paid a visit to the Kabin inKnocknaheeny to see the supportive atmosphere that gave rise to the duo behind the ‘Yeah Boy’ hit.
If you live in Cork, you’d need to have had your head buried in the sand not to have come across MC Tiny and MC The King and their upbeat ‘Yeah Boy’ rap in the past few weeks.
A video of the northside hip-hop duo went viral following a pop-up performance outside the Everyman at a Cork Film Festival screening of the short film in which they also appeared. Days later, Darren Stewart (aka MC Tiny) and Jamie Forde, (aka MC The King) repeated their show-stopping performance for World Children’s Day at Dublin Castle.
But Darren, 11, and Jamie, 14, are not isolated prodigies: they meet and record at Knocknaheeny’s Kabin Studio, under the tutelage of hip-hop producer Garry McCarthy, and they’re among a score of talented teens to use the unique facility fora breath-taking array of creative output.
On a dark and rainy evening, a visit to the Kabin sees 20 teens and older children in attendance at a drama workshop by Young Offenders star Shane Casey, himself an early school-leaver, who is sharing both acting tips and life-skills such as self-motivation with the group.
The exterior of the Kabin is unprepossessing: a container unit perched on a hill above the city, in a suburban area notorious for its traditionally high unemployment levels and attendant deprivation. Graffiti decorates its exterior; inside, though, no less than three recording and mixing studios, a sound-proofed vocal booth and a cosy little kitchen vie for space.
MC Tiny and MC The King are on hand, fresh from their recent Dublin Castle triumph. Jamie, a wheelchair-user, says he’s been coming to the Kabin for four years.
“I just started listening to rap, and got really into it,” the teen says.
Performing live in front of a crowd with rap lyrics they wrote themselves doesn’t seem to phase the duo in the slightest.
“It’s exciting,” says Jamie, who plans to pursue a career in music.
I wasn’t nervous at the Everyman because I’m used to it now
Darren is currently working on another solo track to follow up on ‘Yeah Boy’s’ success. Citing Eminem as a major influence, he too says he plans on being a rapper when he grows up
For Darren, the Dublin Castle gig was a stand-out performance. “We absolutely rocked the place,” the 11-year-old says with a grin. “We did a mash-up of different songs for Dublin Castle and I didn’t have stage fright at all.”
Ava Collins, 18, has a theory about nerves; the younger you start performing your music publicly the more comfortable you’ll be on stage, she believes.
Ava, who’s planning on releasing a track called ‘Too Young For An Angel’ in coming weeks, started coming to the Kabin studio at 16.
Despite battling with stage-fright of her own, she says the atmosphere is incredibly supportive; penning your own lyrics and performing them in front of others is celebrated.
“I think people here are just happy that you’re getting your thoughts out there and getting heard,” she says.
It’s like family up here, like home away from home
The gaggle of teens hanging around to chat after their drama workshop are indeed supportive of each other. It’s heart-warming to see the frequency with which they tell each other how “class” each other’s music is, how enthusiastic they are, joining in and laughing and interrupting each other to talk about their music.
Some also attend a similar project called The Hut in Gurranabraher; there’s a flow of creativity and ideas and skills-sharing back and forth between the two locations.
Being tech-savvy and developing skills on tools like Ableton, a digital audio workstation that allows them to compose their own music, is part of the learning curve.
“When we come to the Kabin, we come in and make our cup of tea and if we have something written, we’ll find a beat, throw it on to Ableton and rehearse it once or twice and then jump into the booth to record,” Ava explains.
Personally, I’m very fussy: I’ll like one take and Garry will like another, or if I’m not happy with it I could be in the booth for three or four hours
Like the majority of the enthusiastic young people on hand, Ava now wants to follow her passion for music into a career.
“I’d like to get into Garry’s line of work and do workshops,” she says. “I’m doing a course in policing and security studies at the moment, because I didn’t get the best Leaving Cert, but now the plan is to do really well in this course and then study music at CIT.”
Garry is Garry McCarthy, hip-hop producer and founder of GMC Beats, with whom he delivers workshops in rapping, singing, recording, etc. He set up the Kabin studio in 2011.
“I was itching for a studio space that I could record my own stuff in and do workshops too,” McCarthy says.
“I approached City Council because at the time there were a lot of artists using derelict buildings and it was around the time that MusicGeneration Cork City had been set up. They offered me the keys to a cabin up in Knocknaheeney.
“I wasn’t sure because I was really looking for something a bit more city centre, but myself and my dad came up and put in the vocal booth and set up this room with some speakers and a computer, all my own equipment.”
Having started off with a series of summer camps, McCarthy grew the initiative with the aid of MusicGeneration Cork and Youth Work Ireland and applied for grants in 2017 to expand and improve the space, from its initial single studio to the impressive standard it’s at today.
Nowadays, McCarthy finds he channels the bulk of his own creative output into his work with his “Kabin Crew” work he says he would happily “do Monday to Friday, nine to five,” if he could.
“The level of creativity with the group and the support they show each other is so energizing,” he says. “You could put a Kabin studio in other parts of the city, but especially in areas of the city like this that would have had social problems in the past, creativity and self-expression is really needed.
“You just need a hub where young people can go to make things: record, sing, make podcasts, learn coding, whatever. It’s about making something that’s original to them. We’re here to encourage them to represent themselves.”
People here are just happy that you’re getting your thoughts out there and getting heard. It’s like family up here, like home away from home