Entertainment

Kneecap: What’s the craic with the Belfast Irish-language hip-hop trio?

Your essential guide to the bane of the DUP’s existence...

Kneecap's film is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Picture by Mal McCann
Kneecap The controversial Irish-language rappers from Belfast love a good mural. Picture by Mal McCann

Who are Móglaí Bap, Mo Chara and DJ Prováí, the members of rap crew Kneecap?

The hip-hop trio consists of MCs Móglaí Bap and Mo Chara, who rap in a mix of Irish and English, plus the perpetually balaclava-clad DJ Prováí.

A photo of Kneecap being Kneecap
Kneecap (l-r) Mo Chara, DJ Prováí, Móglaí Bap. Picture: Mal McCann

What are Kneecap’s real names?

Liam Óg Ó hAnnaidh (Móglaí Bap)

Naoise Ó Cairealláin (Mo Chara)

JJ Ó Dochartaigh (DJ Prováí).

Where do Kneecap come from?

The trio formed in west Belfast, although DJ Prováí hails from Co Derry.

West Belfast rap trio Kneecap pose with a red 1980 Mazda 626
Kneecap Kneecap being Kneecap with a classic 1980 Mazda 626. Picture: Peadar Gill (PEADAR GILL)

When did Kneecap form?

They released their first single, the Irish Language Act-inspired C.E.A.R.T.A (’R.I.G.H.T.S’, in English) in 2017, and their debut album 3CAG, in 2018.

Why were Kneecap banned from RTÉ?

In 2017, RTE’s Irish language radio station, Raidió na Gaeltachta, removed their song C.E.A.R.T.A. from its afternoon programme’s playlist, citing its “drug references and cursing”.

Read more:


Why have Kneecap been in the news so much?

Kneecap made headlines in January for winning the NEXT Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival with their upcoming eponymous biopic (see below for more detail on that)

They then drew criticism from former Northern Ireland secretary of state Teresa Villiers, who complained that public funding awarded to the film had been “squandered”.

Kneecap in a scene from Kneecap
Kneecap A scene from the Kneecap movie

Kneecap have most recently been in the news by accusing the British government of censorship for intervening in the application process for a music funding scheme.

Why are Kneecap suing the British Government?

The band had applied to the UK Music Export Growth Scheme, which award grants to help artists to build their profiles internationally. Despite their application to the scheme being approved by an independent panel, the government department behind the funding then moved to deny the application, stating it did not wish to give taxpayer’s money to a group who “oppose the United Kingdom itself”.

The band are currently taking legal action.

Why do the DUP hate Kneecap?

The band’s name has repeatedly been thrust into the news headlines by members of the DUP and loyalist bloggers.



Belfast trio Kneecap with their controversial mural. Picture from Kneecap Twitter
Belfast trio Kneecap with their controversial mural. Picture from Kneecap Twitter Belfast trio Kneecap with their controversial mural. Picture from Kneecap Twitter

Indeed, Kneecap can barely say or do anything without causing ‘outrage’ among the members of the north’s leading unionist party, from unveiling a mural depicting a burning PSNI Land Rover - a design based on an image sourced from a children’s colouring-in book sent out to primary schools by the PSNI - and penning songs about drug-fuelled nights out with DUP MLAs, to naming their tours things like Farewell To The Union with gig posters featuring former DUP leader Arlene Foster and ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson strapped to a rocket.

The poster for Kneecap's 2019 'Farewell to the Union' Tour.
The poster for Kneecap's 2019 'Farewell to the Union' Tour.

The band explained the thinking behind the offending mural to the Guardian in 2022 : “Anti-police sentiment has been longstanding in the hip-hop community. This isn’t new.

“We didn’t burn a police Land Rover, we painted one. Some people are more worried about a piece of art than the effigies of real politicians hanging off bonfires.

“We don’t want to be fighting or advocating violence. We want people to be thinking.”

Cynical types might suggest that it’s almost as if Kneecap are deliberately going out of their way to annoy the DUP and co in order to provoke the kind of knee-jerk (pardon the pun) responses that ensure they keep making the headlines...

Where is the Kneecap mural?

The controversial mural can be found on Hawthorn Street in Belfast, next-door to The Hawthorn Bar.

The mural is in two parts: the section depicting a burning PSNI Land Rover above the words “Níl fáilte roimh an RUC” [The RUC are not welcome] was painted in 2022, while a second image including the slogan “ENGLAND GET OUT OF IRELAND” was added last year.

Kneecap unveil a new mural in Hawthorn Street in west Belfast ahead of their Feile an Phobail concert in Falls Park. Picture Mal McCann
Kneecap Kneecap unveil a new mural in Hawthorn Street in west Belfast ahead of their Feile an Phobail concert in Falls Park. Picture Mal McCann
Kneecap unveiled a new mural in Hawthorn Street in west Belfast ahead of their Feile an Phobail concert earlier this year. Picture Mal McCann
Kneecap Kneecap unveiled a new mural in Hawthorn Street in west Belfast ahead of their Feile an Phobail concert earlier this year. Picture Mal McCann


So, are Kneecap in the ‘RA?

Er... have you listened to Kneecap’s music or seen any of their videos?

“We’re screaming about the ‘RA,” Móglaí Bap told the New York Times in 2022, “even though the ‘RA would probably shoot us for doing all of these sort of things.

“Republicanism is so vast, and on a spectrum. We like to toy with it. We like to take the irony on, and also not be dictated about what kind of republicanism we’re going to believe in.”

Also in 2022, he told the Guardian: “The reality is we’re stuck in the middle: not only do we have loyalists and unionists on one side, we have dissident republicans on the other.

“I think that sums up what we stand for. It’s not like we’re the cultural wing of the CIRA [Continuity Irish Republican Army] or something.”

So, probably not, then.

What do we know about the Kneecap film starring the band and Michael Fassbender?

The trio star alongside Michael Fassbender in the Rich Peppiatt-written and directed Kneecap, a fictionalised, fantastical biopic based on the trio’s headline-grabbing origin story.

The film was sold to Sony Pictures Classics for release in North America, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Turkey and the Middle East following its premiere on the opening night of the 2024 Sundance Festival in January.

The band hired a replica PSNI Land Rover to drum up publicity for the event.



Produced by Fine Point Films and Mother Tongues Films, the film has since secured a deal for release in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Australia and New Zealand.

It will be released in Ireland later this year.

How did Kneecap get their name?

The band are named after a violent act perpetrated by paramilitary groups throughout the Troubles, where victims would be shot through the back of the knee - an assault known colloquially as ‘kneecapping’.



There has been an increase in paramilitary style attacks with victims suffering 'life-changing' injuries
Paramilitary-style attacks have left victims with life-changing injuries Paramilitary-style attacks have left victims with life-changing injuries

What age are the members of Kneecap?

According to the internet, Móglaí Bap is 30, Mo Chara is 25 and DJ Prováí is 36.

What record label are Kneecap on?

The band signed to London-based Heavenly Recordings in 2023. They dedicated their record deal to the man who gave them their first ever gig, Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí, the late Raidió na Gaeltachta broadcaster.

Fine Art, their debut album for the label, is set for release on June 14, 2024. They released the first single from it, A Better Way To Live featuring Grian Chatten from Dublin indie rockers Fontaines DC, last year.

Who is Kneecap’s manager?

The trio are managed by Daniel Lambert.

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