Ruairí was just 10 years old when he discovered Death Grips.
Instead of toy unboxing or Fortnite videos, Ruairí spent his screen time watching YouTube music reviewer Anthony Fantano and consuming everything he recommended. When he saw that Fantano gave a rare 10/10 score to industrial hip-hop outfit Death Grips’ album The Money Store, he listened. He loved it.
Death Grips is not for everybody. In fact, it’s not for most people. Abrasive, glitchy beats paired with MC Ride’s raging vocals about disturbing subject matter make their music decidedly inappropriate for a child. But Ruairí was no stranger to music that pushed boundaries.
“When I came out of the womb, I loved listening to grunge music like Nirvana,” the now-12-year-old tells Billboard.
This was mostly due to his father, Paul, and as Ruairí grew up, the two bonded over a love for punk music. So once Ruairí started to explore the world of hip-hop, he wanted his dad to as well.
Thus was born P F / Dad Reacts, Ruairí’s YouTube channel where he shows his dad mainly hip-hop music and films his reaction. Their charming dynamic and Paul’s surprised facial expressions make for a wholesome-yet-hilarious spectacle, gaining the channel more than 90,000 subscribers in just two years.
“I wanted to make my dad understand what I was listening to and grow his love for hip-hop so we could like more than just one genre,” Ruairí says.
Now 12, Ruairí is astonishingly insightful and knowledgeable about music. Because of this early maturity, Paul eventually felt comfortable allowing him to listen to and share his love for music that might not have the most age-appropriate subject matter.
“The obscenities were hard to get over for a while,” Paul says. “If you look at the first few videos, pretty much every second I’m like, ‘Language!’”
At first, Paul and his wife, Martina, were worried about what people might think. Sure enough, there were a few negative comments — but even more support.
“A clinical psychologist replied to a hate comment citing studies that show that kids exposed to language when they’re young are more developed,” Paul says. “So we decided to go with him.”
Paul’s reactions and Ruairí’s reviews have garnered the attention of fans and artists alike. BROCKHAMPTON and Lil Yachty have shouted out the channel on social media, and Ruairí has interviewed JPEGMAFIA, Injury Reserve and even Anthony Fantano — the man who inspired him in the first place.
But meeting his idols hasn’t been exactly what Ruairí expected — in a good way.
“I think all of them are super smart, and people that are really smart don’t tend to talk as much,” Ruairí says. “JPEGMAFIA was very surprising to me because when you hear his songs he’s always yelling and sounds really mad. But he was super nice and pretty quiet at times during the interview.”
Though he is compared to Fantano — fans refer to Ruairí as his child, or even “baby melon” after Fantano’s nickname “the melon” — music criticism isn’t the endgame.
“I think the Fantano comparison would be a bit more accurate if I shaved my head,” Ruairí says. “I don’t think I’m going to be a music reviewer forever. It’s eventually going to become a secondary thing, so I’m going to need to branch out.”
Ruairí has already begun to do so, creating a merch line called TWAG and working on a rap album in his living room. He’s even started to DJ local events, like the Los Angeles-area Mar Vista Farmers Market, which he views as a step toward performing his own music one day.
Though his Mar Vista set had to be PG (so no Death Grips), Ruairí kept the farmers market jamming with songs by Alabama Shakes, Gus Dapperton, Dominic Fike, Rosalía and Tyler, the Creator, all while chatting with fans who came to see him. Some were his peers, some were much older, proving that age is but a number when it comes to sharing a passion for music.
In the end, the artists Ruairí has introduced to Paul have become some of his favorites — Injury Reserve and JPEGMAFIA among them — and their bond as father and son has strengthened.
“I’m obviously very proud,” Paul says. “It’s fantastic that he can have this kind of knowledge about music. We’re always talking about music or listening to it — or both.”