Introducing Jun Tzu – Belfast hip-hop

juntzuThis week, via my friend Ricky McQuillan, on facebook I came across Jun Tzu, a young rapper/hip hop artist who was brought up in Rathcoole, Newtownabbey.

I had never heard of this guy before but what I’ve seen from a few videos on youtube I think he’s worth listening to.

I don’t want to say too much about Jun Tzu other than offer a few observations.  His lyrics are autobiographical and clever.  At times they are funny, at other times, painfully honest.  I also like his use of colloquialisms and that he hasn’t toned down his accent.

First, hear him hanging out with some kids in Rathcoole beside a UVF mural:

It seems to me like stating the obvious, but from the reactions of the kids in that video Jun Tzu’s hip hop will be able to communicate to young people in a way that community relations and other funded peace education programmes can only dream of doing.

Jun Tzu is clearly not shy about talking about his background.  In the next video he addresses the issue of what it was like to grow up in a segregated society.

It strikes me that Northern Ireland desperately needs an art form that appeals to grassroots young people.  Historically, hip-hop has acted as a means of emotional catharsis, much like blues, jazz, and other musical genres did for previous generations.  It is almost always rooted in working and lower class communities.  For those of you who are not fans of hip hop have a look at what Cornel West says about it:

‘At their best, these [hip-hop] artists respond to their sense of being rejected by society at large, of being invisible in the society at large, with a subversive critique of that society.  It has to do with both the description of the conditions under which they are forced to live, as well as a description and depiction of the humanity preserved by those living in such excruciating conditions.  It then goes beyond to a larger critique of the power structure as a whole.’

If you think that’s taking things too far, check out this last video where Jun Tzu talks about his struggle with the legacy of his Dad’s involvement in the UVF and the tension between expectations of some people in own community and finding an identity that is not rooted in bigotry.

If you listen to the media you could be forgiven for believing not much good can come out of Loyalist and Unionist working class areas.  Jun Tzu is proving them wrong.  Good luck to him.


7 thoughts on “Introducing Jun Tzu – Belfast hip-hop

  1. The problem here is, Jun Tzu only lived in Belfast to he was 6. He then moved to Manchester where he developed a Manchester accent and also didn’t experience the changes that wen’t on in Belfast from the early 00’s to now. His music lives in a fabricated past with a somewhat fabricated accent. Jun Tzu is a very talented artist, I just feel that he fabricates it all a bit too much to be used a gimmick. Two albums using Belfast as a gimmick to promote his fantasized music. I was born in Belfast where Shotguns Shells blast, Moved to Manny as a kid lad, but I don’t tell that.

  2. Thank you for your feedback Chris, its always good to know how people perceive my music. And thank you for the compliment, however, there are a few points i would like to clear up for you.
    I did, as you quite rightly say, move from Belfast at an early age, i believe i was only 8 years old. I moved to Manchester in 1996, the same year the Arndale shopping centre was targeted by the IRA, because of this I was bullied and taunted at shcool, my fellow pupils and sometimes even the teachers would call me IRA, an Irish B**tard and so on. i could not understand this because my whole life i was told i was British. I was left with a nationality and identity complex; was i British or Irish?
    It was at this point in my life that i started to study the history of the troubles in Northern Ireland and also write poetry expressing my views on the subject. I moved back to Belfast when i was 16 (in the early 00’s) for a year and a half, and travelled the width and breadth of the country, so i gained quite alot of insight then.
    You seem to use the word “fabricated” an awful lot in your comment to describe my music, this is not true, my accent has always remained Belfast, however, as a teenager i did try and fit in by “fabricating” a Mancunian accent, one in which never really seemed authentic to my peers. In terms of my music, I dont fabricate anything, i have witnessed things in Belfast you would not believe! and i do not conceal any part of my past, please take the time to listen to my song “Bloody Brothers” on youtube, this song talks about my brother and I moving to Manchester as children.
    My goal is to unite the youth of Northern Ireland and show that there is no real difference between them. Belfast is not a gimmick, i am simply using my past and the things i went through as a child to accomplish this.
    I hope this gives you a clearer understanding of where i am coming from.

    God Bless
    Jun Tzu

  3. Great post! And great response from Johnny above sharing even more of his background. Delighted he’ll be doing lyrics workshops with kids with the Beat Carnival this June – as you say Dave; excellent communicator with kids and hip-hop’s a great medium for engaging young people. Loved this.

  4. Pingback: Introducing: Jun Tzu | 33RPM - Voices of the Revolution

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