Updated: Dec 29, 2021
Whelan's, Dublin, October 10th
Written by Elina Filice
JyellowL is an Irish/ Jamaican/ Nigerian rapper on the quick rise. He is managed by the Word Up collective, and has played prominent gigs such as Knockanstockan, Longitude, and Ireland Music Week. The “Back to the Basics” show at Whelan's was his first headline gig, independently booked and promoted.
He was joined by first opening act Uppbeat, an Irish rapper making waves on social media and across the country. For one tune, Uppbeat got all of Whelan's to sit on the floor and sat in front of them, storytelling style, to perform a personal tune.
The second opening act was Chris Kabs, joined by drummer Sam Oye and lovely vocals synth playing from Heather. Chris has undeniable energy and stage presence. Beaming with positive energy, he knows how to work an audience. There’s probably no better artist to warm up an audience then Chris Kabs. With singalong, stuck-in-your-head songs, it’s not hard to believe that he’s also a well known producer; he knows what makes a strong, catchy-ass song.
After an emotional voice-over (which you could only hear pieces of over the excited clammer of the audience), JyellowL enters the stage to enthusiastic support from the crowd, who’s energy was undeniable from the very onset of the gig.
After the opening track, “Bulletproof,” the 21-year-old was visibly moved by the support of the crowd saying, “You have no idea how much this means to me.” The very first shoutout of the night was to his mother, who was front row singing along, I also thing she video recorded the entire gig.
JyellowL has the lyrics and flow to do them justice. Every word has passion behind it; you can tell that every lyric has been thought through and perfectly crafted. Rapid fast bars are contrasted with slow, emotional shit. He breaks rhythm and effortlessly runs over syncopated lines onto the next one. J has a truly unique flow and in his relatively short career has been able to establish and master his sound.
JyellowL was joined by an all-star band: Chris Kabs (keyboards, DJ), Sam Oye (drums) Steven McCann (guitar), Conor King (bass).The attention to detail musically was apparent on every song. It was an attest to the magic that occurs when five of Dublin’s best musicians are on stage together, in Whelan's, in front of a near-sold-out crowd. It’s shivers bro.
It was inspiring to see the support that J has built around him, from fans to family to his band, to producer Chris Kabs keeping things tight on stage, to hype man Dennis. He is joined for two songs by Tolu Makay, who’s effortless vocals compliment the songs and contrast with J’s quick bars.
Real quick- outfit change half way through the set cuz fuck it you’re headlining Whelan's. And then- I didn't even think it was possible- but the energy went up a notch for the last half of the set. As advertised on his socials before the show, J had an “Ozone” rap competition, in honour of the track being chosen for the Fifa ‘20 soundtrack. He brought one of his day-one supporters on stage, never missing an opportunity to thank people who have been supporting him from the start.
It was a mixed crowd that you don't often see at gigs; mixed ages, races, genders, and demographics. Hipsters, brothers, mothers, people jumping in the mosh pit and rocking out from wheelchairs, they all seemed to fit in.
J has an indisputable stage presence; he’s magnetic, he commands the room who responds in chorus to his flow, lyrics, and dirty bop beats. He takes time between songs to connect with individual people in the crowd, with handshakes and shoutouts, showing gratitude to the crowd at every opportunity. During crowd favourites like “Oh Lawd,” “Yellow Summer,” “Medusa” and “Cold Summer," the crowd was captivated, singing along to every word.
At the end of the set, after an epic glow stick war, J talks about bringing it Back to Basics, the name of the show. He speaks of mental strength, tenacity, and self belief. He talks about reconnecting with why he started pursuing music, remembering what’s important, staying true to himself and his fans, and “not getting caught up the numbers game” that is the music industry. He emulates wisdom and clarity, and I’m not ashamed that a 21-year-old rapper was able to remind me and an entire crowd of what’s really important.
This is officially my longest live gig review, but the show was just so well put together, with so many good parts. Give me shit to write about and I’ll write about it. Make it just downright special, and I’ll rave about it.