Cork artist Cornerboy is on hip-hop’s centre stage

CORNERBOY, also known as Neil Brennan to his nearest and dearest, must be among the few Irish people who can use the adjective ‘dope’ and not get laughed out of town.

Cork artist Cornerboy is on hip-hop’s centre stage

Just how did a 22-year-old Leeds United fan from Glanmire near Cork city claim this badge of honour? Well, by writing the beats-laden tracks used by a string of hip-hop artists that has attracted attention from in-the-knows in both America and the UK.

His booming, sometimes ominous-sounding instrumentals have led to him working with the likes of top hip-hop acts Young Thug and Skepta.

With his production style increasingly in demand, it’s obvious he didn’t grow up listening to Blur and Oasis — as he confirms.

“I try to make music I’d want to listen,” he says. “I grew up listening to all that good music around the MTV TRL and Cribs days.” Pharrell, Timbaland, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, etc, were all on his early playlists. It wasn’t long until the desire to make his own music took hold.

“It was something I was interested in and something I wanted to succeed with,” he says. “At a certain point I started appreciating the production in songs and decided to set out and do the thing proper. I’ve always been interested in music so when I first started trying to produce it felt right.”

One of the highlights of his career so far has undoubtedly been having his beats feature on ‘This Summer’ by Young Thug and the Rock Mob, a track heading for a million plays on Soundcloud. “I still get people telling me it’s their favourite Thug song and got a lot of love for the record, which is cool. And we still got more to come,” says Cornerboy.

Young Thug
Young Thug

In aprevious era, being based on the other side of the Atlantic would have made such work impossible. Thanks to the internet, however, living in Glanmire or London doesn’t have to be a disadvantage.

That prestigious collaboration came about when Atlanta-based duo Rock Mob emailed Cornerboy that Young Thug was going to be visiting them, so he sent on some music. “I saw the videos on Instagram that night of them all working in the studio with my beats playing, that’s when I knew this was happening for real. It was crazy!”

He uses the same program — FL Studio — to make his music as many other top producers such as Deadmau5 and Hit Boy.

He also has words for those in the admittedly small Irish scene and adds: “This country’s thoughts towards ‘hip-hop’, to group it all as that, are very dated. Hip-hop music is what’s sounding the best sonically out of every genre I think, and many would agree. Proper music fans know the importance of it. Yeah I listen and have listened to Irish music, been listening for stuff to flip and mess with definitely. I slip some Thin Lizzy and that into my rotation sometimes. Ireland’s produced some amazing music. No reason why I can’t do the same in a different genre.”

One thing about the genre, however, is the apparent lyrical obsession with terms like ‘bitches’ and ‘hoes’. He might not write the lyrics, but how does this sit with him?

“This is all music these days, same things are been said on every current genre of music. This slang is pop culture now and other times words that get censored are the best to use in terms of conveying the emotions a vocalist/writer is feeling. It doesn’t lend in any way towards being disrespectful to women. No girl I know takes offence to any of that I don’t think, otherwise her iTunes would be empty.”

Cornerboy also seems well aware of the inspiration/perspiration ratio that’s often needed to succeed in the music business. “Nothing comes to you easy so I already know I have to put in work, I’m in a constant workflow.” Those early days of watching MTV Cribs have stayed with him and he admits he’s “still dreaming of shark tanks in the house like Big Boi’s and a green Lambo [Lamborghini] like Bow Wow.”

Check out Cornerboy’s music on www.soundcloud.com/cornerboymuzik

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