In the beginning of the New Year I decided to create a list of the best Bulgarian rap that was released in 2012. The list, of course, is subjective to my personal tastes. As a lover of non-commercial rap, I was looking for and following artists who are often not able to make it to the mainstream radio and TV, but who more often have a real message for the audience than the ones who do. I believe that quality is not measured in views, clicks, likes, etc., but is rather a personal perception of music. The list does not have any particular order and I hope to be able to collect at least 10 releases (videos and/or albums) which are worth listening. It is important to note that this is not a chart and the order of the releases below does not matter in any way.
Fengi & MadBasta – Още Утре ft. Roelant Hollander & DJ Jijo (As Early as Tomorrow)
I am glad that 2012 didn’t lack such funky & fresh releases such as this one. To be honest, I don’t know much about the guys but it is pleasant to see that such projects are brought to reality. The participation of saxophonist Roelant Hollander shouldn’t be ignored as it definitely gives much of the funkyness of the song. It is released free to download from here.
I don’t remember how I discovered Jluch, but I was immediately captured by the concept of what he is doing – mainly freestyles. The nice thing is that he is not just talking gibberish over a beat, but has a theme to rap about. The themes are being proposed by the Bulgarian hip hop community at 359hiphop forum during the week. Every Tuesday he is freestyling in the show “Centrofuga” at radio “Reakcia”. Themes he is freestyling about may cover not only typical stuff for rap such as social problems, politics, hip hop itself and conspiracy theories, but also mythology, diseases and abstractions such as time. Jluch’s voice is very distinctive and his flow is quite impressive, influenced by top underground hip hop artists. Unfortunately, it would be impossible for any non-Bulgarian speaker to understand the meaning of the freestyles. All of them can be heared below in Mixcloud:
So Called Crew – Това е (This is it)
After Jluch, it is reasonable to continue with the first video release by So Called Crew, of which he is part. The release is some classic smooth hip hop shit – funky samples, vinyls, graffiti, and if you look a little closely you can also notice DJ Stancho, who is a prominent figure in Bulgarian rap music. Finally, this release is so universally hip hop that you don’t need to understand the lyrics of the track in order to enjoy it sufficiently.
MD Beddah & DJ Skill – The BOOMBLASTER
I believe that “The BOOMBLASTER” is this year’s best release by XPRSN. Together with DJ Skill, hip hop veteran from Plovdiv, MD Beddah released an incredibly funky release. The video is shot by Bashmotion, who also shot many other high-quality rap videos for different artists in the past two years. To get an idea of the lyrics, below is a translated excerpt (kinda rhymin’ as well):
not doing it for the money but for the fuckin’ show,
pure music, emotion and natural flow,
this is rap of top class
more advanced than technology of NASA
The Top Stoppers – Get the Benjamins
The Top Stoppers is a four-piece rap project who are part of the Bulgarian hip hop label ILLMATE. The concept of their debut album is nicely thought of and consists of 2 parts. These parts contrast highly to each other not only by meaning of the songs, but also by sound. As Wosh MC explains in the intro
a coin always has two sides.
In other words, the album reveals the light and the dark sides of each of us.
The video is incredibly creatively done by Ogi Kostovski, a.k.a. SUPERS4UPEN. It is extremely dynamic and includes smart animations, effects and transitions between locations and set ups, such as the moment in which Wosh MC finds himself in one of the first arcade version of Mortal Kombat, which were typical during the 1990s.
Moreover, it is not to be ignored that the album consists of 25 tracks in total, showing the great effort put by Wosh, Yoko, Feel, Piro and DJ Darkstep at the label. Interestingly, there is a huge variation in the price of the album, depending on the way fans decide to buy it. The CD can be purchased for about £4, but the mp3 format suffers from extremely high variations. Namely, there is an option to order the mp3s through sending an SMS text message which costs £2.00. In return fans get a unique code which allows them to download the album from the label’s website. At the same time the mp3s are sold at iTunes and Amazon for around £15!!! Most probably, the reason for the huge difference in the prices can be found in the policies of the large music distributors. And probably the cheaper versions of the album can be purchased only in Bulgaria in order to accommodate the price adequately for the Bulgarian market.
Finally, don’t get fooled by the name of the album. “Get the Benjamins” is undoubtedly one of the true gems released in Bulgaria in 2012. It can be previewed here at iTunes.
Gerata feat NRG D – Izberi Si Plan (Choose a Plan)
This is a collaboration between Gerata and NRG D who merge hip hop together with reggae and the result is quite splendid. The song is rather idealistic and brings up social issues such as politics, religion, globalisation, technological progress, capitalism, imperialism, materialism, inequality, war and lack of unity. As an alternative, the artists “propose” eco-aware and eco-friendly lifestyle, thought, art, unity, peace and love. As Gerata sings in the song:
oh yes, we find salvation in love,
there is no other religion that is to save the world
The video for the song corresponds perfectly to the message of the song and it can be understood even by a non-Bulgarian speaker. In January, 2013, the artists released a joint album, which can be previewed and ordered at HillHomiez website.
ATILA – ZEN
ZEN by Atila is something quite different for the rap scene in Bulgaria. Even though stylistically the song is typical for the rapper (flow, lyrics and philosophy) the video is innovative for Bulgaria. Atila preaches eastern wisdom on top of a beat with mystic samples and relates it to hip hop culture and life in the city. An interesting and impressive fact is that he is also the director of the video.
STARTERAs – От театъра до цикъла (From the Theatre to the Cycle)
STARTERAs, a veteran in Bulgarian hip-hop culture, has released his double album in the early days of 2012. It is such a splendid work, merging smart lyrics, smooth sound, funky beats and deep basslines. Moreover, the album is incredibly rich, including 26 diverse tracks – some are suitable for partying and others are suitable for deep thinking. There is a long list of featured artists such as Logo5, Aztec Attack, Yoko, Deadly Mindz, Killa K and more. It is worth noting that along with the regular release at iTunes and Amazon, the album was released on a USB stick, which includes WAVE files. This makes it the first Bulgarian album to be released on a USB carrier. Below is the promo video for the album, which was published in 2011 and includes famous Bulgarian b-boys from Electric Force Crew:
I am highly delighted that STARTERAs and the guys at ILLMATE have crafted such a meaningful piece of work, which I believe is going to stand the test of time and will be regarded as a classic in Bulgarian hip-hop in the future.
English-spoken rap from Bulgaria
I think that Bulgaria has several artists who are talented enough to release music in English. I also believe they should be supported and promoted in order for them to move forward and have the ability to develop. This is why I have also included a video of an international collaboration between Bulgarian and Jamaican reggae-artists at the bottom of the list.
Calligraphist – Feel It In The Air
In 2012 Bulgarian rapper and lyricist Calligraphist won a an MC contest which was hosted by DJ White Shadow. The prize that was won by Calligraphist was a feature track with legendary Kool G Rap which is yet to be released. Clearly the rapper is heavily influenced by Immortal Technique and Necro. Even though he is Bulgarian, there is no clue of any Bulgarian accent. This is combined with quality lyrics and excellent flow. Below is a video that he released last year:
Basscatz – Thriller
This release is coming from Platform Music – a young Bulgarian label which is concentrated in releasing bass music. This release is rather dubstep/grime than rap. Nevertheless, it is a precedent in Bulgaria’s music scene and deserves its place in this list. It has to be noted that significant part of Basscatz is Illea, who is also a third of Logo5 who released their debut album in 2010 and personally I regard it as one of the best Bulgarian hip hop albums of all times.
Ras Zacharri, Zafayah, Kappa Irie, Jahmmi Youth – BUN VAMPAYAH MEDLEY
As reggae performer Jahmmi Youth sings in the song, this piece is the first Bulgarian riddim and is released by Roots Rocket. Another precedent in the Bulgarian music which brought attention to local reggae and raised the bar for other reggae artists from the country. Moreover, in this release we can see significant participation by Ras Zacharri which serves as proof that Bulgarian reggae has reached a certain level and deserves international recognition.