- 04 Jul 19
Ahead of his Longitude appearance, Dublin rapper JyellowL reflects on his journey so far.
Armed with a fiery flow, socially conscious lyrics and a refusal to be boxed into any subgenre, JyellowL has spent the last two years proving himself as one of the most authentic young voices in the Irish hip-hop boom.
He returns to the Longitude stage fresh from a stellar set at Body & Soul, where he enthralled the crowd with a string of fan favourites from 2018’s excellent EP, Me n Me Too. His latest single ‘Tek Time’ – a fearless track that’s just as incendiary as the firearm in its title – takes aim at façades and the fickleness of fame.
“I’ve seen people in the industry adopting personas, and that’s something I’ve always been against,” he says. “People can lose themselves in success. And if fame is easily achieved it’s even less predictable – it can go as quick as it comes.”
Born in Nigeria to Nigerian and Jamaican parents, JyellowL, or Jean-Luc Uddoh, has called Ireland home since he was a young teenager. It wasn’t long after his family arrived in Dublin that his brother introduced him to the city’s burgeoning underground hip-hop scene.
“By the time I got serious about music, I was doing my Leaving Cert,” he recalls. “My mum paid for me to go to the Institute of Education, and studying was supposed to be my main focus. So, as you can imagine, she wasn’t very keen about the idea of me prioritising anything over school. She’s my biggest fan now, though.”
His mother had no need to worry, however – from the Leaving Cert, JyellowL launched into a politics course at UCD, sitting his final exams earlier this summer. His degree is well suited to his socially conscious rap – a style that follows in the tradition of Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Dave, among others.
“There are socially conscious rappers who I’ve gravitated towards, but originally it was Fela Kuti who inspired me to speak out about my society, and to bravely talk about the things that people don’t want to address,” he explains. “I grew up listening to him and so many great Afrobeat artists. I also listened to a lot of Damian Marley – he really spoke about my surroundings.”
JyellowL’s own background has also informed a great deal of his work. His new album, expected next year, is centred around his newfound purpose: “Being a guiding light to the younger generations in urban Ireland.”
“A lot of kids are going down a path that I could have easily ended up down, if it wasn’t for music,” he says. “You grow up in certain areas and crime is normalised. Luckily, my family moved away from Blanch, and as I started playing music, I stopped going back to where I grew up as often. But the kids who are still there are looking for any way out. They’re following the olders, but they’re taking it even further.
“I need to empower myself, and put myself in a position where I’ll be able to empower them. That’s my goal.”
•JyellowL’s latest single, ‘Tek Time’, is out now.