New album Dublin rapper JyellowL says he had to put up with 'banter' about Trocaire boxes growing up
ONE of Ireland's most exciting young rappers has spoken of the racism he's experienced since moving here from Nigeria.
Rising star JyellowL, whose music was featured on the soundtrack of Normal People and who was set to tour Europe with American superstar Nelly before the first lockdown, has been living in Ireland since 2012 when he was then just 14 years old.
"When I came here, some people looked at me differently, or had a negative pre-judgement on my character because of my race, and I found that so weird," says J, who lived in Dublin's Blanchardstown before the family moved to Kildare.
"I never experienced any hate-filled racism where people were overtly aggressive, it was a lot of ignorance based racism. Initially a big part of the banter was about Trocaire boxes. They were like 'Oh you probably got something from me from a Trocaire box.' I didn't even know what that was at the time.
"There would be some people calling you the N-word for no reason. Then you have people assuming you're here for a better life, and that your parents are on the dole, getting a free house from the Government, and free money.
"The truth is, I had a very good life in Nigeria, but my parents were split up and I didn't grow up with my mum for years. She remarried and came to Ireland with her new partner and my younger brother. I stayed in Nigeria with my grandparents.
"I didn't see my mum for eight years because of family politics, and then I came here on holiday and I realised that I needed to give her the experience of raising me from childhood. She had already missed out on so much, and that's why I decided to stay.
"My mother is very hard working and very successful in her own life. She's the vice president of a bank here and she has always contributed to Irish society."
J himself now has a degree in politics from UCD. "That was an agreement I had with my mum, that I would get my education first and then I could pursue music," he reveals. "My mum is actually so supportive of what I'm doing in music and has so much belief in me, but she wanted to have peace of mind of knowing that I have a security blanket [with the degree] just in case it didn't work out.
"I don't think like that myself. I think that having a Plan B casts a doubt on your Plan A by default, so I'm just kind of tunnel vision on what I'm doing. But I did the degree for my mum to be happy."
Despite experiencing some negativity, J says he now feels totally at home in Ireland. He acknowledges that people here, including his former teachers, have helped him to achieve his ambitions in music.
This week J will release his debut album 2020 D|Vision with a live performance in Swords Castle that will be fully streamed on the Hot Press YouTube channel on Thursday at 8pm.
"It's not the ideal circumstances to be releasing your debut album in the middle of a pandemic, but you have to just find a way to make it work," J says. "The album launch party is already recorded. We did it with a live band and performed a couple of the songs with interviews in between."
J has been gathering momentum in his career over the last couple of years, particularly through his live performances that include a stand out gig on the 3 Made By Music Stage at Electric Picnic.
"I love performing," he says. "Apart from actually making the music, it's my favourite part of the job. The passion from a performer is infectious and the audience can tell when it's authentic. I think that's why the live circuit has been really good to me. I give my all in my performances."
H JYELLOWL will release his debut album 2020 D|Vision on Friday.
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