The Rubberbandits are a comedy hip-hop group based in Limerick. The duo have been around for the past few years and started their artistic career primarily with prank phone calls they recorded and released on homemade CDs. They garnered quite a sizeable underground following, primarily among teenagers and when they started doing live shows with their own songs those same underground fans turned more mainstream until the ‘Bandits found themselves playing Electric Picnic, a large, annual Irish music festival. Not only that, they have also landed themselves a regular appearance on Republic of Telly, a comedy popular media show, somewhat in the vein on The Daily Show, which focuses on humourous clips from both Irish and International television media.
The problem, however, with the Rubberbandits, if certain people are to be believed, is their material and their language. Their latest single (and their first official release to date) “Horse Outside” premiered on Republic of Telly on December 8th and rather shortly thereafter within the following 24 hour period the YouTube video of the song had garnered approximately 500,000 views and was climbing steadily and the song has received so much publicity that many people in both national and international media are expecting it to rival the single from X-Factor winner Matt Cardle for the Christmas No. 1. For non-natives, it’s worth noting that Christmas is especially the time in Ireland for big comedy songs (Dustin the Turkey-Vulture, anyone?)
The song itself contains the chorus “Fuck your Honda Civic, I’ve a Horse outside”, repeated with a Subaru and a Mitsubishi and there are many other crude lines throughout the song such as “ride me like a horse” – “looks like Billy Piper after half an ounce of coke” – “don’t pay tax, fuck NCT” – etc… However it seems that some Irish people are taking great offense to the apparently positive light in which drugs, violence and vulgarity are portrayed in the both the video and the uncut song. The video itself contains an additional piece of artistic commentary from an actor within the scene who says to the prospective couple (whose wedding the video takes place at)
“Don’t be one of those couples that do stuff on their own. Don’t be afraid to have some house parties, even if there’s kids involved. I was reared in a house like that with drinking and drugging going on and sure it did me no harm.”
If the outrage coming from callers to Joe Duffy’s Liveline radio show on RTE Radio 1 is any indication, this comment specifically, more than any others has spurred the greatest controversy surrounding this song as it seems to portray such activities in a positive light when, of course, such activities in the presence of minors is not only not to be encouraged but to be actively discouraged. As Blindboy from the ‘Bandits mentions rather unambiguously in the interview, this is satirical and not to be taken literally. Not only that, this comment feautres only in the video and is, as also pointed out by Blindboy himself, directly followed by a shot of someone with a disapproving look shaking their head and wiping their hands, a “directorial technique” that “directly contradicts” the previous statement.
When compared to lyrics by 50 Cent, for example, as was poignantly mentioned in the interview by the host of Republic of Telly, Dermot Whelan, whose lyrics are unambiguous in both their meaning and their context the lyrics of “Horse Outside” tell a tale of two young lads from a much beleaguered area of Ireland using satire and comedy to highlight and criticise the culture of widespread drug use. They also succeed in lampooning this culture. Compare this to 50 Cent’s super-popular song “In Da Club” where the chorus lines, repeated multiple times throughout the song say
“Look mami I got the X if you into taking drugs, I’m into having sex, I ain’t into making love, So come give me a hug if you into to getting rubbed”
Far from condoning and or promoting drug use (especially in the presence of children) the ‘Bandits are lampooning it and this stance is in complete contrast to the popular position that such activities enjoy in more ‘mainstream’ popular music.
Add to all this the apparent disapproval of both government officials and members of the public towards former Defence Minister Willie O’Dea’s support of the group. Despite claims that Mr. O’Dea’s support is a publicity manoeuver for himself, he has stated unambiguously that while he does not approve specifically of the language or the crude humour he found the video humourous, in light of his understanding of it as a piece of art, and applauds the work of two young artists from his own area. It seems apparent that his support of the group is centered around both how good it could be for the image of the area and the fact that the group is in fact countering the apparent culture of drug use and acceptance, which is clearly a positive thing.
Check out the video yourself and see what all the fuss is about.