Kneecap’s Móglaí Bap: I went to a Twelfth of July parade and people started singing our song

Irish language rap trio’s debut album will be released on June 14

Kneecap's film is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Picture by Mal McCann
Kneecap's film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Picture by Mal McCann

Móglaí Bap from Irish language hip-hop trio Kneecap says that hearing loyalists singing one of their songs at a Twelfth of July parade underlines how young working class people from both ‘sides’ have lots in common.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, the rapper recounts the story of going to a Twelfth parade with a friend. A small group starting to sing Kneecap’s C.E.A.R.T.A when they recognised him as being one of the Belfast band, who rap in a mix of Irish and English.

“If we were ‘breeding sectarian hatred’ then I’m sure the people down in Sandy Row wouldn’t really like us”, he said, referencing comments from Alliance Party leader Naomi Long in the Daily Telegraph in which she addressed Kneecap’s infamous Belfast mural depicting a burning PSNI Land Rover.

“But we were down there, chatting with them, on the ground, between young people. It’s a much different opinion from established politicians. The two communities in the Falls Road and Shankill suffer from a lot of the same problems — food banks, poverty, suicide.

“The [peace] wall, unfortunately, doesn’t stop these things going from one community to another. I think a lot of politicians in the north would rather people focus on certain aspects of us to create division, but there’s a lot more that we have in common.”

Móglaí Bap, who raps alongside Mo Chara in the band, which also features balaclava-clad DJ Prováí, says he is “cautiously hopeful”' about Northern Ireland’s newly-working government bringing better social services to the north, and maybe even a border poll down the line.

“And then,” he adds controversially, “it’ll start a whole new system where everybody’s treated nicely.”

Produced by Toddla T, the band’s debut album, Fine Art, is due for release on June 14 via Heavenly Recordings.

Fine Art is a ‘concept album’ set in fictional Belfast pub, The Rutz: “It’s one of those places where you never go for one pint — you’re always stuck there for longer,” says Móglaí Bap. “The pubs here are like lobster pots,” Mo Chara tells Rolling Stone. “You can get in them, but you can’t get out.”

The band had an original set of songs earmarked for their debut album but scrapped them after getting in the studio with producer Toddla T who Mo Chara said was “good at reeling us back in” and told them “No, you’ve gotta simplify this for your first album. Introduce people to Kneecap’s world”.

Musical guests on the Fine Art album include Grian Chatten and Tom Coll of Irish post-punks Fontaines DC on Better Way to Live, Radie Peat of Irish alt-folk band Lankum on 3CAG ( which heavily samples the 1977 song Caravan by Celtic rocker Joe O’Donnell), plus an appearance by Dublin-born BBC Radio DJ Annie Mac, who is married to producer Toddla T, on State of Ya.

Their debut also includes rap songs alongside punk tracks and a trad/folk song, Amhrán Na Scadán: As Mo Chara puts it, “The whole album is set in a pub, and if there’s no trad on, it’s not a great pub.” DJ Próvaí adds, “The energy of trad music is really infectious. You can feel that through the album.”

The song Parful samples cult documentary Dancing on Narrow Ground about the Ecstacy- fuelled cross-community aspects of the NI dance music scene in the 90s: “That’s the way we want our gigs to be,” says Mo Chara. “It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from. Just because we rap in Irish and might not align with your political views — we can be friends with people that we don’t align with politically.”

The new single from the album, Sick in The Head, is out now.

Full tracklist:

  1. 3CAG (ft. Radie Peat)
  2. Fine Art
  3. Ibh Fiacha Linne
  4. I’m Flush
  5. Better Way To Live (ft. Grian Chatten)
  6. Sick In The Head
  7. Love Making
  8. Drug Dealin Pagans
  9. Harrow Road (ft. Jelani Blackman)
  10. Parful
  11. Rhino Ket
  12. Way Too Much