Dean: Jermiside and The Expert’s Intercontinental Rap Alliance talk about humanity’s worst impulses
It takes supreme confidence to call yourself the expert, a descriptor typically reserved for introducing scientists ridiculed by right-wing politicians, and Brain competitors. But it’s the chosen pen name of Cian Galvin, veteran of the Dublin rap scene, probably best known at home for being the beatmaker of Messiah J & The Expert, an archetypical rapper-producer double act who operated in the 2000s. .
This project appears to have folded, but The Expert has remained active releasing instrumental albums Dynamic drift (2015) and Excursions (2019). And now there’s the awesome The overview effectreleased in May, which pairs him with a new co-conspirator: Cincinnati via Atlanta rapper Jermiside.
Irish rap is typically an island operation. With the notable exception of some very successful Ireland-UK drill music teams, few artists seek overseas collaborators or locate an audience off this island. There has, however, been some serious intercontinental rap forged with American cousins in recent years.
A few tracks that immediately come to mind are Belfast producer Bear//Face and A-1’s version of 2015’s old cloud rap track “Taste My Sad” and the respected Wexford emcee Rob Kelly jumping to a remix of Sean Price and Small’s The Professor’s “Fridge P” a few years ago.
The overview effect go further. On a full album, Jermiside and The Expert fit together like puzzle pieces, complementing each other’s styles as two separate entities that seamlessly synthesize.
Galvin’s particular expertise – and he considers himself an expert, the accompanying notes Dynamic drift described him as “beat commander and music master” – taking old music and turning it into raw, funky, slightly psychedelic rap orchestration. He is a follower of the old ways, citing 1990s East Coast sample producers The RZA, Pete Rock and Large Professor as some of his inspirations.
Add in Edan The beauty and the Beasta kaleidoscopic underground rap classic from 2005, which has been reported as a direct influence on the dirty, layered instrumentals of The overview effect. I also hear DJ Dangermouse’s dusty, western-influenced pocket symphonies.
The Expert’s sample picks through the album are on the left. Rhythms don’t stand still – they evolve like organic life. Take the song “Floating”. The sample appears to be from the Middle East, but has been edited to evoke a spooky 1950s Martian sci-fi B-movie vibe, under which the producer adds smooth drums. Musically, it’s a record laden with ornate flourishes and musical trinkets.
Enter Jermiside, who over the beats delivers a thought-provoking sermon of politically aware rap. It’s fair to say that few rappers have ever tried to say the same within the confines of a single LP.
It begins with “I Love You, Still”, the first song after a short intro, Jermiside’s meditation on generations of black American pain. “Martin Luther told me that hate was a bottomless emotion / But tell that to the slaves at the bottom of the ocean”, he raps at the start of this saga.
Jermiside’s words on black liberation are notable for the scope of his focus. “I Love You, Still” single-handedly references the horrors of slavery, the vapid nature of TV coverage of systematic racism, and the teachings of Nation of Islam founder Wallace Fard Muhammad, complete with a bold, lavish chorus courtesy of Libyan-Irish singer Farah Elle. But there is also Jermiside’s elegant prose. “White noise haunted by black screams / Black tears could fill the Red Sea,” he raps sharply on “Black Tears.”
Jermiside is on less confident ground on “Electric Boogie,” making fairly common complaints on social media — privacy issues, that it’s a waste of time — while invoking the name of George Orwell, a writer which is constantly referenced by experts and commentators these days. But Jermiside uses retro-futuristic imagery like rockets and Skynet, the rogue artificial intelligence of the terminator movies, to give a fun ripple to his modern concerns.
On “Ecology”, Jermiside sounds the alarm on climate change, cursing the “daze” in which humanity lives. Then there’s “Bullet Shock”, in which Jermiside describes the aftermath of a gunfight. The Expert uses untuned electric guitar strings that most producers would avoid, but their warping increases the appropriate sense of unease about the subject. He is a fine example of a producer and a rapper in perfect harmony.
It ends with a shot of romance. “A Little Love” sees The Expert roll out old-school horns as Jermiside tries to do what songwriters have been trying to do since time immemorial: define love. There’s the invocation of Q-Tip’s vocals in Nas’ “One Love,” inviting some of the legends who helped shape the duo to their party.
The album may be about our species’ worst urges, but they find a twinkle of light in the dark. In the future, a formalization of the partnership of Jermiside & The Expert would not be a bad thing.