The Niallist - AKA

by Leonora Walters Rating:7 Release Date:2011-09-30

The Niallist, alias producer and writer Niall O'Conghaile's new album AKA album combines an old-school rap sound with bit of 80s electro in the mix. The crucial difference is that the songs are delivered by artists he describes as from "the new queer underground" rather the usual bunch of 'gansta' rappers, with singers including Gossip lead singer Beth Ditto and lesser known artists such as lesbian rappers Yo Majesty.

The Niallist says his influences include hip hop producers such as Dr Dre, the RZA and Egyptian Lover, but he is on a mission to change perceptions about the type of artists he is working with. "I am sick of 'gay' being synonymous with 'shit' and I wanted this album to show that there is a huge amount of gay and gay-friendly talent in music at the moment," The Niallist said recently. "I also wanted to represent a lot of artists who are openly gay and make hip hop, because in gangsta rap being gay is seen as being the enemy. And I think I've done a pretty decent job!"

He most certainly has. This is perfectly executed old-school rap - I actually listened to this before reading the PR, and assumed it was just some regular rappers, albeit opting for an older style of hip hop. The singers totally deliver on the songs - if there really is anyone out there who says gay artists are "shit," then this will shut them up.

The album also has a good deal to offer old-school dance fans, with opening track 'Dance Club (Party Party)' evoking both a hip hop and ravey sound, with a striking, almost discordant vocal from New York 'vogue-queen' Cherie Lily. 'I Like to Dance' channels this sound too and blends warm-sounding electro and hip hop particularly well, while 'Needs' features a very danceable, funky baseline. Album closer 'Dance Club (Haunted)' neatly brings things full circle with a similar sound to 'Dance Club (Party Party)' minus the vocals, and even more delicate electronic refrains.

Hip hop is introduced on second track 'Work It', rapper Julius Seizure's slick re-working of Missy Elliot's version, and it sounds just as right from him as from her, if anything with more life to it. Of all the music on this album, this is the one I would most like to see performed live. Despite the squeaky falsetto introduction, 'I Came' is a soulful dance track with powerful vocals from Miss Mac D, deep and uplifting at the same time.

The music on 'I'm Weird' is classic hip hop but the lyrics are a mesmerising electronically distorted repetition of the title. This song more than any of the others exemplifies what The Niallist is trying to achieve - hip hop from artists some would consider weird. The song inserts the 'weird' sounding lyric at the heart of the music but rather than sounding weird it all blends seamlessly. Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto, softer and more soulful than her usual strident self, teams up with Scream Club, Berlin based American rappers Cindy Wonderful and Sarah Adorable, to provide the vocal refrain on 'If U Want', a slow rap over some delicate electronic melodies.

It is fantastic to hear gay artists march into 'enemy' territory and produce much better hip hop than many of those who deride them, even though homophobia seems to be ebbing out of at least mainstream hip hop. But has The Niallist made new music? The sound and lyrics are not particularly original, even if the fact that it is delivered by these artists is. That said, they're a talented bunch and have made some great music which all fans of old-school hip hop should download - you will enjoy it and it is a lot better than many past and present mainstream efforts. Niallist has firmly made his point.

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