Craic Boi Mental is very straightforward about who he is. He states it at the top of every TikTok video he makes. “I’m an autistic Irish rapper about to start lookin’ into socialism,” he says in one. “I’m an autistic Irish rapper supporting trans people at my gigs,” he says in another.
Over the past year, Craic Boi, 23, has been combining these themes in his songs, and he’s found an audience — mostly on TikTok — who loves his earnest presentation. But as some of his videos suggest, he’s not just using his lo-fi sound and growing popularity to discuss himself — he’s using it to voice his support for leftism and marginalized communities. In “Free Palestine Tonight,” he implores viewers to “let Palestinians live their lives.” Meanwhile, in “I Support LGBTQIA,” he steadfastly expresses his allyship toward the queer community. His tone and approach may be comedic, but his passion for these topics and his supportive messages are genuine.
Craic Boi now has more than 160,000 followers on TikTok and over 7.8 million likes between his videos. Just five months ago, he left his job at a grocery store to focus on his music career, and though the fame is new to him, he’s never looked back. But what is it about Craic Boi and his music that resonates so much with fans? Below, he takes his best guess, and explains how autism influenced his music, what his relationship with his fans is like and how being Irish plays into it all.
You’ve only recently begun making music your main focus. What’s changed over the last five months?
People have just started embracing the music. It’s gotten bigger than ever, mainly just through T-shirt sales and doing gigs. A lot of it has to do with COVID, because you couldn’t do gigs for about 18 months. Everybody’s just been stuck at home, looking for something new and unique. People find me through Twitter or TikTok, but TikTok is definitely the best place for somebody like myself to advertise and to get their message out. You can reach people all over the world so quickly. If people like it, that’s great. If they don’t, well, at least they got to see it.
You’re definitely something new and unique. I don’t know of any other young Irish rappers talking about autism and transphobia. Would you say what you’re doing is also considered unique in Ireland?
For lots of people, rap is a genre where you have your “conscious” rappers that look at things more deeply, and then you have rap that’s sort of ultra-macho — those rappers only care about themselves and their hustle. So I tried to be different, because in Ireland, that’s what most people rap about as well. It’s just old white knights doing 8 Mile impressions. I wanted to come at it from a completely different angle.
How do leftist topics factor into your music?
On Twitter, that was always what I was into. I was always left-leaning. I wasn’t really representing that in my music up until last year, though. Then I decided to embrace the whole autism thing and call my album Autistic Legend. From there, I’ve been talking through issues with trans and gender fluid people — not to try to give them a voice, because they already have their own — but to just be an ally to these people and use my platform to express my allyship.
What are the politics like in Ireland surrounding trans identity and left-leaning topics? Are these mainstream conversations where you’re from?
Like everywhere else, it’s evolving, but Ireland has always been 10 years behind the U.S. when it comes to politics and embracing topics like transphobia and ableism. In Ireland, the youth don’t really have that big of a voice. All the media in Ireland are dominated by white men in their 50s and 60s. It’s hard to get proper representation in Irish media, but Irish Twitter has definitely been getting its voice heard as of late.
It’s only been a couple of years since you received your autism diagnosis, and you began making music around the same time. Do you see a relationship between those two things?
I’ve actually gotten more acquainted with the autism diagnosis recently than I did when I was starting to make music. When I first got diagnosed, I didn’t really understand it — it took two or three years for me to fully get what it was and put that into the music. The music was completely different when I was first diagnosed. I don’t know if it really had anything to do with each other at the time, though.
You’ve spoken in previous interviews about not being diagnosed as a child and the impact you think that had on you.
I got into a lot of trouble growing up, mostly from getting into fights. I don’t know how it is in the States, but in Ireland, if you’re coming from a family with money and you go to a private school, you might get diagnosed when you’re at a young age. But if you don’t — and you go to a public school — you could get ignored, and people will think you’re a bit off. In fact, a lot of people will hit me up nowadays, talking about how they’ve had to diagnose themselves. They’ll look up stuff online and be like, “Oh, I actually have those traits.”
It would be helpful if people could get diagnosed from a younger age. Then, they could deal with their issues and understand who they are, and progress forward from there.
When did you decide that you wanted to make all of this part of who you are as a musician?
After three or four years of doing music, it can definitely get stale. I figured if I was going to continue doing it, I’d have to come at it from different angles. So I just said, “You know what, I’ve never rapped about being autistic before. I’m going to try a few songs where I just touch on the topic.” Then I ended up doing two albums that were centered around it, and people seemed to really enjoy it and connect with it. I’ve kept doing that. Not all of my songs are about being autistic, but I definitely do a lot on it now.
What kind of response are you getting from fans?
If they message me about being autistic, it’s never oversharing or trauma-dumping. It’s more stuff like, “Your song really spoke to me.” I’ve had a lot of people message me and be like, “This made me cry because I’ve never heard a song that spoke about [autism] as something I could relate to.” So that’s the kind of relationship I have with fans — they tell me that through my music, they’ve related.
I try to look at it from the standpoint of rapping about the issues I face with autism without having a “woe is me” attitude about it. I try to have some pride and say that this is what it is, and just be happy with it. In art, if you’re not trying to tackle stigmas, you’re not really doing your job.
Are there any particular challenges to being a rapper with autism?
Autistic people tend to be hypersensitive to stuff. There have been times where I’d be at a show, and fights would erupt or people would be in my space too much. A normal artist might think that’s grand, but with me, it could end up in a fight because that’s who I am. It’s something I have to work on. In general, though, I think having autism helps me because it keeps me focused on what I have to do.
For me to be happy, I have to have a schedule and I have to have a plan. If I say I’m going to have an album done by a specific date, even if I’ve got no tracks yet, then I’ll fully focus on that and get that album done. That’s just part of what keeps me and helps me be creative.
I’m just trying to inspire people in a fun way through the art of music and comedy. I want other autistic people to know that there’s a voice in the arts for them. That’s all I’m really trying to do.