A Northern Soul - Documentary

A NORTHERN SOUL - DOCUMENTARY

The 5th Element NI team enjoyed a highly inspirational team night out recently at Queen’s Film Theatre. On 8th October as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations, the QFT were showing ‘A Northern Soul’, a documentary following Steve Arnott as he struggles to balance the pressures of working life, debt and his dreams of getting mobile music workshop The Beats Bus off the ground.

Set in Hull against the backdrop of UK City of Culture in 2017, director Sean McAllister (A Syrian Love Story) returns to the city to act as curator for the festival’s opening ceremony where he meets Steve.

Over the course of the film, the positive impact Steve and his efforts have on young people, in terms of confidence, attitudes and behaviour is plain to see. Without giving too much away, viewers can expect to experience a range of emotions throughout, on what is a very emphatic capturing of working-class life.

Steve’s passion to inject positivity in his community and to improve the lives of the young people through hip-hop culture is exactly the type of thing we as 5th Element NI are trying to deliver in Belfast and beyond. Seeing Steve overcome all kinds of adversity was truly motivating for us and seeing the impact these kind of projects can deliver was very encouraging and more than justifies our existence and goals.

After the credits rolled, both Steve & Sean were on hand for an informative Q&A session and even better, our team got the chance to catch up with Steve and have a chat, share our plans with him and talk about Belfast’s hip-hop scene.

We all definitely walked away feeling like we had made a new friend, and an important role model for what we are trying to achieve. Hopefully, this will not be the last we see of Steve in Belfast.

 


Artist Spotlight: Jack Bashful

Curated by David 'Dsgrace' Gilmore

After appearing from seemingly nowhere with a couple of strong open mic showings and teaser tunes in the latter half of 2017, Jack Bashful has now unleashed his debut EP, Fictional Clientele, into the Irish hip-hop melting pot and proving his worth as a newcomer that can hang with the island’s best of them.

While previously whetting appetites in the run-up to release with his own take on Skepta’s Still and a video for one of the EPs tracks, ‘Bears, Beets & Battlestar’, Jack really lets his effortless style shine through in his recent SkankFM Booth Sessions footage where he glides through 3 tracks back to back, passion overflowing though never breaking a sweat. Elite level performance really is nothing to this guy.

https://www.facebook.com/1647488362157631/videos/2009461692626961/

Video courtesy of SkankFM

The 21-year-old Lurgan prodigy (a surprising hotbed for emerging Irish talent with fellow local L.O.R.D also delivering an excellent debut release as recently as February) weaves words intricately and displays a lyrical maturity beyond his years. Such is his flair for language it is perhaps not that surprising that Jack studies French & Spanish at University in Coleraine. This time spent on the North Coast saw a connection which would lead to having DBMCs chief in engineering Danny Droppit on recording duties for parts of his new project.

https://www.facebook.com/jackbashful/videos/147934302565883/

 


After steadily gaining momentum over the last 12 months, Jack recently delivered his debut release, Fictional Clientele, in March this year. At first glance, titles such as ‘Cleansing of the Palate’ and ‘Bears, Beets and Battlestar’ have you already clued in that the idea of regular hip-hop stereotypes will be left at the door for this one.  Jack debuts over a mostly dreamy, lo-fi soundscape, painted by producers IAMIAN and Cbakl.

From the opening on Launch, rolling slowly over his syllables he marks the start of his journey stating “never been here before, I can’t say that I’m back”. Garnering a round of applause from the audience Jack proceeds to kick things up a few gears on the second verse, really beginning to take flight with a momentum that will build over the following songs.

Conflicted, the projects longest track is aptly titled as it is a theme that constantly follows Jack throughout his writing. He beautifully defines himself as an artist here early on in his lyrical travels declaring;

“I fought the heroes and Sympathise with villains,

And I f**k with being hated (why?) cus it symbolises difference.”

Painting himself as “a loner who doesn’t know who I’m supposed to be” Jack flips to the other side of the coin, banishing his self-doubts for a more bold, swagger-filled style on the follow-up;

“It’s too easy, I’m just showing off,

They targeting the throne now their holding off,

…Said I’d make an impression I wasn’t f**kin wrong.”

Lyrically on point throughout, whether taking inspiration from his day to day life or more far-fetched scenarios, Jack may however have been a bit off the mark in New Devil stating “odds of being liked are low”. While in line with themes of his own self-doubt, the up and comer is likely to find himself surprised with the reception this effort receives.

By the time the EP’s closer Sticky Toffee rolls around, despite opening up with Jack’s fears of being “imperfect” and general performance anxiety, the artist we hear now has grown and he knows it -“confidence was weak but now its metal plated”. This could well be the standout song, marked with excellent, powerful delivery, he means every word.

Fictional Clientele closing with the hazy instrumental fading out over an extended period is a fitting end to what has come before it, allowing time to reflect on Jack Bashful’s debut while leaving us wishing for more of the same from the man in the future.

Jack Bashful’s debut is a release of growth and a journey that you feel you have joined him on along a 7 song time-lapse as he progresses to the standard of artist he finds himself now. You will feel a deeper understanding and connection to him than you would expect in such a timeframe.

Most songs are on the shorter side of things, and will leave you as a listener eager for more and no doubt speculating what Jack is capable of delivering over a full-length project now he has found his “rut to revel in”.

Check out Jack Bashful's latest project: Fictional Clientele.

Artist Q&A: JACK BASHFUL

  

Check out Jack Bashful's latest project: Fictional Clientele.

Before we start getting to know you as an artist, it would be great to get a bit of insight into who you are as a person. Can you tell us a bit about where you are from, what you are at now and some of your ambitions for the future?

I’m from Lurgan, a place which is well known for all the wrong reasons. It does get a bad reputation, but I’d love to be able to change that and make it known for more than Neil Lennon and Buckfast. Although I think I might have a job on my hands.

At the minute I’m finishing a degree in French and Spanish at university, which is something I’ve been doing for nearly four years now. It’s been a great experience and it gave me the chance to live abroad and meet tons of cool people, but it’s something that I’ve lost interest in recently. It was something I was very passionate about when I was younger, but that passion was lost once I started taking music seriously. Regarding the future, the only thing I can see myself wanting to do is pursuing music. I’ve got no problem with working a normal job if it means I can free up the weekends and evenings to perform and write.

Can you tell us the story behind choosing Jack Bashful as your artist name?

This is a question I always struggle to answer. People always ask me this and I never seem to be able to communicate why I chose that name! Basically, I remember spending a whole night coming up with different names that I thought sounded cool. Jack always seemed to be the name of the main character of every film or TV show I watched, and I knew I would be able to rhyme a lot of things with it. Bashful came as like a testament to what kind of person I’ve always been, which is shy and reserved. But I wanted to be able to embrace that shyness because I can’t change it, so I may as well embrace it. When I’m on stage I can come off as confident and maybe even aggressive, but at the end of the day I’ll always be quiet and self-conscious.

At 21, your style is very refined for someone still relatively young. Have you been rapping for long and what was it that spurred you on to put out an official release?

The thing that inspired me to start writing was actually Ice-T’s documentary The Art of Rap. I watched it for the first time when I was 16, and at that age I think that’s when people are at their most vulnerable to influence, so it really inspired me. Watching that documentary made me realise there’s so much more to hip-hop than just good music.

I wrote my own raps in total secrecy for about 4 years, and I think the reason for the secrecy was because I was afraid of what people would think. I know I’d be discouraged when they told me I’d never get anywhere with it. There were times when I would tell my friends that I couldn’t come out because I was studying, when in reality I would be in my room writing rhymes and making beats. Having them think that I was studying was a lot less embarrassing to me than them knowing I was rapping. I decided to take it seriously and release an EP when I realised just how much I loved doing it. After years of keeping it to myself I thought that I should come out with it because I was finally happy with what I was writing. I knew that people would be judgmental, so I had to wait until I was ready before putting anything out.

 Who would some of your earliest influences been and how have they changed over time?

When it comes to writing songs, I would say that my biggest influences would be Earl Sweatshirt and Alex Turner. I know this is an odd mix but I think they’re two of the smartest and most interesting songwriters in music. I’ve always been a massive Arctic Monkeys fan and I think one of the main reasons I enjoy writing songs so much is listening to them. For some people their guitar riffs and catchy hooks might be their strongest quality but for me it’s always been Alex Turner’s lyricism. He just sounds so intelligent and witty and I’ll always be trying to recreate his style. Earl Sweatshirt is another artist that I’ve been influenced by because there’s just no one else in the world who raps like him. He’s so unbothered by choruses and mainstream formulas, he just raps. And always in crazy rhyme patterns. When it comes to rapping I don’t think there is anyone else who has had more of an influence than him, besides Eminem of course.

Some may see you and think you do not fit into the typical dress sense and style for what many in the country would automatically assume to be that of a 'typical rapper'. In your experience have people been surprised when they learned of your talents?

I know what you mean, but I think that works in my favour. People don’t want to see snapbacks and gold chains anymore, the same way they don’t want to hear outdated music. I want to bring something new to the table in every way, and if I dress like everyone else I wouldn’t be doing that. That being said I don’t spend that much time deliberating on my dress sense! But people have been surprised by my music, and I think that’s more because of my personality rather than what I look like. I think they find it weird that I would choose to follow an ambition that is so ridiculous despite being smart enough to know better. 

Keeping with the idea that you would not match up to people's ideas of 'rapper stereotypes', your lyrical content is no different. What's the writing process like for you and where do you draw inspiration from?

The most important thing for me when writing a song or even just a 16-bar verse is having a crazy beat. And I don’t mean crazy like gritty or over-the-top but just something that I can hear myself rapping on. I really like using obscure beats that I think most people would pass on, but I’m also a sucker for some hood shit. Excuse the term. When I write a song I never have a topic in mind, I always just go with the rhyme scheme and let it happen organically. This usually results in weird tangents, like just the other day I ended up writing a whole song about cowboys and Indians. It’s not the type of thing I imagine people including in their songs but sometimes the weirdest topic can be the most fun to write.

As someone who studies two languages at university were words always of interest to you growing up and do you think over time this lead to your decision to pursue rhyming more seriously?

When it comes to my experience of studying languages and rapping I would have to say that the two are pretty separate. Learning a language uses of a different part of your brain I think, and it’s more about natural ability. Rapping on the other hand is obviously a more creative, and anyone can be a rapper if they practice enough. You can practice a language until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t develop that natural ability.

You are based in Coleraine at the moment and as a result were lucky to have Danny Droppit from the DBMCs record part of your project for you. What was it like working in that environment and were the other guys around at all during the sessions?

Getting the chance to get down to the Rat Lab was a great experience and it definitely made me want to step my game up. I’ve been to a couple of recording studios before, but they were ran by people who have more of a rock and pop background, so being in a hip-hop environment was a relief. I think that getting directed by Danny helped with the overall sound of the songs, he gave me pointers about delivery that I found really helpful and I think it improved the tracks we recorded. I did have some brief interactions with the other lads and I even got to hear some solo stuff from the Evol MC. Hearing that really put me in a bad mood though because it sounded way better than the stuff I’d recorded! I’m really excited to hear whatever project he drops, and I’d love to work with the DBMCs in the future. They’re definitely one of my favourite groups at the minute. TYL is a classic already.

Tell us about the new project, Fictional Clientele. Why did you choose that title?

The reason behind the title is to do with the audience I was aiming at. Hip-hop isn’t as popular as it should be in Ireland, and I sort of felt that the music I was making would fall on deaf ears. I thought that the only person I could think of that would enjoy the kind of music I was making was myself and a handful of other people. I was making music for an audience that didn’t exist, but I made it anyway

Looking at the producer credits it was great to see IAMIAN on there! He is making waves down in Limerick. Could you tell us how that connection came about and also a bit on CBAKL, a name I was unfamiliar with until now

I came across IAMIAN through Facebook actually, after seeing someone posted the links to his music in the IHH group. I was looking for talented producers to supply some instrumentals for the EP, and he was definitely one of the standouts. I like to keep the Irish connection with my music so having beats from him and cbakl on the tape is something I’m proud of. That collaboration came through Instagram, he reached out by showing support of what I was doing, so I asked if he’d fancy collaborating. He sent me over three beats, and I got to work on them straight away. I’m really happy about having an input from such talented producers so early in my career.

Now you have your first release under your belt, have you already gave consideration to what comes next from yourself music wise?

Absolutely. I’ve really been getting in to making beats recently and I really want to release an instrumental album or beat tape. I’ve always lacked confidence when it came to producing but I’ve got a lot better at it, and I get so much enjoyment out of it. I’m also hoping to release another EP in summer, as I’ve already got a few tracks that are ready to be recorded. I want to release as much music as possible by the end of the year.

Anything you would like to add?

I’d just like to say thanks to you for taking the time to interview me, I’m really honored to be involved with what you’re doing at 5thElement. I wish that I could have been exposed to the sort of thing you guys have planned when I was younger, I think it’s such a positive way to get young people into hip-hop. Keep up the good work!


You can catch Jack Bashful performing live in Belfast at the city's leading hip-hop night Elixir on the 19th May in Voodoo. Full details can be found below

 Elixir #6 featuring Gasp