Kojaque the rapper selects his touchstones

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Kevin Smith, 27, is the rapper known as Kojaque. He grew up in Cabra, Dublin. In 2018 he was nominated for a Choice Music Prize for Deli Daydreams, a concept album about a week in the life of a deli worker. In 2021, his album Town’s Dead was also shortlisted for a Choice Music Prize. He is co-founder of the independent label Soft Boy Records. On Friday, he performs with his band at the Cork Opera House. See: www.corkoperahouse.ie

Arctic Monkeys were a favorite band growing up, one of the first bands I went to see live. It would have been the Suck It and See era. This is a band that I still listen to. I love the direction in which they took their music.

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is one of my favorite records of the last few years. It is a group with which I evolved. My adolescence was recorded by them. As I got older, their sound changed and my tastes changed.

The Maccabees

I was into indie rock when I was a teenager. I was crazy about Maccabees. Toothpaste Kisses was one of their first tracks that I heard and loved. I loved the music video for it. Their Given to the Wild album came out when I was maybe 16. Orlando Weeks’ voice is amazing. He has a particular tone. It’s haunting. It was something that grabbed me. And their musicianship and songwriting are brilliant.

MF Doom

Doom is one of my favorite writers. He has a weird mind. He does a lot of things with different personalities through his records. Super niche and cult. He looked like someone who wanted to write for the sake of writing. There was no way any of his music would get on the radio.

When I started listening to it, it was special. You could dive into his lyricism. He has an interesting way with words. The punchlines are never what you’d expect: “One thing this party could use is more…ahem/Booze, put yourself in your shoes.” He made me enter more into the writing of things. I was obsessed with him.

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar

There is no one who surpasses Kendrick in terms of lyricism in our generation. Even going further, he is one of the greatest recording artists of all time. One thing that didn’t cross my mind when I started making music was the importance of your performance when you record.

The different types of character you can bring out from the inflection of your voice when you put something down. He does it so well. With each record, he has a different performance in his vocal quality. His voice is his instrument. When this Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers record came out, it took me a few good listens to figure out what it was about. I haven’t stopped listening to it since.

Pass to the other side

The music video for Drop by The Far Side was directed by Spike Jonze, who directed Her and other films. It’s that iconic video. The thing is, it’s all upside down. The guys from The Far Side learned their four-minute song backwards.

They brought in a linguistics professor. He wrote the lyrics phonetically and the guys learned it that way. Take it a step further with a music video so it’s not just a visual thing – there’s actually a performance element to it. I’ve always found it interesting.

J. Dilla

J Dilla is brilliant when it comes to sampling. He has a track with Slum Village called Fall in Love, which I love. It contains an excerpt from the orchestral song Diana in the Autumn Wind by Gap Mangione. It’s 16 bars of this beautiful orchestral piece, a little chorus with a few strings below. Dilla put a high pass filter on it and some drums that he sampled from something else. This tune is one of my favorite hip hop songs.

Magnolia

I love Magnolia with Tom Cruise and John C Reilly. I’m a sucker for movies that have multiple stories with a similar timeline. What I love about the movie is that it follows several different characters and how the things they do influence different people. It’s the butterfly effect.

There’s something about it that I like. Tom Cruise’s character is amazing. I think that was an interesting prediction of how things turned out. There seem to be plenty of characters like him where satire is lost these days.

Ida

There’s a movie I saw years ago called Ida, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, in black and white, and shot in 4:3 aspect ratio. It is the story of an orphan who grows up in a convent. Before she makes a vow to become a nun, the Mother Superior takes her aside and says to her: “Listen, you have family. You need to talk to them before you decide you want to be married to Jesus for the rest of your life.

She meets her aunt, who is a lawyer in Poland. This is after World War II. What I found striking about the film is that every shot is static except for two shots, which means the camera doesn’t move. The shots are beautifully composed. It’s like looking at paintings because they took so long to compose the scene, to make all the actors look exactly right. It also takes place in a convent, which has some powerful imagery to begin with.

The Sopranos

The Sopranos are the best TV ever made. It was such an interesting take on Italian-American gangsters. Especially when you come from the era of The Godfather and Goodfellas, and how much mob life was portrayed in those movies and how tough all the men were.

To go from that to the modern mafia, the good old days are gone portrayed in The Sopranos. Even the concept of a mob boss having to see a therapist is hilarious. What I love about The Sopranos is everything they don’t say. They have a nice way of not saying anything. It’s amazingly written and very, very funny.

Dark is the island

Kevin Barry is one of my favorite writers. All his books are brilliant. In particular, I like his short stories. Dark Lies the Island is the first book I read by him. I loved it. There’s a great story in the book about this guy who has fanciful ideas of retiring to the countryside to run a hotel by day and be a writer by night.

He ends up running this hotel on the west coast. He never writes. He’s stuck day in and day out with those people in the hotel bar that he absolutely hates. One day a great flood occurs and he realizes that he is essentially in his own grave. It’s a great story, about being trapped in a fantasy.

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