’s on a blistering mission to make you wake up bolt upright with his style and flow. Having shelled down at slowthai’s European tour and at Glastonbury, SXSW and Pitchfork Music Festival Paris, Kojaque can’t wait to get back amongst it in 2021. Clearly excited about the prospect of performing more high-octane, sell-out gigs to crowds once again, performing on the livestream, for Kojaque, is the “next best thing” he can do in the current climate to bring in the festivities of a day celebrated all over the world.
Ahead of Jameson’s St Patrick’s Day celebration, we caught up with Kojaque to talk about overcoming self-doubt and fears to become one of the most exciting artists out of his country, putting Irish rap on the map and getting people charged-up with his as-yet-untitled new album.
Kojaque will be appearing on the Jameson Connects Jessie Reyez + Friends global livestream on March 17. Sign up for free on the Jameson Connects website.
“The situation we’re living in now is man-made. People can change it—it’s just getting them charged up through the music that I want to do.”
COMPLEX: Hey, Kojaque. It’s great to be speaking with you today. Take us back to your first memories of making music—when did you realise it was something you wanted to do full-time?
Kojaque: I’ve been doing music since I was a kid. Me mam was putting us on to it from the age of 5 or 6, whether it was playing the piano or picking up a guitar, or drums… I was doing a bit of everything from an early age. But it took me until I was 18 or 19 when I actually wrote something that I thought was good enough to show other people. In a mainstream sense, there’s not many people rapping in an Irish accent on a global scale, so it was bit nerve-wracking. But once I got into it and shedded that fear of being judged and grew my self-confidence, and just let go, I decided: “Fuck it!”
So music for you was never about getting approval or affirmation from others, more so wanting to put something out into the world that came from an honest place?
Yeah, absolutely. Once you start caring about what other people think, in terms of music, I don’t think that’s very true. But the minute you start doing for yourself, people’s opinions fall away and they’re not as important.
How much did art school shape your approach and aesthetic when it came to penning bars and becoming an artist?
The music I always did on the side—in terms of influence—it just improved my eye for aesthetics. It gave me more of an idea of how I wanted to present myself to the world. It was really good for the philosophy behind art. I don’t think it’s good if you’re solely focused on the midst of “I want to do music for a living” all the time; it was sick for me to do something in a different lane and expand my understanding of things there. It was a good way of learning more holistically for me.