Rory O’B - Quit Rapping EP
Although you wouldn’t know it reading some of the trend pieces flying around at the moment, hip hop has been a well-established scene in Scotland since the early 90s. The same criticisms have been levelled again and again: ‘they’re wannabe players, thugs and/or gangsters,’ ‘they go on about neddy stuff,’ and the real blood-boiler, ‘rapping just doesn’t sound right in a Scottish accent’. The likes of Stanley Odd and Hector Bizerk have gone some way to challenging the notion that Scots are somehow genetically incapable of rhyming words over beats, but the country’s cultural cringe undoubtedly persists. With that in mind, Oban folk-rap troubadour Rory O’Byrne (styled as O’B) is exactly what Scottish hip hop needs right now.
Entirely self-produced, Quit Rapping sees O’Byrne ranting about drugs, clubs and shit jobs alongside little more than fingerpicked guitar and a cajón. It’s as audacious as it sounds: Mercy Me vividly tells of a young character who "took Ket til’ he pissed blood, eccies til’ he sicked up" over a wispy acoustic melody. He’s similarly brazen on the infectiously catchy The Job Centre Song, resolving that "the option [he’s] got left is an offence, it’s against the law." O’Byrne’s unique form of rustic protest works well, partly because hailing from a small rural town adds realism, but also because of his musical background. On the title track he alludes to growing up playing in punk/emo bands, explaining his rough vocal cadence and passionate delivery.
Sure, this earnest approach won’t be for everybody, particularly as he has a tendency to over-emote, but he’s also a superb technical rhymer, regularly switching up his flow and employing the type of natural multisyllabic rhyme schemes that impresses purists. Scottish hip hop is often accused of being parochial, but it always sounds best when it’s unashamedly authentic.
The EP’s closing track Unplug the Speakers sums this up best: O’Byrne raps that he’s "cutting shapes like [he’s] decorating cupcakes" and that "you’ll find [him] in the club being a miserable cunt" who "paid a fiver to get into this dump." It’s this sort of wit and tongue-in-cheek patter that Scots do so well; O’Byrne isn’t the first MC to prove that, but he deserves credit for making it work.