What, you don’t know about Czech hip-hop? Okay, I guess that’s not really surprising, I guess. But have you seriously not ever heard of Gipsy.cz? Rapper Radoslav “Gipsy” Banga and his cast of nutballs? Well, you have come to the right place, my friend.
I loved their first record, Romano Hip-Hop; Banga has an Eminem-type flow, switching back and forth between several languages, and his band kicks both Balkan two-step and trad funk loops. It’s not just fun music, either — Gipsy grew up hard on the streets, and he’s got an edge to him, but he kicks ass on racists and stupid politicians and all manner of baddies. So already we’re rooting for these guys, right?
I am happy to report that they have stepped things up on Reprezent. Like, a lot. The Romany influence is bigger all over; the very opening track, “Benga Beating,” tosses in mournful violins and a spunky accordion on top of Spanish-sounding percussion and Bronx-born scratching, and it gets wilder from there. “Udelej Neco!” hardens up the Euro-smoothness with guitar crunches and background screeches, so it sounds kind of like Killer Mike if he was rollin’ hard through the worst neighborhood in Brno.
But they are starting to spread their wings beyond just the “oh whoa czech dudes doing gypsy rap” thing. “Na Ciganske Svatbe” is a two-minute new-wave polka with no rapping at all. (Okay, there is a dope old-school scratch break, but still.) “Vecernice” is a long and lovely hip-hop ballad — it’s filled with modern U.S. r&b production, but it’s all pretty and stuff, with an acoustic guitar break that can only be described as “evocative,” and sung beautifully by Benga. (Okay, there’s an extensive rap section here, kind of like Baby Bash snuck into the studio, but it’s an afterthought.) “Vitej” is a rowdy waltz chant that gets more and more aggressive as it goes along — wish I knew what they were saying, but I think I have the lyrics around somewhere, I’ll check it later and get back to you. And although it sounds like “Love Love” is hip-hop, with its rolling angry-sounding verses (the English ones drop the F-bomb ZOMG), it loosens up and gets psychedelic in the chorus, really more like the Zombies got beat up by XTC and early Café Tacuba and late Parliament. It’s that langorous.
So how do you hear this stuff, you ask? UH INTERNET DUH. Go to his label’s website and check out this record and buy it online for a mere pittance. Also, listen to much more stuff that they have there because Indies Records has my full support — I’ve already reviewed Nuck Chorris Gang here, but there are like many other records they’ve released this year which are intriguing at worst and awesome at best. (Full disclosure: I have become email friends with the label head, Premysl, and advised him not to do an English-language version of Reprezent, because it was already really great. Flay me if you must.)
This was written by Matt Cibula. Posted on Friday, August 1, 2008, at 10:22 am.