Something Like a Phenomenon

Lee Henry goes west side to meet C-Rap

If you go down to West Belfast today, you’re sure of a big surprise. Not the legions of Burberry bedecked tracksuit clad ‘smicks’ or ‘spides’ that roam the streets thereof, sporting YMCA-like moustaches and smoking cigarettes like they're going out of fashion. What is surprising about West Belfast at the minute is the current mania surrounding a certain hip-hop outfit that go by the name of C-Rap, and their hilarious song 'Bright New Cat'.

What started out as a laugh between friends, Conor Smith and Tony Craig - the two musicians and radio DJ’s who make up C-Rap – has now become something of a mini musical phenomenon.

With a bit of time on their hands between studies and their half-hour Sunday morning show on Feile FM, Smith and Craig set out to parody the lifestyles of the aforementioned smicks using the hip-hop beats that have become such an integral part of smick culture.

A year and a half later, and with the inadvertent help of a number of taxi drivers from their part of town, and Bright New Cat is as popular as alco-pops and cigarette papers. It’s on everybody’s phones, it’s in the dancehalls and on the radio.

‘Someone came up to me and said, ‘I’m only after hearing your rap, fair play’. And I was like, ‘How did you get it?’’ Craig recalls. ‘He said some taxi driver let him hear it. Apparently all the taxi drivers had it in our local depot. So it just spread. We had the song for maybe a year and a half and had never done anything with it. We just wrote it one night for a laugh as part of the radio show we have on our local community radio.’

Bright New Cat is the story of Smith and Craig alter egos Micky and Janty. Not the most savoury of characters, Micky and Janty are the epitome of spide anti-cool indulging in all sorts of anti-social behaviour and dreaming of the day when they might ‘steal a Seacat and go to Scotland’.

With a beat reminiscent of early East Coast American G-Funk and a chorus hook that’ll have you in stitches, it's no wonder Bright New Cat is making waves. It may not instantly appeal to anyone outside of the urban underclass or have RZA standard production. But in a way, it’s not meant to.

‘Neither of us like hip-hop,’ Smith explained. ‘We don’t listen to hip-hop. I’m into acoustic music and Tony is a DJ, but we both play guitars and stuff.’

‘We like to think that the song is educational,’ Craig continued. ‘It’s hip-hop with a social conscience. There are a lot of people who actually talk and act like Micky and Janty in real life, and they are usually the people who don’t like the song. But we’re trying to get those people to look at themselves and say, ‘Am I really like that?’ It’s a sharp sort of exposure.’

Apart from playing their own instruments and laying down their own beats, Craig and Smith also rap on the song.

‘It’s the two of us putting on the strongest West Belfast accents you ever likely to hear. And people actually think we’re real people, that Micky and Janty actually exist. That’s the disturbing part!’

Having already received over two-thousand hits on their C-Rap website, and with the dance floors buzzing, Craig and Smith are planning to build upon their initial success by releasing more songs in the near future. But with Smith finishing off his A Levels and Craig currently studying politics at Queen’s University, they aren’t getting carried away just yet.

‘We haven’t decided what we’re going to do and when,’ Smith reflected. ‘A lot of people have been saying they really appreciate the music. But we don’t want people to get bored of it.’

‘When it was played on radio it was cut off before it got to the chorus, because of the explicit lyrics,’ said Craig. ‘We’ve discussed maybe making a radio edit, making the song a little less blunt. But we’ve thought against that, at least in relation to Bright New Cat, because we want to show the harsh reality of what it’s like living somewhere like West Belfast.’

To see the lyrics of other C-Rap songs and find out a little more about what it is to be a spide, check out the C-Rap website.

To listen to C-Rap click below. Their songs are not for the faint-hearted.

PLAY C-RAP AUDIO FILE: 'Life Behind Bars' (.wma format, 3046 KB)