Saturday 10 December 2016

John Boland: Rude rhymes with a reason

Published 26/02/2012 | 06:00

Surreptitiously metaphorical: Temper-Mental Misselayneous who featured in 'Ireland's Rappers'
Surreptitiously metaphorical: Temper-Mental Misselayneous who featured in 'Ireland's Rappers'

It's hard not to like a young woman who goes by the name of Temper-Mental Misselayneous and who likes to rhyme "specifically allegorical" with "surreptitiously metaphorical" for the amusement, or maybe bemusement, of the inhabitants of Finglas, where she grew up and lives.

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For me she was the standout performer in Ireland's Rappers (RTÉ Two) and I was especially taken when she improvised a rap song for a woman in the street who, spotting the camera crew, had sidled up to see what was going on. "Lovely, brilliant, fair play to you," the suitably impressed woman said when she'd finished her rapid-fire rhyming.

Temper-Mental decided to make rap her vocation as a teenager when she asked a friend "Are we poor?" and the friend retorted "What do you think?" Suddenly the realities of class and poverty "dawned on me" and she decided to articulate a social and political message, though she insists she's more interested in purveying "positivity" than angry diatribes.

The anger belonged to the male rappers, mainly through their furiously profane local versions of hip-hop but in their conversation, too -- Redzer of The Class A'z fuming "I hate authority, I hate the Garda, I hate politicians, I hate teachers, I hate people clamping cars" and lamenting that "Ireland is a dying country and they're not doing anything to f***ing save us".

As for rival northside hip-hop singers who denounce what he's doing as too "commercial", his response was succinct: "People may not like me, but f*** them -- I don't like them back." The charge of commercialism stemmed from the fact that Redzer's band were an online success, their videos viewed more than a million times.

And they're hoping for a breakthough into the mainstream, Redzer's colleague Terawrizt reasoning that "if you keep knocking at the door, eventually someone's going to answer."

Produced and shot by Ronan McCloskey, this was a revealing film for anyone (myself included) who knew nothing of this strand of Irish pop culture and it was affectionate, too, in the glimpses it gave of the home lives of some of the participants, featuring a couple of feisty mammies.

Subcultures were also to the fore in Ian Palmer's much-praised film, Knuckle (RTÉ One), which was more than a decade in the making and which chronicled the bare-knuckle fights that have punctuated the ongoing feud between two Traveller families, the Joyces and the Quinn-McDonaghs.

Palmer first met the Quinn-McDonaghs in 1997 when he was asked to film the wedding of a family member and he narrated the documentary in confiding mode, but its undoubted star was James Quinn-McDonagh, who'd been taking on all comers singlehandedly without ever losing a fight.

The fights themselves were brutal affairs, conducted in fields and lanes out of sight of the gardaí -- and with family members excluded, too, lest ancillary brawling broke out.

"The families don't like each other and it's the safest way to sort things out," James said in justification, but he seemed less and less sure of that as the film progressed, declaring at one point that he goes into training "only when something stupid like a fight comes up".

Indeed, viewers couldn't help being struck by the sheer pointlessness of it all. "It's not just war, it means something," one of the Travellers insisted, but what it might mean remained obscure. Still, an arresting film.

Joanne Cantwell is the amiably knowledgeable host of Against the Head (RTÉ Two) and there are generally interesting observations from such expert panellists as former players Frankie Sheahan, Shane Horgan and Alan Quinlan. But if you want the real rugby deal, there's nothing to touch The Breakdown on Setanta Ireland.

Hosted by former Leinster and Scottish coach Matt Williams and featuring Neil Francis as the sole other participant, this is a most unusual programme in that it features two men who know the game inside out and who like nothing better than talking about it -- indeed, you get the sense that they'd be having these engaged chats even if there were no one else listening.

Set against the often overbearing presence of Tom McGurk and the grandstanding posturings of George Hook in RTÉ's match coverage, the conversations between Williams and Francis are those of two men who are eager to hear what each other has to say.

They were in engrossing form the other night on such matters as how acting captain Paul O'Connell failed to close out the Welsh in the last 10 minutes of that recent sorry game (the man who would have done so "was in the stands", Francis noted), on Conor Murray's deficiencies at scrum half and on Mike Phillips's remarkable skills in the same pivotal position.

Some of the quips were good, too -- I especially liked Francis's observation that getting into a tussle with Italian forwards was "like having a fist fight in a telephone box". Williams guffawed at that, and so did I.

Operation Transformation (RTÉ One) came to an end this week, for which much thanks, if only because John Murray can now find something else to talk about on his morning radio show.

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