Romani rapper Gipsy - change comes from the streets, not the government|
Rob Cameron's guest on this week's One on One is Gipsy, a young rapper with
a lot to say about life in the Czech Republic. A member of the country's
large Roma minority, Gipsy is highly critical of both white society and
Romanies themselves, and believes change can only come from within the
Roma community. He's just released his first album in English - Ya
Favourite CD Rom - an album full of irony and humour and above all great
How long have you been involved in rap music?
"I was ten years old, that means it's ten years already that I've
been making rap and hip-hop music. I've been making beats since I was 13.
So it's ten years already."
You're 22 now, so this is something you've invested a lot of time and
"Yeah. It's been a long way, I've put a lot of energy into this
music. And I want to say I just put everything from my life into making
good lyrics, good beats, to make a perfect sound. A lot of energy."
Tell me about some of the things that you sing about. Some of the themes
in your music.
"You mean from the last album, Ya Favourite CD Rom? Well, it's very
easy. The very easy concept of the album was to make an ironic album which
would have something very cold inside. Many rappers are trying to rap like
'yeah we have a problem, we have racism' or whatever, and they try to be
aggressive. This is the way many rappers before me have done it. I didn't
want to be the same. I didn't want to be 'a rapper'. I just wanted to be
Gipsy. I just wanted everybody to know there's a melody, there's a rhythm,
what I know, what I like. You can see it in the music. So the concept of
the music was to do something ironic, which would be funny, but also it
would be a little cold. Because I'm making fun of my own race, of my own
There is a lot of irony in your music. The album starts with two Romanies
breaking into a car. Where did that idea come from, what were you trying
to say with that?
"Well, the classic image of a gypsy is a thief. Stealing cars, or
stealing in a train. You have to be a real thief to be a gypsy. Everyone
in the world thinks like that. It's the average, classic view, but it's
the real view. And also it's true! Many gypsies are doing this. I don't
know why, it's maybe a question of the times, but they do it. This is what
I was talking about at the beginning. It's very cold, it's very real, but
they do it. Because it's happening. It's criminal, so it's bad. But also
I'm able to make it funny."
So you want to paint a real picture of what life is like for Romanies in
this country and not pull any punches. Not pretend the situation is
"Yeah, because many people, and many gypsies, are trying to say 'yeah
we're only good, gypsies are not bad, we're trying' and simply it's not
true and everybody knows it. I just wanted to say - this is real, what we
are. When I'm talking about my community, I'm talking about a problematic
community. And we know it. We know it all."
It's also a community which does face a great deal of discrimination and a
great deal of intolerance from majority society, isn't it?
"Well, this is a very complicated question. It's a question of a big
time period, from, I don't know, the 12th century to now, what's been
happening with gypsies, with our culture. Europe knows gypsies as thieves,
dirty, living with horses. That's how they know them. So a lot has to do
So it's a complicated problem. You're most recent album, Ya Favourite CD
Rom - it's quite political, isn't it?
"Many people say that. I didn't want to be political, really. I
didn't want to be someone who 'represents'. I wanted to be someone who
makes music. But when I was listening to the album two weeks after it was
released, I thought, 'yeah, it's true, it's really political'. And now I
have to say, yeah, it is political."
Why do you sing in English?
"Well because English now is an international language, that every
country knows, every nation knows. So that's the first and the main
reason. If I want to be heard by everyone around, I need to speak a
language everyone understands, and that's English."
Do you think Czechs have any idea what it's like to be young and Romani
living in the Czech Republic?
"No. A classic white boy - like this guy here - he will never know
what it means to be a real gypsy. Because the life of a Roma - the life of
a gypsy - and the life of a white boy is completely different. We're
growing up in very different backgrounds, in very different places, in
very different situations. I mean white boys, they have white things. When
I was a baby, I didn't know many things white boys knew, but I also knew
many things white boys didn't know."
Music has traditionally been a way that the Roma have used to preserve
their culture. Do you see yourself as a kind of continuation of that, of
preserving Romani culture in rap music, in hiphop?
"I feel myself like a new generation of tradition. Hiphop's already
been done. Black people from the States, from France, white people from
Europe, everybody's already said what had to be said. Now I'm here and I'm
trying to do something completely new. I still hold with hiphop: I'm
talking about the culture, I'm talking about my race, I'm talking about my
family. That's what I do, but I try to make it new."
Is it true to say that a lot of young Romanies have lost faith in the
older generation? Have they lost faith in the older Romani community
leaders to change anything?
"Well, I'll tell you. This is a fairytale. We don't have any leaders.
Gypsies, for centuries, they weren't ruled by anyone. This is a problem. We
didn't have inspiration, we didn't have rulers. And if people - gypsies -
who have, you know, these flashy clothes and try to say 'we represent
gypsies', they're lying, because we don't have leaders."
So the problem is under-representation, but can that change and do you
think that will change?
"I think there are ways how to change the gypsy community. But to
change it you have to go out onto the streets. Hiphop is the way. I know
gypsies. If you go up to a gypsy and say choose mathematics, government or
music, every gypsy will choose music. I come with a new thing, I'm saying -
do you choose the old gypsy music, or hiphop? 90 percent of gypsies will
say 'yeah, I like hiphop'. It's 2005, not 1822."
Hiphop's the future then.
"Hiphop is the future for gypsies. It was the same for black people
in the States. Hiphop is easy to do, and hiphop is also the simplest and
best way how to communicate. So for me this is the future. Not government,
not leaders, but hiphop."