Ballymun lies only fifteen minutes north of Dublin city, but in certain ways the suburb is an outlander in the consciousness of the metropolis. It is a suburb that’s name is immediately recognized, it’s nature supposedly known but usually mistaken. Ireland’s most frustrated road, the M50 tears through it, its buildings you spot when landing at Dublin airport, running as they do almost to the runway tarmac. This is the Dublin where it is possible to see kids riding horses bareback down the streets, this is the Dublin depicted in the U2 line, “I see seven towers, but I only see one way out.” Ballymun suggests something intrinsically Irish, influencing award winning film directors Neil Jordan and Alan Parker, but Ballymun also suggests something extrinsic of Ireland, something more cosmopolitan, something more urban, yet conversely something more entwined. Many have imposed their perception of Ballymun, but the best witness is the perception of those who are resident in the place.
Featuring on many ‘Hot for 2022’ lists, Adam Mohamed is descendent of a long and distinguished list of MCs from Ballymun – the Workin’ Class Records crew and Street Literature, MC Lunitic, Lethal Dialect, G.I, MC Costello, 4real. Adam had been aware of that scene and started writing bars laced with a dose of influence in spoken word poetry. For him, a logical progression was to get involved in the sphere and marry the two influences, the spoken word and the beat.
His debut track, ‘Untitled’ dropped in late 2020, as a thing fully formed. Achieving a feat that is becoming more and more difficult with each passing year, ‘Untitled’ is original. Sung, nay spoken across three languages – English, Irish and Arabic – and defining a sense of place, ethnicity, belonging and perception of same by Self and Society, it makes slacked jawed gawkers of those who listen.
Speaking in tongues that define him or perhaps try to define him, Adam raps –
Where do I fit? What is my place? Is it half caste? Mixed race? Brown? Tan? Black? White?… My name is Adam Mohamed, I am named after the first male and The Prophet…White guilt or black shame sure it’s all pain.”
Speaking to me from the studio of his label Audio Department Records, he tells me that Stephen James Smith, the Dublin poet, was the first and only spoken word artist that he was aware of, before he started writing. It was only after he released material that people told him that he sounded like Emmet Kirwan and Denise Chaila. I suggest that the lack of influence, may be the essence of the originality, he replies humbly that he had nineteen odd years of writing the one record, that it is the perfect introduction for him as an artist, as a person. ‘ME & i’, the single that he dropped in the dying days of 2021, points to ‘Untitled’ been no flash in the pan. The voice remains original – vulnerable yet strong, incisive yet common; his collaboration with Megan Nic Ruairi is seamless, the production excellent, the latter bossed by Jack Foster with whom Adam says they are building an album from the ground up and refers to as his wizard. When that record drops, buckle up.