RI EXCLUSIVE: Lethal Dialect Interview

It’s hard to believe nine months have passed since the release of “LD50”. Celebrated for it’s compelling story telling and intricate rhymes, the debut album from Blanchardstown’s Paulie Alwright remains a clear front runner for this year’s best Irish rap album. Never one to rest on his laurels, Alwright is already back in the studio putting the finishing touches to his sophomore release “LD50 part II”. Rap Ireland recently caught up with Lethal Dialect to discuss both records and everything that came in between.

Words: Duan Greally

RAP IRELAND: I guess we should start by talking about the first album. You are someone who was well known in Irish Hiphop circles for a while. You were out of the picture for a moment, but then it seemed like everything came together really quickly with LD50. Take us through the process of putting that album together.

LETHAL DIALECT: As you said, I was known around Irish Hiphop for a while before I actually put the album out and that’s just because I was taking everything in. I was learning the trade and things like that. It’s the same advice I give to anyone who is starting out now and wants to get straight into it. Anyone that I work with (myself as well), we all studied this thing for a couple of years before we went in and put an album out or tried to do anything like that. Too many people do it prematurely. They record one track and it’s half arsed, and they want to put it out straight away.

I learned my trade. I used to run around with the likes of Terawrizt back in the day. He was someone I definitely learned a couple of things from. He made me wise to different recording techniques, what equipment to use and shit like that. Once I had that, it was just a case of mastering my own art. I got the lyrics together, then I got my delivery and presence sorted. That’s probably when I went offside for a while just to put the album together.

RAP IRELAND: Now that you have had a few months to reflect on it, how do you feel the album was received?

LETHAL DIALECT: Well, I never expected it to do major numbers or anything. I just wanted to make what I thought would be received as a classic album. I put a lot of work into it. It was my first album, so I wanted to be sure everything was exactly the way I wanted it before I put it out. Aside from all that, it was critically acclaimed – a couple of well known critics mentioned LD50 and had nothing but good to say about it. I still haven’t heard a bad review of it yet, so I couldn’t ask for it to be received any better.

RAP IRELAND: Is there any part of the release that you look back on now and think I would do that a bit differently next time around?

LETHAL DIALECT: Definitely, a lot of people tend to critique their own material too much – to the point they don’t even end up releasing much stuff – but you can’t do that because a lot of the learning only happens after you put the album out there and after you have listened to it for a certain amount of time.

There are a few things: the way the album is recorded from a technical aspect; the vocals could have been a little bit clearer. It’s just stupid little things like that. But when it comes down to the Hiphopness of it, the beats and the lyrics, I wouldn’t really change any of that.

RAP IRELAND: One thing you didn’t do with LD50 was release a video. Was there a reason for that?

LETHAL DIALECT: The person who was supposed to do the video for us never came through with it. We hit up a couple of other people, but because this is all self produce, I had pumped a bit of money into the first album when it came to recording it. I looked after everyone who was involved in the process. Everybody who was involved in the project wanted to do it for free anyway, but it’s just my personal opinion that everybody should be rewarded for their good work. We had already put enough money into it, and when we asked other people about doing a video, they wanted mad money.

I wanted to find somebody who liked the album and was doing it for the right reasons. I’ve just recently linked up with someone who is a fan of our music and is really only interested in the video making process. He’s talented at it to. We’re actually shooting a video at the minute for ‘Keep it Real’, the first single off LD50 part II.

RAP IRELAND: As you just mentioned, you’re working on the follow up to LD50 as we speak. How far into it are you?

LETHAL DIALECT: I would say I’m more than half way through it. It’s just that I’m working on a lot of different projects at the same time. This time last year, I really only had LD50 to worry about, but I have put down some verses for the likes of Jambo’s album and Costello’s albums, so I didn’t have as much time to just focus solely on my own material. The process won’t be as quick, but that’s always naturally going to happen after you release a first album; there’s going to be a couple of new people interested in working with you. Aside from that, it’s half way done. We are looking at a winter release anyway.

RAP IRELAND: Album number 2 is something artists in general (and rappers in particular) seem to struggle with. Yet, we’re just eight months out from LD50’s release and you already have another album half done. How have you kept up that pace?

LETHAL DIALECT: Dedication; we take rap seriously. There’s lot of people out there who look at it as sort of a hobby or a social tool. Every single day, we are either writing or recording. G.I is up producing beats for us – or else we are hitting up Tony Mahoney or Mook for beats – or whoever else it might be. Everybody is always on the go with this. It’s not just a part-time thing for us.

I think a lot of artist struggle with album number two because they change up the formula, so we haven’t really changed anything for this. Naturally, you grow as an emcee, but even putting together LD50 part 1, it was all done in a couple of months. That’s because we’re always doing this. We never really do anything else. Even though I was holding down a job when I was recording my last album, whenever I had spare time, I was always working on it. It’s just dedication and being down for the cause.

RAP IRELAND: I think something that maybe surprised a few people with your debut was its tone. There is a sort of sinister, grimy feel to the album. It’s something that we haven’t really seen done well in an Irish context before. Should we expect any change in direction thematically or will it be a similar vibe?

LETHAL DIALECT: Nah, it’s definitely a different vibe. It does have its tracks which are aimed towards street material, but this album is a lot more introspective; it’s a lot more deep. Personally, I think my forte as an emcee is knowledge and that more introspective material. So LD50 part 1 was actually out of my comfort zone in the sense that it was more street orientated, but that was because when I wrote most of LD50, was when that was most influential in my life. That was what I wrote then, but obviously as you grow older, you start to mature a bit and your rhymes grow with it. It’s sort of me evolving as an emcee. It’s a lot more knowledgeable and a lot more introspective this time around, so the tone is definitely different, but it still has a couple of tracks that could have easily fit in on LD50.

RAP IRELAND: The production work by G.I and Jonnyboy on part 1 was widely applauded. It gave the project a sort of cohesion that’s missing on a lot of Irish Hiphop records. Is that a formula you are looking to replicate on part II?

LETHAL DIALECT: Definitely – a lot of albums just sound like random tracks thrown together for the sake of it. Literally every track we recorded, we knew what direction we wanted to take it in with the tracks following it. The songs were laid out in such a way that it was almost like a movie from beginning to end. Jonnyboy ordered the tracks so that it played through properly. I can’t imagine that album being arranged any differently. It made a big difference.

For part II, we have some new producers on board who I wanted to work with. A couple of them would be Tony Mahoney and Mook (Sons Phonetic), but GI is still at the core of everything. Basically, we have our formula; we are showing the other artists what our formula is, so that they can gear towards that sound, as opposed to everybody doing something completely different and the album not sounding cohesive at all.

RAP IRELAND: You have had to do things the old fashioned way in terms of getting your music out there; it’s all been about hard work and dedication. Is it frustrating being part of such a small scene? There’s a certain stigma about Irish Hiphop, it’s almost like you have to work twice as hard to get recognized.

LETHAL DIALECT: It definitely is. For every step somebody takes forward, somebody else comes along and takes ten steps backwards with some shit that they put out. Obviously, I have opinions on what type of music everybody else is making (everybody does) but I tend not to dwell on that too much. I’m just concentrating on myself, so I wouldn’t really be bitter about it or give out about somebody who isn’t making the type of music I want to hear; just leave them to it. Eventually, we want to be in a position where people are following us and doing what we’re doing, as opposed to the others. I mean it can be frustrating at times, but I focus on what I’m doing and disregard anything else…Well, unless it’s something I’m a fan of – people like Sons Phonetic or Costello or GI – they make me want to keep doing it, so it’s not all bad. There is a lot of good out there as well.

RAP IRELAND: Do you think things are right, timing wise, for Irish rap acts to start breaking through? Is the public more ready to accept an Irish Hiphop release?

LETHAL DIALECT: It’s hard to say really. People are still a bit narrow-minded when it comes to Hiphop. To be honest with you, I couldn’t really blame them because when you ask people about Irish rap, the acts they tend to reference generally aren’t very good. Artists have already made their mark and put a bitter taste in people’s mouths towards Irish Hiphop.

My own friends are my best critics because at the start when they heard I was making Hiphop, they were like: “you shouldn’t be wasting your time with that; you should be doing something else with your life”. Then every one of them heard the album and loved it. If you can appease them, you can appease anybody. It’s just a case of getting it out there and changing people’s opinions about it. It’s always going to be an uphill battle, but we do it because we love it. Whether we break or not is not really a big concern. It would be nice to be able to make a living off something you loved doing, but that’s not the main aim.

RAP IRELAND: Just to switch things up a bit, we recently learned that one of your tracks is to feature on season 2 of the RTE series Love/Hate. Tell us how that came about?

LETHAL DIALECT: I got in contact with the director. My cousin was actually playing a part in Love/Hate – just a small cameo. He gave me the director’s number and basically said for me to send a couple of my tracks through to him. I sent on a few tracks and the director loved it. He wanted to use “The National” on Love/Hate, but there was a sample clearance issue. They were already in the editing stages of the series, so we knew we didn’t have a lot of time. Me and GI said to him: “we will get it done tonight”. We spent a few hours reworking the track. We put a hook on it, took the sample out of the beat.. Actually, we took the beat off altogether and completely remade it sample free. We sent it through to them and they loved that even more than the original, so that’s more or less how it came about.

RAP IRELAND: LD50 came out on Working Class Records. You of course collaborated a lot with them for The Street Literature release as well. Do you have more projects lined up with them?

LETHAL DIALECT: Working Class Records was obviously established by Lunitic as we all know. Lunitic was the first Irish emcee that I ever heard rapping in his own accent – doing it the way it’s supposed to be done – so I always had it in my head that Working Class would be the type of label for me. Then obviously Dan (Lunitic) passed before I got to put the album out, so he never got to hear it, but all the lads affiliated with him (the likes of Street Literature) they loved the album and saw it as a classic as well. So it was almost inevitable that we were going to hook up and put tracks together because we are all on the same buzz with it; we have the same agenda. Everybody who is down with Working Class Records – we are not only fellow emcees, but we are good friends as well. There’s definitely a few projects in the pipeline. I can’t say anything about them just yet, but you will know about them when they drop.

RAP IRELAND: When Wu Tang played Dublin, you were actually asked to open for them alongside the Working Class Army, but had to pull out of the show. Can you tell us about that situation? It must have been a great honour to be offered the gig.

LETHAL DIALECT: I think it was actually The Infomatics who were supposed to play Wu Tang first off, but they couldn’t make the show, so they put in the word for us. Then Dean Scurry made sure that the promoter got all the relevant material on us. It was all last minute because the Wu Tang gig itself was last minute. It had been canceled and then re-booked again only a few days out from the show. So that was really down to Dean Scurry and The Infomatics putting in a good word for us.

It was definitely an honour. I didn’t actually get to play it because I was out of the country that night. I looked into re-booking flights and shit like that, but it just wasn’t to be. Wu Tang is not something you ever want to miss in your lifetime. If you were just to see them, you wouldn’t want to miss it, let alone if you were actually getting to support them. I just see it as I have no choice now but to make that opportunity happen again in the future.

RAP IRELAND: Just to round things up, what should people look out for from Lethal Dialect over the next few months?

LETHAL DIALECT: First of all, we have Costello’s “Illosophical”. Let’s just say if Illosophical was Raekwon’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx” then I would be Ghostface on the features. I feature very heavily right throughout that album. The second thing to look out for will obviously be LD50 part II, which will be out very soon as well. Then another thing we are putting out there as well is an album called “Soul Literature”, which is a collaboration between myself and Costello. We have a good couple of tracks polished off for that already. I’m always doing something, so you are bound to hear me on a couple of things soon. Keep an ear to the ground for those projects, and nice one again to everybody for checking out the interview. It’s nearly LD50 season!

LD50 part I by Lethal Dialect is available now through Bandcamp. Part II is coming soon!
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