Wednesday 24 October 2018

Let's hear it for Beyonce's boy and his hip-hop homies

Have you got festival fever? One week after iconic Glastonbury greybeard Michael Eavis celebrated his extraordinary feat of staging his 40th shindig on Worthy Farm, our own chance to go wild in the country is at hand. In a sign of the times, next week's Oxegen lark is not sold out, and is the subject of an extensive promotional push.

Only a few years ago, tickets flew out the door for what is Ireland's flagship summer music festival. Now, the cash-strapped kids are reluctant to smash open the piggy bank. If the fine weather continues, no doubt we'll see a surge in ticket sales for this all-star bill.

After the success of last year's festival, when Blur rolled back the years and wowed the 30-somethings with their triumphant reunion gig, and Snow Patrol and Kings of Leon got to play their stadium-sized rock in an appropriately huge setting, this year the rappers reign supreme.

Last summer, Jay-Z put dad-rocker Noel Gallagher's nose out of joint by having the audacity to headline Glastonbury -- and, by common consent, pulling it off with gusto.

Now hip-hop's talisman is set to do the same trick in Punchestown when he plays the main stage on the Friday night. Beyoncé's other half has his fingers in so many pies, he's a veritable one-man music industry in himself.

From re-shaping 1980s synth-pop (Alphaville's 'Forever Young') with Mr Hudson to his duet with Alicia Keys on 'Empire State of Mind', the man known to his mum as Shawn Carter has been catapulted to another level.

But Jay-Z will have some serious competition from Eminem as the hip-hop superstar of the weekend.

Sunday night's headliner returned after a long hiatus last year with his comeback album Relapse, which was notable for kicking off a feud with former squeeze Mariah Carey. She responded in kind by killing him not so softly with her song 'Obsessed'.

But Mr Mathers has already followed it up with the just-released Recovery, whose lead single 'Not Afraid' went straight in at No 1 on the US Billboard chart in April.

Elsewhere on the bill, a new generation of UK rappers shows the rude health of British hip-hop, with Plan B leading the way.

He is equal parts Smokey Robinson, The Streets' Mike Skinner and John Terry, and is still high on the hog after his album The Defamation of Strickland Banks topped the charts.

Plan B -- aka Benjamin Ballance-Drew -- shares Eminem's love of creating an alter ego and writing in character, in his case charting the rise and fall of a sharp-suited soul singer who winds up behind bars for a crime he didn't commit.

Plan B's compatriots Chipmunk and Tinie Tempah have also had a pretty good 2010, their tunes filling dancefloors from Ballinasloe to the Balearics.

Indeed, Chipmunk pipped Jay-Z and Eminem for the accolade of Best Hip-Hop act at last year's MOBO awards for his debut album I Am Chipmunk, and Tinie Tempah recently graced the cover of our own Day & Night magazine.

Aside from the hip-hop brigade, Oxegen 2010 also serves up a number of veteran crossover dance stars.

The likes of Fatboy Slim, The Prodigy, Faithless and Groove Armada seem to belong to another era, but they're tried and tested live acts who have a proven track record in gee-ing up Irish festival crowds -- hence their presence on the main stages.

And proving that populist dance stars are not wholly a product of the Nineties and Noughties, David Guetta is also sure to get those glo-sticks waving when he plays on the Friday.

Best of all, Hot Chip know how to get a party started -- like a Talking Heads for the Red Bull generation. Who said this ain't no disco?

In terms of Irish artists, Oxegen does not disappoint -- the selection of new acts on the bill shows the strength of the domestic scene, with the likes of Villagers, Cathy Davey, Two Door Cinema Club, O Emperor and Delorentos all flying the flag.

And festival perennials Ash and Bell X1 are old hands at winning over large crowds.

And the indie brigade are also catered for -- even if Electric Picnic aficionados may feel that the likes of Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend would make more sense in Stradbally rather than Punchestown.

And I'm glad to see there's room for the likes of The Middle East.

And, whisper it, this year it looks like we may even be treated to the most special guest of all -- sunshine. Oxegen runs from Friday July 9 to Sunday 11. Visit

Irish Independent

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