Irish hip-hop has become increasingly prolific over the last few years, with acts like Rusangano Family, Lethal Dialect et al following in the trailblazing footsteps of acts like Messiah J & The Expert and Scary Eire.
One of the younger generation of hip-hop artists is Dean Whelan aka Deanie, who hails from Ballymun on Dublin's northside.
He's just released his debut album 'Forty', so we had a chat with him about his work and how hip-hop has acted as a guiding force in his life.
Hi Dean! Let's talk about your beginnings... when, and why did you first start rapping?
I started rapping when I was 18, in 2008. I was going down the wrong road in life due to crime in my area; drug dealing, being arrested when out drinking on the blocks with my mates... and I just got the feeling I needed to do something with my life and get on the straight and narrow! Hip-hop was always my kind of music. I could rap any 50 Cent song, Eminem song... I even jumped up karaokes and gave them a bash on stage and people seemed to love it. So when it came to me, [I thought] why not start writing my own raps? That's how it began.
Who would you describe as your biggest influences?
My biggest influences of all time would be 50 Cent and Eminem. As a kid, they were the main rappers I'd listen to. The first irish rappers I heard were Lunitic & Class A'z; Nucentz ( Member Of Class A'z ) would have been my biggest influence on the Irish scene. I also love Professor Green's work - I can relate to most of his tracks and his style, and the fact he's not too far from home means I relate to his music more.
Do you remember the first album that you ever fell in love with?
The first album I fell in love with was 'Get Rich Or Die Trying' by 50 Cent, with tracks like 'In Da Club', 'Many Men' and '21 Questions'. Even today, I still pump that album in the car on the way to work.
Irish rap/hip-hop hasn't had a great reputation in the past, but it's become more popular/accepted over the last few years. Where do you think you fit in? Do you think there's a prejudice against Irish rappers?
There are a lot of talented emcees/rappers in Ireland. We all have different styles of music and different stories to the music we make; we don't rap about money and cars - we rap about everyday life in Ireland. Mostly, I think personally the main reason we haven't lifted off is because radio stations ain't giving us the time of day. Unless it's someone on the radio station who knows someone involved with that artist and gives him a spin every now and then and so on, you seem to have to be in with certain people to get a bit of attention. I make the music I want because it's what I love to do. I don't really wanna 'fit in' anywhere.
That brings me to my next question. A lot of your songs and music videos are set around Ballymun - is it important for you to set your songs in your hometown?
The main reason I set the music videos in Ballymun and write about Ballymun is because everything I write about is true; people from Ballymun can understand what I'm saying because they've been there or have seen it all. My goal with this music is to inspire the younger generation of Ballymun. If they see me doing my thing and say "Well, he's from Ballymun and he's doing something positive, why can't I?', that's my job done. I don't want them to go down the same road I did. I wanna make an impact on my hometown!
In that respect, what would you say the main themes of your songs are?
They're about my life, about me growing up and the life I lived; regrets and changes I'm making growing up, becoming more responsible and making better decisions as a man. I've always classed myself as an 'inspirational rapper'. I also like to write about my loved ones who passed away, as that's the way I communicate with them - through my music.
We can hear your debut album 'Forty' now - what's the plan for an album/gigs in the future, then?
I can't say a lot about what's to come until my management have announced them, but I can tell you that I have started writing my second studio album and I'm sure that shall drop late 2016. I'll have plenty of live performances in the coming months and you can keep to date with them at www.deaniemusic.com or facebook/deanie.
'Forty' is available on iTunes, Amazon, Xbox and more - or grab a physical copy from Deanie's official website now.