Sello, Investigating Cultural Signifiers in Irish Drill Rap Music Videos
This thesis examines drill rap as a subculture to consider its significance in contemporary Irish cultural identity. It begins with an historical overview of rap music in America and its subsequent expansion to the UK and Ireland. This urban subculture initially highlighted racism and injustice in society but soon became one of the most popular mainstream music genres. The Irish rap music scene is clearly much smaller than the scenes in the UK and America. Drill rap is an even smaller subgenre, making it difficult for Irish drill rap artists not only to grow their platform but also to distinguish themselves. By considering themes of locality, the use of the Irish language, sports references and the term ‘muscular nationalism’, described by Sikata Banerjee as “a masculinized dream of nation-building”, I argue that the Irish drill music scene differs from those in America and the UK by purposefully incorporating imagery that signifies Irishness.
A semiotic analysis of the young artist from Dublin, Sello, identifies and evaluates Irish signifiers both in his lyrics and his music videos. The analysis focuses on two music videos for his songs ‘Oggy’ and ‘Dublin’. It notes that by incorporating Irish signifiers, Sello not only contributes to the development and growth of the drill rap scene in Ireland, but also claims a distinctively Irish identity. The analysis highlights the relevance of drill rap music in Irish culture and shows how a subgenre such as drill rap can identify as Irish and become recognised internationally.
By linking the themes and issues historically addressed in rap music such as race and identity to Irish drill rap music today, the findings support the hypothesis that, as a black and Irish artist, Sello purposefully expresses his cultural and sociological upbringing in his music. Other issues found within the Irish drill rap scene relate to its development and inclusivity. An interview with Sello shows his perspective as a young black and Irish artist on the Irish drill rap scene. This reveals the trends in Irish rap music content as well as points out how Irish signifiers are relevant to the growth of the Irish drill rap scene.