Strange Boy: A 1000-year-old poet, his essence flowing through the vessel of a young man from Limerick. With his impactful and thought-provoking lyrics, he stands as one of the most significant contemporary rappers. Strange Boy artfully combines hip-hop and Irish traditional music, seamlessly blending the timeless cultural influences of this nation. His debut album, HOLY / UNHOLY, produced by the esteemed Enda Gallery in Kilfenora, Co. Clare, released on June 25th through Welcome to the New World, features the soulful voice of Grammy award-winning Clannad vocalist, Moya Brennan. This opus garnered extraordinary critical acclaim, with Hot Press recognizing it among the top six global hip-hop albums of 2021. Nialler9 and District Magazine also ranked it among the top six Irish albums of the year, while District Magazine hailed him as a "national treasure."
Strange Boy's sonic tapestry reaches new heights through his collaboration with an array of talented traditional musicians in his all-star trad band. Joining him on stage are Sean O’Meara (The Ollam) on various instruments, Banjo player Ted Kelly (Moxie), Bodhran player Dermot Sheedy (Hermitage Green), flute player Conor Crimmins, and Fleadh winner Matthew Hurrell O’Connor. Together, they create a captivating and authentic fusion of hip-hop and traditional Irish music, adding a dynamic layer to Strange Boy's mesmerizing performances.
The trajectory of Strange Boy's journey unfolded after a captivating performance at Limerick's Make a Move Festival, leading him to collaborate with luminaries like Rusangano Family and Naive Ted on his debut mixtape, Passionate Example. His meteoric rise continued as he graced The Tommy Tiernan Show, collaborated with PX Music artists, and lent his talents to Enda Gallery's acclaimed single, 'It's Alright,' featured in the BBC series Normal People. Notably, Strange Boy enthralled audiences at renowned festivals, including The Great Escape, Body & Soul, Altogether Now, Doolin Folk Festival, Sionna Music, and It Takes a Village.
In 2023, Strange Boy received the prestigious Liam O'Flynn award, a testament to his visionary artistry. The National Concert Hall bestowed upon him a residency, granting him a platform to pioneer and expand the frontiers of his groundbreaking fusion of hip-hop and traditional Irish music. With his all-star trad band by his side, Strange Boy continues to push artistic boundaries and captivate audiences with his unique and genre-defying sound.
Critical voices resonate with the power of his craft. Tony Clayton Lea of The Irish Times remarks, "The dominant sense is of an artist trying something that hasn't been done before (or if it has, not with such vital character)." Ed Power of The Irish Examiner hails Strange Boy's album as one of 2021's exceptional hip-hop records. Cailean Coffey from Golden Plec poignantly states, "For the first time, the music of youth meets the callings of Ireland's musical past in a way that is not only convincing but powerful beyond measure."
Maureen Kennelly, Director of The Arts Council, aptly captures the significance of Strange Boy's artistry. She reflects, "Storytelling and the oral arts are an integral part of our traditional arts, and Strange Boy's contemporary take on the seanchaí is a relevant and natural response to an ever-evolving artform, bringing the traditional arts to new, more diverse audiences. We are delighted to partner with the National Concert Hall to present this award, honoring the legacy of the great Liam O'Flynn, to such an exciting, innovative artist."