Paro Pablo: “It’s political on a ground level.”

by James Hendicott
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The Dublin hip-hop scene has flown to international acclaim over recent years, but for Finglas artist Paro Pablo, the timing has been odd.

Having stepped away from the music in 2014 after support slots with Aslan and Hoodie Allen, he watched the scene he’d left behind take off in a huge way, only returning in 2019, with hits ‘4Life’ and later the EP ‘Never Known Love’.

There were stops off, too, in a band called Low Profile, and in writing material for other people to perform, as well as an earlier act that appeared on an RTE singing contest show, but the band were told they weren’t going to win well before the end, despite reaching the final – a peak, but also a hard lesson.

“I would have started out writing poetry when I was 14 or 15,” Paro Pablo says. “My little sister had passed away and I had a lot of anger inside me and no way to express it. That was my way of getting it out, and I won a couple of competitions. Then I got a set of DJ decks for Christmas, and I started writing music. Which was terrible at the time, but that’s how it started off.”

“I’ve been doing it for 15 years now, but with rap and hip-hop you never stop learning. I had been booked for festivals like Electric Picnic in 2020, and then Covid hit,” he recalls. “I felt like I was starting again. The industry is like that, you put something out and it goes well, and for a while things are good, but then you have to start again. There’s no longevity.”

“I think what I write sounds political, but it’s political on a ground level. I’m talking about people and what they go through, but politics wouldn’t be my cup of tea. I do one called ‘Comfort in the Chaos’, and it’s about growing up not knowing what we were doing, but also kind of how that turned into what we have today, with people, especially my generation, who will never own a house. You’re not going to get rich in the music industry.”

“It’s really sad that it feels like it doesn’t matter what you do. I have mates who own successful businesses and have to live in a shared house. Then there’s the homeless crisis, which I write about in ‘Anna Livia’, which is named after that statue that used to be on O’Connell Street, but really it’s about the hostel that’s right there. It’s political, I guess on a real, personal level.”

‘Anna Livia’ will appear on the Mixtape Paro Pablo has coming out shortly, with the mixtape named after the track ‘Comfort in the Chaos’. “With the live stuff, I usually have a full band. I did five shows with Damien Dempsey on his Irish tour,” he says, “and we talked a lot about our music. He said to me that nobody wanted to listen to him until he was 36 years of age.”

“He said he listened to my songs and that how I make people feel is amazing. He told me to take it more seriously, so since then I have done that, I have strategically thought about how to put things out and do things the right way. There’s no label, or backing, so it takes a little bit longer, but I think it’ll work out in the end. We’ve talked about working together, but I’m keeping that for the right moment. I want to build my own name up, to make it bigger, and broader. Hopefully the Mixtape goes well first.”

Paro Pablo performs the Grand Social around the launch of his Mixtape on September 30.

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