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Rudeboys rapping on the door to the big time

It all started at a house party. A friend was celebrating their 21st birthday; heavy dance beats were blaring from the stereo speakers, and three north inner-city Dublin lads retreated to a spare room in search of something a little smoother.

Out came the guitars. Within minutes, the boys had themselves an audience. Who were these melodically pleasing chaps, they wondered? What was the name of their band? Sean 'Neddy' Arkins glanced at the writing on his T-shirt: 'The Original Rudeboys' had just played their very first gig.

The rest, as they say, has been a very quick history. Juggling hip-hop rhymes with soulful vocals, acoustic guitars, and a ukulele, The Original Rudeboys have managed to turn what was just a bit of fun into a full-time career. It's only been a year since the group posted their first single online (the infectious Stars In My Eyes), and the boys (all in their early 20s) have released their debut album, This Life. No room for timewasting, then.

"We kind of haven't had a chance to sit back and go, 'whoa, Jesus -- what's happening here?'" says guitarist and vocalist Robert Burch. But then, why stop when you have an increasingly large fan base (one million YouTube views and counting) crying out for more? At first, the guys were unsure about where to take their music. It was never a conscious decision to form a band. Just as it was never a plan for young Sean Walsh to kick-start a career as a ukulele player.


"To be perfectly honest, it was a joke," nods 'Walshy'. "I was bored after I finished school -- nothing to do, no job, and I said, 'right, I'll do something productive'. "So, instead of going to college and getting an education," laughs Burch, "he picked up a ukulele and fell into a band. That's luck!"

Indeed it is. Walshy's new-found talent meant he now had something else in common with the friends he grew up with. Burch -- a former electrician -- was an aspiring guitarist and singer. For rapper Neddy, hip hop had always been something of a "bedroom hobby". The former media student had been rapping for years, but had yet to be taken seriously as an artist. "That's the way Irish rap has been perceived over a long period," says Walshy.

"Unfortunately, it's been looked over, but now, since this has gotten so popular with Ned, a lot of people are looking into Irish hip hop. The English scene has blown up in America and now Irish people are starting to go, 'well hold on, if they can do it, then why can't our boys do it?'"

"I think it's still early days," adds Neddy, "you're going to have a lot of sceptics out there, but eventually, it'll catch on."

This Life sees The Original Rudeboys blend some rather serious subject matter with otherwise charming riffs; the album's stand-out track, Sunny Days, an emotional number dedicated to a cousin of Neddy's, who committed suicide in 2009.

Debut album This Life is out now. The Original Rudeboys play live at Whelan's, tonight.