Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Interview: 5th Element

5th Element

Info: Ballymun hip-hop duo 5th Element have had a bit of a crazy old time over the past year or so, festival slots at Electric Picnic, KnockanStockan, and Vantastival to name but a small few, their State of Mind 2.0 debut album release, and a slew of film projects. The latest of which is their short documentary feature with STACKD TV, a platform which showcases the new generation of artists and alternative underground global culture.

REMY caught up with 5th Element pair Ryan 'Linco' Lincoln and Ger Kellett to discuss their highlights on this journey so far, how they view the health of the Irish hip-hop scene, and their long-term plans in both music and film.

An awful lot has happened over the past year and a half for 5th Element, playing at Electric Picnic and multiple other big name festivals, the release of your 'State of Mind 2.0' album with Doublescreen (which got Album of the Week in The Irish Times), being part of a number of film-making projects, what have been the standout highlights for you guys?

GER: For me personally, one of the stand out moments over the past 18 months has been the album release show in the Academy. The mix of people on the night, who genuinely liked the music and appreciated the work that went into it was incredible. It's one of those gigs that will stick with me forever.

LINCO: I have to agree with Ger the Album Launch felt like our first official gig that the crowd was genuinely there in anticipation to catch one of our shows. Taking it back a bit further, KnockanStockan Festival was one of my favourite moments in music, the stage was invaded as we were joined by a bunch of strangers who liked what they heard!  

On top of all of that 5th Element were recently the subject of a documentary by the wonderful folks over at STACKD TV, which was released on the 10th of August, tell us about the content and how it came about?

GER: The people over at STACKD got in touch a while back. They were formally known as Tir Na Nog Media and were beginning the re branding process. They wanted to launch their new operation STACKD and link in with some artists on the urban music scene here. We liked the direction they wanted to take the doc in, and could tell how passionate they were about creating a nice and professional piece of work.

They travelled out to the studio and to some gigs to get a taste of what 5thEL is like when creating music. The also travelled out to our hometown of Ballymun in north Dublin and we gave them the tour of the place. They captured the area in a nice light I feel. It showed it for what it is. A place that may be given a bad name at times, but its also a place that believes in its community and the people.

LINCO: It’s probably no secret but Irish Hip Hop isn’t always necessarily portrayed in the best of light in this country so we are always weary in making sure that the people involved have a genuine interest in the subject matter and will tell an authentic story. The lads approached us openly about what they want to do and what they are about. After meeting a couple of times and chatting some stuff, we found that we agreed on a lot and were on the same page so it made sense to work together on this short project. Then it’s out into the world for people to make their own minds up about it.

5th Element Vantastival
Photo: Joshua Byrne

With the Irish hip-hop scene exploding to the surface over the last couple of years, do you feel like 5th Element are a central part of the movement, whilst not looking to be specifically? Also, do you think there is still a bit of a way to go before Irish hip-hop gets on an equal footing with other more long-standing genres on the 'scene'.

GER: The scene is definitely getting a lot more recognition from the people in recent years / months. We pride ourselves on trying to make the best music and creative content we can at that time. We’ve been shown so much love for certain releases that it gives you that energy to get back in the studio and make more tunes.

For me personally, I want to leave behind a collection of work that people will respect, and that they feel holds up and is something they can use as inspiration to go on and create something for themselves. People are always gonna argue over who’s the best emcee, what’s the best track, who’s the best group. If people are throwing 5thEL around in those conversations, that’s an added bonus that I thank those people for. It’s very much appreciated.

LINCO: If people think so then that’s great, if they don’t then we’ll just keep grinding. I don’t like to approach this with the sole goal of being in the forefront but if the music and the work gone into it speaks for itself then that’s what I’m aiming for. We are relatively new in this music scene, about 5 years now, there have been many before us but if we somehow contribute to it and help move it forward just by doing our thing with a passion, then I’m delighted. I think that’s what will bring the scene forward as a whole, if people concentrate on their lane then the whole thing moves forward. It still has a ways to go, so a good community and some mutual support is also essential for it to thrive, which I think we are beginning to see with so many different styles emerging.     

5th Element & DoubleScreen - 00's

Those with their ear to the ground will be well aware of many of the big acts on the Irish hip-hop and rap circuit, which new acts do you see really breaking through over the next 12 months, any tips?!

GER: There’s a lot of really good artists out there, the competition is definitely heating up. I can only speak for myself, as peoples taste in music varies so much. The obvious ones who are killin' it right now are Rebel Phoenix, Jafaris, Rusangano Family, Lawrii Craic, Red The Future and Kreo Ghost.

In the next 12 months or so I can see acts like Creative Crime, Flynn Johnson, Backshed INC and Mango putting out some material that really grabs people’s attention. The genre is in a really healthy state right now in regards to the music that is being made. We just need to get the material heard more frequently, because some of these acts have songs that I honestly believe could do well in Irish music charts and international playlists on Spotify etc.

LINCO: It changes all the time haha at the moment there are a few heads on their game. Mango and Mathman are doing some big things, Flowstate Movement, Flynn Johnson, Jafaris, God Creative, Bitter Roc is always popping up with some new good shit, Lethal Dialect although doing less strictly rap oriented stuff, I see his new project as Paul Alwright doing well. A new guy I have been listening to called Dania, some slick African-Irish jams check him out. You would know this dude is from Dublin!

Finally, with all of the projects 5th Element have been involved in over the past 18 months, do you think the film / documentary side of things is something you'll both want to keep working on in tandem with writing music?

GER: I don’t think we’ll ever stop making music. Its only natural that 5thEL might take a back seat from time to time while we work on solo material, but I think you could be hearing a 5thEL album in 2050 if we had our way haha
Both of us have actually been writing scripts and screen plays etc for a couple of years now. A lot of people don’t know that because it’s a long process and the music thing has always been the no.1 priority.

I’m a huge movie nerd and I’m always on the hunt for a new series to get stuck into, so I’ve set myself the challenge of creating my own haha. We’ve met a lot of film heads through the music scene, so there is definitely enough connections and motivation to get a first ever 5thEL production in the works. Maybe 2018, you never know.

LINCO: Most Definitely! I made my first acting debut this year in the Irish film Cardboard Gangsters, it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life, so yes I am interested to see where the path leads. There is always something in the pipe line but with film things take a little more time and can be a little more on the DL, when they are ready is when you will see or hear about them, keep the ears and eyes peeled.

I find this and music goes hand in hand, it’s all creative, it’s all writing, it’s all performing and it’s about rocking out with all you’ve got. That being said sometimes other things in life warrant focus and attention, or simply sometimes just need a step back to recharge and find some inspiration. Look out for that album release in 2050.   

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