- 12 Jul 21
Strange Boy's debut LP 'HOLY / UNHOLY' is out now, via Welcome to the New World label.
Jordan Kelly, wordsmith from the Treaty City, pushes both rap and trad to their versatile limits on his debut album HOLY / UNHOLY. Recorded with Enda Gallery in Kilfenora, Co. Clare; Strange Boy previously teamed up with the prolific producer on 2020’s ‘It’s Alright’ - which appeared on the TV adaptation of Normal People.
“Where should I start telling tales from this heavy heart? / 2nd of November 1998 or the second time my mother tried to end it / 'cus the pain wouldn’t subside,” is quite a rap to begin an album with, but it’s an unsurprisingly brave move from someone like Strange Boy. Never afraid to venture into unexplored terrain, his debut LP sees trad arrangements of hip-hop instrumentals - driven by bodhrán, acoustic guitar, harp, and mandolin. Kelly himself is blazing a trail in the genre alongside fellow rapper Shane “Dirt” Davis, and nabbed a cameo feature from Clannad’s Moya Brennan on frenetic, mesmerising opener ‘Beginnings’. Fellow Limerick rapper Hazey Haze and Strange Boy’s brother Seán McNally Kelly also hop on verses.
HOLY / UNHOLY was written during a turbulent time in Jordan’s personal life. Having hit mental rock bottom, the album “revealed itself” to the rising star, and was penned a month or two later. The project’s themes touch on self-sabotage, nihilism, alcoholism and suicide - offering a lens into Kelly’s turbulent upbringing. Avoiding social workers and fighting a destructive nature are mentioned throughout (‘Grief’, ‘Melancholy’, ‘Blood’). For someone who raps about having “no ambitions, just wishes and a crumpled up bucket list”, the album is full of passionate purpose.
Sprinkling religious iconography and mile-a-minute, poetic flow throughout, with little background interruptions, HOLY / UNHOLY is a cultural marking point for Jordan. While the rapid-fire album follows the same theme, it’s intensely personal subject matter is undeniably worth dedicating a full-length project to. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who isn’t captivated by Strange Boy’s stark sincerity.
Listen to: ‘Prayers’
Revisit the Hot Press June 2021 interview with Jordan Kelly here.
Stream HOLY / UNHOLY below: