‘We’re first-generation black kids living in Ireland’ 

Considering the likes of Limerick’s Rusangano Family, Drogheda’s A92, and Dublin’s Kojaque have come before them, what was most surprising about TraviS and Elzzz hitting top spot in the Irish album charts in March with Doghouse was that it was the first ever Irish rap album to do so.

They got to No.2 last year with their Full Circle mixtape – Taylor Swift held them off No.1 – but this time they topped another pop princess in Ariana Grande for the honours. They say they were gunning for it this time round. “It was still on the table to be the first in Irish history to get it,” says Travis. “We knew what we were going for.” 

Still in their early 20s, both were born in Nigeria. Travis is studying engineering at DCU but says music “is definitely something that I want to do for myself. I’m not working for someone else.”

They both played rugby in school (centre, full-back, winger), recalling games against Bandon Grammar School. “They had some serious ballers,” says Travis. 

Why didn’t he stick with rugby? “It was too much effort for what was required. And I was doing so much in my life that I was like, ‘I can’t keep this up.’” 

Though their adolescence is somewhat similar, they only became friends when they moved near each other in south Dublin around 2018. They used to freestyle all the time – and Travis had had his head turned by those trips to the likes of London. They wanted the same thing. A clothing/lifestyle brand, Gliders, was formed before the music. They remember wild house parties that would help spread the name – they’re among a whole host of ambitious new artists, like dance duo Belters Only, who are looking beyond music.

“The aim is to blend it to some extraneous worlds where Gliders is a household name. We have the clothing, we have the music section of it, we have the creative agency side of it, and the creative direction side of it,” says Elzzz.

Being based in Ireland presents both opportunity and limitation. “We’re not in the UK where there’s all these structures there for you… there’s nothing here. You really have to graft so much harder than people that are in the same level as us but overseas…” begins TraviS.

Elzzz continues… “It’s twice the effort for half the recognition.” 

TraviS and Elzzz.  
TraviS and Elzzz.  

But they want to seize the opportunity of first Irish rap No 1 album. Travis says: “The scene is the scene. The culture here in Ireland is still growing. We’re first-generation black kids living in Ireland, and showing what it means firsthand, first time, to be growing up in Ireland and do things in the country. It’s at an early stage, so there’s still a whole market that’s untapped – a whole culture that’s untapped here. 

“That is here, it’s just dormant. We’re gonna see, in five, six years’ time, when some of the people that are 15, 16, are older and then they’ll be looking for all of this, they’ll be looking for Irish rap that’s going crazy. They’ll be looking for events to go to from fashion brands to wear that are in their country.”

 Elzzz: “You are right though. We are very much at the forefront of a growth.” Travis: “We’re fans of culture. Building culture and implementing culture here from Ireland is everything because we’re creative, we know we can do it.”

  •  TraviS and Elzzz perform at Pearse Museum, Dublin, on Thursday May 23 as part of Anam – Songs for Hearts & Minds, a collaboration between Other Voices and the Office of Public Works. A livestream begins at 8pm via the Other Voices YouTube and Facebook channels

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