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TraviS and his crew would head to “The Trenches”, a meeting point outside a restaurant in Dublin 18 where they could assemble in the relative safety of the open air during Covid-19 restrictions to kick back, catch up, and, crucially, freestyle. For TraviS, making music wasn’t a serious pursuit – until summer 2021, when he dropped “TBH” with his comrade Elzzz.

An archetypal drill track, “TBH” features heavily manipulated samples, clicky drums patterns, and programmed reverberating bass riffs as TraviS delivers a lesson in candor: “To be honest, I’ve never been one to fold/ If I’m honest, my destiny is written in gold.” Enter Elzzz, his voice carrying the depth of an impact crater, to add energy to the song’s second half. The whole thing ends with the sound of the iconic theme tune from The Godfather. As a way of declaring you’re taking music more seriously, “TBH” gets the message across.

“Before that I was just expressing myself and having fun,” TraviS told Clash in April, “but I knew I was cold.”

??TraviS and Elzzz do release music separately, but at some point their partnership became more formalised – their songs are dropped on YouTube under the styling of TraviS X Elzzz (or, sometimes, with the names reversed). The duo head up Gliders, a collective of producers, designers, illustrators, and other creatives. Gliders’ motto is “Think it, Materialise it”, reflecting the omniverious nature of its creativity.

So you get a song like “Pricey”, which simultaneously takes down high-end fashion brands – with Elzzz shouting, “Fuck Fendi and Fuck Dior” – and celebrates them. “What’s the price of your DSQUARED2 jeans?” TraviS asks a presumably poorly presented person before admitting he’d seen them buying knock-offs on Moore Street. (FYI: DSQUARED2 jeans are typically in the €500 to €800 range.) “Pricey” is a salient reminder that fashion is a core component of youth culture and if you’re on the wrong side of cool, you’re Abe Simpson complaining that what you’re with, isn’t it.

??Here’s the thing, though: “Pricey” also served as a trailer for Gliders’ own “G Suit” tracksuit, cost: €240. The video, directed by the collectives’ own Sam Fallover, sees freshly bagged garments being handed out to the crew between clips of TraviS X Elzzz stunting in a striking pink room. Some might bristle at such bold entrepreneurialism being wrapped up in art, but it’s industrious, independent, and easily forgivable when the music is this good.

??For TraviS, who has been in the modeling industry since he was 16 years old, the initiative was inspired by a British grime icon: “When I was 18 I met Skepta for the first time,” he explained upon the release of “Pricey”. I was chilling with these guys and the stuff I was seeing and hearing, I just knew I had to do something for myself. The brand made sense because I love fashion and Elzzz and I have our own styles, and it feels natural to want to communicate our style to the masses. That’s a part of me. Every bit of expression has to be as true to ourselves as possible.”

??Undeniably, though, TraviS X Elzzz’s music is the flagship of the crew. The duo are in the great lineage of rappers who quickly pass the mic back and forth, providing the ying to the other’s yangs, two kindred souls kindling together. Their voices are perfectly counterbalanced: Elzzz’ bottomless depth – something like A9Dbo Fundz – amalgamating with TraviS’s more fluid flow.

There is a song like “Vision”, which came out last year. You’d need Brian Kerr by your side to unpack all the football references Irish drill rappers pepper their lyrics with – an interesting tic that unites these artists with their British counterparts, and differentiates them from their American cousins. Over three minutes and 20 seconds of savage raps, TraviS X Elzzz use “Vision” to name-drop Patrice Evra and Martin Ødegaard, not to mention Evel Knievel and Professor Charles Xavier—when in doubt, just rap about the pop culture you like.

Released last month, new EP_ Independent_ might just be three songs and under 8 minutes in duration, but it’s still TraviS X Elzzz’s first release outside of a single format, representing a rise in how seriously they’re taking their music. All three tracks are produced by Liam Harrison, his beats bending with a sinister slant.

“Rain” is a gritty, mid-tempo noir piece full of atmosphere and intensity, with drum thumps that might risk the safety of your subwoofer. The sample of what sounds like religious chants gives “Delirious” extra edge. Over the slimy guitar that underpins “Talktye”, TraviS issues a warning to fools running their mouths with wild abandon. It’s rap music to make you glad the nights are getting longer.

Dean Van Nguyen

Dean Van Nguyen is a cultural critic and music journalist for The Irish Times, The Guardian, Pitchfork, Bandcamp Daily and Wax Poetics, among others. As well as pop culture, he writes about identity, youth,...

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