For this Artist Showcase, Eric Ryan speaks with Matt Ó from Tebi Rex about their recent release, Brackets, their debut album, their plans for the future and how they’ve been creating during lockdown.
For those that don’t know, Tebi Rex are a hip-hop duo from Kildare who have taken to the forefront of the Irish hip-hop scene with their signature blend of catchy hooks and genuine, laid back verses.
Composed of Max Zanga and Matt Ó, Tebi Rex are a dynamic team that feeds off each other’s energy in every song. Usually, the singing is left to Matt Ó, who’s melodic verses and hooks smoothly combine with Max Zanga’s chic, laid-back, and often introspective lyrics.
Whether it be a heartfelt, lo-fi alt rap track, a DIY pop banger or a head bopping club rap song about getting drunk and forgetting your own lyrics, it all lies comfortably in their ever-expanding wheelhouse of sounds.
Although releasing music as early as 2017, it was in 2019 when they established themselves as a real driving force in the Irish hip-hop scene when they released their debut album, The Young Will Eat the Old.
The Young Will Eat The Old, is a dynamic and cohesive project that’s sound is as intriguing as its themes and concepts. It offers insightful, introspective lyrics about life that draw inspiration and meaning from Greek Mythology, delivered over a range of instrumentals that vary from DIY pop to alternative hip-hop. All neatly wrapped up in a 3-act structure, the stellar release was a major improvement from their 2018 project, Welcome to the Darkest Year of Our Adventures.
On their debut album, Matt Ó said, “It was an amazingly fulfilling and fruitful experience but don’t get me wrong, it was heavy at times. We were creating some amazing tunes and we would have to cut some out because they just didn’t fit the story we were trying to tell.”
For musicians and fans alike, 2020 has been a seemingly never-ending onslaught of doom and bad news, as countless amounts of live shows and projects have been cancelled or rescheduled. But Tebi Rex have managed to buck this trend, and their yearly growth has continued with their latest release, Brackets.
With Brackets, Tebi Rex took a different approach and dropped some of the key elements that made The Young Will Eat The Old stand out. While cohesion was still top priority with the EP, it’s a project that centres itself around shorter individual stories, the artists’ personalities and most importantly, having fun.
Matt Ó drew similarities between the four tracks on Brackets and a group of friends, saying there’s “a messy drunk one, a sincere & romantic one, one who is over the top and one who isn’t quite all there – a fantastic mix”.
He added: “Each song has its own identity, like how AAAAGH got a groundhog-day style video whereas I Got My Whole got a dreamy Wes Anderson treatment. White Boy Of The Month had a full animation and You Thot didn’t even properly have an ending.”
One of the standout tracks from Brackets is the drunken and hazy AAAAGH, which is strengthened by the guest feature from Awkward Z, a rapper from Ireland’s south-east whose braggadocious verse fits the track as if he were a third member.
With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that Matt would choose Awkward Z as his “creative collaborator if Max Zanga were to unfortunately pass away”. And in the case of Max’s untimely passing, it’s the producer of AAAAGH and Burner Records star, Local Boy, that Max Zanga has in line as Matt’s successor. Tebi Rex truly are prepared for anything the future will throw at them.
The track is a testament to the new, strange times we find ourselves living in, as the boys had to work remotely when collaborating with Awkward Z. Covid-19 restrictions are something that Tebi Rex have taken in their stride, constantly sharing ideas through messenger and mail, and even having mixing sessions over Zoom.
But despite 2020 being a good year for the duo, it most definitely still had its pitfalls, most namely the lack of live shows. “It has been really tough I won’t lie. It is 1000% the best part of being a musician, and it’s the best way to know if your new music is slapping or not.” said Matt.
When asked about plans for the future, Matt Ó said: “Hopefully there’ll be live shows, whether they’re socially distanced or ideally vaccinated. We have our first show of 2021 booked in for London in February, and I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities to watch virtual Tebi Rex shows too.”
Matt added: “Obviously a new year will mean new music, but I have no idea what it is going to sound like, or when it would see the light of day so can give no hints as of yet – but based on what we’re writing at the moment, it is definitely some of our best ideas to date.”