Town's Dead

Town's Dead

For a spell, Kojaque’s debut album had a working title of Down and Out in Dublin City, a riff on George Orwell’s classic novel Down and Out in Paris and London and its examination of prosperity and poverty. In the end, the Dublin rapper born Kevin Smith settled on Town’s Dead, considering it a punchier way of saying the same thing. Tracing the narrative of a catastrophe that unfolds one New Year’s Eve, Town’s Dead showcases Kojaque’s skill for intricate production, urgent bars, and hooky choruses. “I wanted to make something like if Kendrick Lamar lived in Dublin,” he tells Apple Music. “What would good kid, m.A.A.d city sound like then? That album, to me, is perfect. I was trying to aim high in terms of a concept record.” Town’s Dead pulls from hip-hop, R&B, and indie, while lyrically much of it was birthed from the frustration of being a young person in Dublin. “It’s not unusual to be into your thirties or forties and still living with your parents, because of the way the housing and rental market is structured,” he says. “There’s a lot of frustrations and that came through in the music.” He sees himself as part of a new wave of creativity coming out of Ireland—as evidenced by the samples of fellow Dubliners Girl Band on the title track and experimental Connemara artist Maria Somerville on the hazy beats of “Black Sheep, Pt. I.” “Pain can be a really good spur when it comes to music,” he says. Town’s Dead is a vivid account of turbulent times—let Kojaque take you through it, track by track. Heartbreak “I saw [producer Peter] Brién make this live track on Instagram, and I was like, ‘Holy s**t, what is this sound?’ He sent it on to me and just the energy switches in this song, it feels like mood swings, and I think it feels like anger breaking through that numbness, which is kind of a common feeling. I think when you live in Dublin, there’s a sense of slight numbness, like there’s issues going on that you can’t really articulate.” New Year, Who’s This? (Interlude) “I wanted something that set the story as well as being funny, because that’s a big thing about the Irish: We’re funny people, man. So, it was a roundabout way of telling this story. It sets it up. It’s New Year’s Eve, I’m somewhere, my buddies are trying to look for me, and I think a lot of those themes repeat themselves throughout the record. I wrote the script to that, and I sat out in a car with an iPhone, just recording with my buddy.” Town’s Dead “This sums up a lot of the narrative. In terms of the story, the first half is meant to be after I’ve got my head kicked trying to buy a bit of smoke. And then the second half is more just a reflection of what I’ve seen growing up around Cabra, where I live, and the developments going on with the gentrification and the shortsightedness that I would see in terms of our current government. It was trying to be like an anthemic song, a call to action, because it feels often like people are just a bit worn down because you’re trying to focus on your own issues, let alone fix s**t that’s out there, so it feels a bit too big. If you can concisely articulate that s**t in a song, it feels a bit more doable.” Wickid Tongues “I guess the song is about falling in love a bit too deeply or too quickly, and the kind of paranoia that can set in when the feelings are so overwhelming. It was produced with me and Brién, and I got Biig Piig to sing backing vocals. We recorded her vocal take the first time I came to London, which was, like, 2018. And we were out drinking, and I was like, ‘Oh, I love your voice. I’ve got this part on this song that I’d just love you to sing over it.’” Shmelly “I got the beat off Kwes Darko when we were on tour with slowthai, and the minute I came home, I started writing to it and added some extra production and saxophone over the top. I guess it’s about frustration, wanting more out of life, and wanting to be f**king ambitious. I thought it was a switch in energy from my old stuff and maybe a good taster in terms of the direction I wanted to go in.” That Deep “When I wrote it, I thought it was really funny, and I thought it moved the story along nicely and gave a new arc to the whole story—that idea of texting someone’s girlfriend and their fella picking the phone up.” Black Sheep, Pt. I “I wrote this, I think, after listening to ‘Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter’ off good kid, m.A.A.d city, just being like, ‘Whoa, this is such a cool story!’—so interesting, and to leave it on that cliffhanger. It took me a while to get a beat that fit the song and something that matched the mood and developed in the same way that the story did.” Rover “Initially, this was a beat switch for a different song that I had that never came out. I think I wrote the lyrics when my girlfriend at the time was going away to America for, like, four months. I liked the energy of the track, and I loved the switch-up, because I matched it with ‘Black Sheep, Pt. I.’ You ever listen to ‘Nights’ by Frank Ocean? The beat switch in that, it’s something that I’ve always tried to do—get a beat switch that sounds as good as that.” Jinty Boy Blues “I guess this song is about a feeling of betrayal, when you’re really deeply in love with someone and it doesn’t work out the way you think it will. Because if you’re really in love with someone, they can really hurt you. It’s quite an angry song, or a hurt song. I think it’s important to express those feelings, even if it’s difficult, because they’re true feelings.” No Hands “I wrote this on my 21st birthday. I was listening to a lot of Loyle Carner and Vince Staples at the time. The beat was a big inspiration for the lyrics. I just got to the end of the song, and I was like, ‘S**t!’ It just kind of flowed out of me. I sat back and I was like, ‘Oh, whoa, that’s like a whole song there.’ The tune revealed itself to me as it was written.” Part II “‘Part II’ came from the beat. Me and [Dublin-based singer-songwriter] Kean Kavanagh were producing the song and it just had this f**king mad Dr. Dre energy. This character came into my head, and I was going to write from the point of view of this drug dealer character. And as I got to the end of the first verse, I was going like, ‘S**t, this feels like the drug dealer’s perspective from “Black Sheep, Pt. I.”’ It’s the same story but told from a different perspective. I did the second half of the song with that in mind in order to bring the story on—you get his betrayal from his perspective.” Sex n’ Drugs (feat. Célia Tiab) “I had this hook in my head, and I was doing some production in Belfast with Brién. We were out on a run—we go on runs in the morning and then produce stuff in the afternoon. And I had these lines written on my phone, and the hook, and I just sang it to him. We got back into the house, and he started playing these chords, and I was singing over it. And then he produced it and I put the drums on it. And then we bounced the track out and bounced the instrumental. And funnily enough, Brién lost the project and so we couldn’t really mix it or anything. Luckily enough, he’s just a good enough producer that his bounce sounded great.” Fallin for It “I think I produced this after listening to iridescence by BROCKHAMPTON and just how hard the sonics were on that. Brién put all the piano on the second half. I like the juxtaposition of how hard the first half is and then how tender the second becomes, because I think that’s oftentimes the case, especially with male expression: Frustration and anger tends to be hiding feelings that are more intimate or more tender that don’t tend to be as accepted.” Coming Up (feat. Célia Tiab) “I think I was trying to make something that sounded like ‘In My Room’ by Frank Ocean. It took me ages to do the strings—probably, like, three weeks—because I don’t have any real music theory. Then, I got in touch with my buddy who plays viola for orchestras, and he scored it out for me, and we recorded all the strings in my shed. And all my vocals for the whole record are recorded in my wardrobe. It’s very much a DIY record.” Casio (feat. Maverick Sabre) “This came about when I was out drinking with my friend one night, and he confessed to me that he’d been suicidal. It took me so off guard, because he very much didn’t express feelings in that way and there were no telltale signs. I think I kind of went home and just wrote the whole tune almost as a plea. I sent the song over to Maverick Sabre once I’d recorded my vocals and asked him if he would do some choral stuff for the beginning and sing the chorus with me, and the stuff he sent back was unbelievable.” Curtains “I’ve been playing ‘Curtains’ for probably the past five years. When I had the idea for a concept album or a record that had a narrative, I remember being out in the park one day and I had a notebook with me and the story started coming to me. A lot of the record deals with depression and dark thoughts and loneliness or even heartbreak, and this song is like someone shaking and snapping you out of it, trying to get you over that hump.”

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