It doesn’t take long to deduce that the title of Qwerty Mick’s debut EP is bitterly ironic. The emerging Dublin-based singer-songwriter uses If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now to voice deep feelings of hurt and frustration about the housing crisis. There is “Slumlord”, a chronicle of just one guilt-free “propriety vampire” who takes advantage of a desperate situation, and a person searching for a room – any room.
“Cause money’s his food,” says Mick of this unscrupulous landlord, singing in a style so laid back it almost counts as spoken word. “And he craved a crisis.”
The lo-fi production of If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now accentuates the feeling that this is reporting at a ground level. Mick is solely credited as writing, producing and recording the six-song set (seven tracks if you buy it through Bandcamp), with additional mixing from Zach Deering.
The promo material cites King Krule as an influence and for sure the Englishman is Mick’s most obvious analogue: There’s the offbeat rhythms, the unusual guitar tuning, the feeling of dirt on the instruments. I’d add in the clatter and hum of Tom Vek’s DIY sound and the hazy summertime pop of Kean Kavanagh too. But whereas Krule’s bellowing voice can freeze the blood, Mick’s vocals are as hazy as a puff of smoke. He can sound like a stoned prophet, circumnavigating the city incognito. Like when a divine figure shows up in a movie disguised as a janitor or something.
So you get “Google Your Symptoms” and Mick expressing his resentment toward the political order. On “Graffiti Literature”, he decries the gentrification that’s sapping the city of its life force (“When every semblance of culture is buried in cement”) before taking comfort in the catharsis graffiti offers, particularly when the art has a message of protest.
Of course, Qwerty Mick is doing this with his music –and in a way that the council can’t simply scrub away.
Because while If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now is about rebellion, it’s also about release. “Though much of the EP is about a frustration with the state Ireland’s in, it’s also just as much about a personal frustration within, and learning to feel at home with where you are at all times,” Mick has said. Perhaps that’s why this is one of the most blissful of protest records.
The distresses of being a young adult living under a cloud of Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael policy were previously encapsulated by Mango X Mathman’s cutting 2019 album Casual Work. The archetypical producer-rapper union, Mathman laid down electronic beats for his compadre Mango – an observant, tarmac-level rapper – to serve as an avatar for the generation who didn’t journey to Australia or wherever in the wake of recession.
Their minds and lives might be centered in Dublin, but it’s the sounds of early millennium London tower block garage and grime music that’s the most obvious precursor to Mango X Mathman’s sound. In the past they’ve appropriated a chorus from The Streets to create “Lord Hear Us (MathMan’s Lock Down Your Aerial Remix)” and summoned the spirit of 2000s London’s pirate radio by hosting an online rave via Twitch during the first wave of Covid restrictions that even included a glorious old-fashioned text message hotline. “Keep your hands washed. Keep a few cans stocked. And keep it locked,” read the event’s Facebook announcement. Now, new nine-song mixtape The Quiet Life largely culls the social commentary of Casual Work for straight-up original pirate material.
Funny thing, though: Opening song “Comment Section” is something of a red herring. Over a beat that’s spooky and minimalist, Mango takes aim at critics, awards juries, other rappers not on his level, and those who simply don’t understand him. He doesn’t name names – for me personally, that Casual Work wasn’t nominated for the Choice Music Prize was a really odd oversight – and there’s almost a moment of clarity in the middle of the song when Mango appears to realise that no good can ever come from reading the comments. And yet “Comment Section” is arranged at track one. It must have been important that he got it off his chest.
What is clear is that Mango can rap. With no thematic cohesion or set outline, he’s free to run wild, his deep, accented voice shifting through the gears like a ten-speed bike.
On “Ponzi Riddim”, Mango moves through the ragga-style chords before the beat shifts into a swamping grime banger. A handful of Mathman’s instrumentals use dreamy, jabbed keyboard or piano chords that feel like homages to Crystal Waters’ deep house classic “Gypsy Woman” – actually, I’m pretty sure closer “Heartbreaks & Promises” directly samples the song, adding a two-step UK garage beat, with singer Melina Malone appropriating the famous chorus from Robin S’s “Show Me Love” too. It adds up to one of Mango X Mathman’s most anthemic numbers yet.
Then there is “Rock n Rolla”, featuring God Knows and a mind-bending blippy beat that conjures the illusion that the pair are accelerating down a rain-streaked, neon-lit urban street at 1am at Fast & Furious speeds. The two rappers go at it with appropriate zest, firing their rhymes with reckless intensity. Dropping new clubland classics as we make our first tentative steps back into nightlife feels entirely timely. That’s Mango X Mathman – they always sense what the city needs.