Rapper Jun Tzu on new Empire Music Hall hip hop showcase and encouraging less-advantaged kids to express their creativity
What is Four Fours?
Four Fours is Belfast's brand new quarter annual hip hop showcase, live at the Empire Music Hall. The inaugural event takes place on Friday, January 30.
Which artists will be performing at the inaugural event?
For the first show we have the legendary UK hip hop pioneer, Skinnyman, celebrating the ten-year anniversary of one of the most inspiring discs in hip hop history, his classic album Council Estate of Mind. Also on the bill is the highly respected revolutionary London-based artist Logic, the infamous wordplay genius Meany from Manchester, and myself.
Is the demand there for such an event in Belfast?
I surely hope so. If there isn't, we'll make it. The hip hop culture is alive and well in Belfast. I've performed a number of times in the city in recent months and I always get a strong reception. Four Fours will provide the people of Belfast with a constant flow of real hip hop. I want to introduce a range of different artists at future gigs.
For those interested in the music, are there any similar hip hop showcase events/club nights taking place elsewhere in Northern Ireland?
Antidote Emcees have run numerous hip hop shows across the country for a few years now. We have teamed up together and plan to make Four Fours the biggest, most consistent hip hop showcase Belfast has ever seen.
Are there enough indigenous hip hop artists operating in Northern Ireland to keep the showcase fresh, or will you be booking artists from elsewhere?
There are a few hip hop artists from Northern Ireland, and also from down south, not only emcees but DJs, B-Boys and graffiti artists also. Each quarter we include an Irish artist, as well as established artists from further afield.
The Empire Music Hall is traditionally a rock venue. What made you choose it to host Four Fours?
I first heard Duke Special there and remember thinking it would be a perfect venue for hip hop. I'm sure the Empire has seen bits of hip hop before, but it does feel like we're breaking boundaries.
What is the atmosphere like at these kind of live gigs?
The atmosphere at my gigs in Belfast has been incredible. Everyone is there to have a good time and to hear some real hard-hitting music. There seems to be a great sense of unity, and everyone is very positive.
Since the last time you spoke to Culture Northern Ireland, you've been facilitating a range of community workshops, poetry and hip hop events, and even giving lectures at universities. Have you enjoyed that side of things?
It's been very insightful. I've been working with young people in youth justice centres, youth clubs and schools, introducing them to the art of free flow poetry. They really get it and embrace it wholeheartedly. I would definitely urge all gifted musicians to give back to their communities and share their knowledge with the youth. Kids from under-privileged, working class estates are all too often demonised by the media and portrayed as nothing more than rioters and hooligans, but these kids are our future, and learning to express themselves in a creative way is essential.
What's next in your diary?
Friday, April 24, the date of the second quarter Four Fours showcase, with another brilliant line up to be announced soon.
Four Fours takes place at the Empire Music Hall, Belfast on January 30.