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Rapping about Shrewsbury in Lockdown - Introducing The Voice of Ez.
07 Mar 2022

Aged 33, after a lifetime of trying to find direction, Airon Uyan a former pupil at Bevidere School is gaining traction as a Shrewsbury rapper. Lockdown gave him room to express himself and rediscover his music – and the results are stunning. Artwork by Liam Wood/trashboyillustration.

PARENTAL ADVISORY: - Tracks contain strong or coarse language. 

Lockdown gave Shrewsbury rapper Airon Uyan space and time to rediscover his voice – and now he’s unleashed, there’s no stopping him!

He had a brief period of success with DJ Buzzword about 10 years ago – getting some good gigs and radio play, winning battle of the bands and playing main stage at Love Music Hate Racism, as well as supporting well-known acts Kurtis Blow and the Furious Five.

The need to support his family drove him back into a day job, working in a residential care home for adults with autism and learning difficulties – and he had all but given up writing before Covid struck.

As the artist known as Ez. Airon released two songs during the first lockdown ‘just to pass the time’ and was so encouraged by the response, he decided to carry on documenting his experiences during the pandemic. Airon’s latest eight-track EP SHRUBTOWN was released on March 5, working with producer Greg Simpson (aka RUINER); it encapsulates life in Shrewsbury during lockdown – exploring Airon’s own struggles with mental health and is a departure from his more overtly political tracks. The name Shrubtown comes from the Anglo-Saxon name for Shrewsbury, Scrobbesbyrig, meaning town of shrubs.

At the start of 2020, Airon released three standalone singles and made some music videos that were shared by some big political social media accounts online and ‘UK hip-hop legend' DJ Harry Love which, Airon says is ‘more success than I could ever have imagined or hoped for’: “He produced beats for some of my favourite artists and songs as a teen so seeing that he had shared my track and video was awesome,” Airon says.

He's also now been played on Radio 1 and on 6 Music Live. Airon’s edgy, urban lyrics capture a snapshot of his life, taking in politics, domestic struggle, financial difficulties, drinking and mental health issues (he was diagnosed with anxiety and depression during lockdown). Or, as Airon puts it: “I just write what’s on my mind, innit’ (from the chorus to his opening track Five Minutes).

He says he can express himself in music in a way that he finds difficult in ‘normal’ conversation: ‘To everyone’s annoyance I tend to go off on a tangent and over explain the simplest things,’ he says. It comes from a fear of being misunderstood.

“When it comes to writing music or poetry, be it about my wife, my mental health or my disdain for the government, I feel like I can go into greater detail and ensure I get my thoughts and feelings across without them being misconstrued or lost in translation. It gives me closure on a particular topic, or just lets me express whatever is on my mind. It’s hard to explain – I need to get stuff out.”

He is an agile, gifted rapper with a voice that demands to be heard, although, he says at 33, and a dad of two young children, he is ‘probably too old to rap’. Nevertheless, he has a lot to say.

The adopted son of a Turkish immigrant, Airon has lived in Shrewsbury since 2003, when his dad Eddie Uyan decided to open a kebab shop here (Eddie now owns St Nicholas on Castle Street and was a huge support to the community during lockdowns, offering free meals to disadvantaged people). Airon attended Belvidere Secondary School and although wasn’t ‘a particularly good kid’, did well in the end in spite of being predicted to fail everything.

You only have to listen to Airon’s tracks for a minute to understand how sharp he is. His political and domestic reality is brilliantly depicted in stingingly angry, articulate lyrics, interspersed with moments of great pathos, which allow a glimpse of a kind soul. Still Dreaming explores the cost of living and poverty in the pandemic and the ‘for the many’ mentality – and our unreadiness to embrace it.

Still Dreaming promo video Ez

“‘If we give a little bit and take a lot less it could be different,” – Still Dreaming, Airon Uyan

There are sweet and intimate tracks too: “The second song on SHRUBTOWN (Can't be real) is about my wife and me still coming to terms with the fact that someone so wonderful wants to be part of my life,” Airon says. The achingly beautiful Goodnight communicates his grief after his wife’s miscarriage last year: “Just being able to put all my thoughts down really helped,” he said. 

There’s an uplifting, tongue-in-cheek ditty too Commit no Nuisance, which was written during the brief period when everything in Shrewsbury started reopening: “I try to express my love for my home town and happiness at feeling somewhat carefree again,” Airon explains.

A wealth of life experience feeds Airon’s lyrics. He studied Law after school but hated it, then tried electrical installation and Music Technology but, he says, ‘nothing really came of either of those’; he couldn’t complete his third year in either subject due to work commitments.

Then followed temporary jobs in fast food joints and a period as a ‘bit of a troublemaker’ before he found a niche in care work – Airon currently manages a day care centre for adults with learning disabilities and autism and is clearly a great fit, speaking passionately about his work. 

It’s not clear where his musical talent comes from - perhaps his grandfather: “My mum always told me I remind her of her dad, who I never got to meet. He was covered in tattoos and used to write and play music in his local for free beer. He was caught robbing a jewellery shop in his younger years and was given an ultimatum of prison or the forces so he joined the Navy. He seems like a pretty interesting bloke, but unfortunately died before I was born.”

Money was tight during Airon’s childhood, although he remembers it as a happy time: “I remember going to bed fully clothed, but just assumed that was normal – the majority of our clothes were handed down or homemade. My mum had to look after herself from the age of 10, so was pretty handy with stuff like that.”

Airon attributes his drive and political zeal to the example set by his adoptive dad (he never met his biological father): “My dad worked extremely hard to give us a good life. He is part of a persecuted minority in Turkey which probably contributed to his work ethic; he has always had a point to prove. He finished school and college early, played semi-pro football and did national service in the Navy before coming here to study, where he met my mum.

“Dad was like a Turkish Delboy trying to make money moves. He ended up opening and running a few successful kebab shops and restaurants before going into politics in Turkey. He has since returned to England after spending nearly two years in prison for political reasons. I’m a lot more radical than my dad. He thinks you have to be a part of the system. I think you don’t have to. I think the cleanest word for what I am would be socialist.”

Airon accepts that some of his songs are too overtly political to be given any air time by major networks, but SHRUBTOWN’s honesty about mental health will resonate with a broad audience: “Mental health was something I had never even considered until I spoke to a doctor,” Airon said. “He thought I was quite high risk. I was getting regular phone calls. I thought I’m a man, all I need to do is man up, go down the gym, go to work and keep busy. I felt a bit uncomfortable and ashamed. I dealt with insomnia a lot – I would go three or four days without sleeping at all. You feel like there’s no-one else around. I wrote some pretty cool songs whilst I was in that state.

“Getting a diagnosis helped - I thought I wasn’t just being overly emotional or silly about it. Being a man you feel you have to toughen up and can’t share emotions. If you try to put into words what you’re thinking, you can come across as a lunatic. That puts a strain on friendships. When confronted with mental health, people don’t always know how to take it. It’s good we’re at the point where people are more willing to talk about it.

“I think a lot of men think mental health is something that happens to other people. We go to work at 6am, come home, go to the pub, or gym or watch Netflix. We’re completely distracted. We may get some niggles of anger, sadness, or feeling lost, but that’s completely replaced by the football’s starting now, or it’s time to get lunch. During lockdown I was confronted with things I had been putting to the back of my mind for a long time. I think we do have to address them - keeping busy isn’t a natural way of life. I think that’s why we’ve got these issues.”

Airon has never had any formal music lessons - he hasn’t had a leg up or special advantages. This is a voice coming through on its own merits, and if there is anyone out there who is able to help Airon connect, or take his talent much further beyond Shropshire, please get in touch! He’s a super nice guy and extremely modest:

“I think it's just a case of saying enough words for some of them to make a bit of sense,” he says.

To find out more visit: https://linktr.ee/TheyCallMeEz

Shrubtown EP cover from Ez.
Shrubtown EP cover 2 from Ez.