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Don’t call me G, but rather next one 

Published March, 2024
by Michael Papcun

Where is the new generation of Slovak rap heading? 

Slovakia is a small country with large regional disparities. This results in the experienced binary division into the more developed West with the capital city Bratislava and the East, which remains in the shadow of the Western part. That’s why it was a surprise when in 2014 a new sound of Slovak rap emerged from Eastern Slovakia, from Košice, unburdened by the dirty street stories and gangster feelings associated with the Western Slovak settlements and rap tradition on the line of cities Piešťany-Bratislava (Kontrafakt, H16, Druhá Strana, Čistychov, DMS, L.U.Z.A, etc.). This ethos was only disrupted by the project of the rapper Samey and producer Dalyb, HAHA CREW, which brought out the album VLNA (The Wave, 2014). The acid-trap tuning, not dissimilar to Travis Scott’s first demos, and the more atmospheric, introspective take on rap music, symptomatic of the 2010s, elicited a response in the scene similarly oppositional to the socio-economic picture of the country itself. Steeped in darkened productions with slow tempos and almost impressionistic imagery in the lyrics ( Ja sa zobúdzam tmou / V cudzom meste ktoré je zaplavené hmlou – I wake up in the dark / in a strange city that’s clouded with fog), the album defined the sound of a new generation within the genre. It captured the experience of growing up in a middle and lower middle class environment in East-Central Europe with universal overlaps (housing estates, the desire to outgrow the shadows of one’s own province, civilism and grey urban landscapes, relational insecurities instead of experiences of the street underworld). At the same time, VLNA has become a vanguard of a whole new “wave” of Slovak hip-hop, which I will try to delve into in the following lines. 

From the children’s room, from Košice 

The success of VLNA and its melancholic tuning was most notably followed by HAHA CREW member Samey himself. His solo albums, Mama I Don’t Know When I’m Coming Home (Mama, neviem kedy prídem domov, 2017) or Tears of the Streets (Slzy Ulíc, 2023), are tuned in the style of a collage-like Bildungsroman and don’t hide their fiercely romantic tendencies. The productions are eclectic, the lyrics personal, tied to the regional genius loci of Košice’s housing estates and urban peripheries. A legitimate question is to what extent the albums in question reflect the unequal salary ratios and living standards on opposite sides of the country (the aforementioned division between the rich West and the poorer East). But this theory is immediately disproved by the fact that Western Slovak rap also vehemently refers to the social “sewer”.

Difference, however, is in the direction of the development of the statement. Wandering the night streets of Samey’s alternates with the dawn in the suffocating atmosphere of empty flats, from where we then return to the whirlwind of clubbing and debauchery, where drugs mix with feelings of disillusionment. The essence of Samey’s statements is most defined by the Gorillaz debut album t-shirt, which he often wore in photos from the studio and the making of Mama, I Don’t Know When I’m Coming Home. Aside from Albarn’s elegiac pop, Samey’s music was closest to the massive trend of cloud rap and mumble rap. Subsequently, other “rap romantics” such as Trashbag Face, Dycember, DUCH, player13, …. began to swarm the Slovak digital underground. Partly following Samey’s lineage, partly directly following the aesthetics of the Sad Boys collective around Swedish rapper Yung Lean and the guilty-pleasure eclecticism of the hyperpop wave. But most of it remains a fixture of the underground scene. It’s good to keep in mind the fact that we move in an environment where only the number of listeners defines the underground status more than the progressiveness and “edginess” of the sound. The stream-successful stuff can often times be more imaginative than its underground counterparts. Rapper WEN, in particular, has shot out of this cloud environment in a big way. In 2021, after various singles, EPs and two 2020s albums (LA BOHÉME and WHEN?), he began his conceptual trilogy Shadows of Light (Tiene Svetla, Chapters 1-3; at the time of writing, the first two chapters have been released so far), in which the boundaries of genre sound seem to be nothing more than a spilling sonic mirage. Along with the names of rappers, the names of local producers are key. The most frequent and stylistically flexible name appearing on most new Slovak rap albums is producer Nuri. Mark Broestl’s productions are distinctly atmospheric and (t)rap clichés-defying. Strong pop tuning is brought by Hujdy. Finally, there’s Yo, the fresh-faced WEN (involved in his albums to a large extent as a producer) and the freshest and most eclectic in style Praé, taking care of the productions on the albums of the rapper SIMILIVINLIFE, who is mentioned in the last part of the text. 

5-track EP Shadows of Light: Chapter 1 delivered a cohesive, futuristic sound underneath its pistachio green monochromatic cover. While Samey oscillates between trap, pop archives and references to rock music of the late 60s and early 70s , Wen transforms trap music into a purely electronic, digital reinvention looking clearly forward. This dark-electronic séance is driven primarily by a suffocating, deep bass and Wen’s rap-whispered delivery, conveying laconic, enigmatic bars. The world created in Wen’s lyrics is reminiscent in its contours of classic rap proclamations of loyalty and cohesion with the circle of closest “G’s,” friends. But instead of striking shoulder-shaking poses, Wen is consistently dedicated to building a twilight VIP zone for a select few, largely abandoning the storytelling ever-present in Samey’s work and offering the listener pure sensuality. The EP functions as a sonic laboratory whose output defies genre classifications. Wen creates his own interpretation of what it means to make contemporary rap. This is best demonstrated by his own bar “don’t call me ‘G’, but next one, yea'”. Wen doesn’t want to be a classic rap “gangster” from the streets. Rather, he prefers to be a shrouded in obscurity entity pushing the whole rap game somewhere further. Most notable in this regard is the minimalist track Superspln. The EP symbolically closes with its dance remix by producer Hujdy, reminding us of what’s yet to come. 

Massive synthesizers and hard drum-machines define even more the second chapter of WEN’s project Shadows of Light (Chapter 2, 2022). Instead of an EP, this is a 10-track album steeped in deep bass-tunes and hypnotically repetitive motifs with a full-on nod to the tropes of dance music. The project is thus a reflection of a wider trend. Hip-Hop/rap music has begun to splinter and atomize into various digital sub- genres, intertwining with genres of club electronica and nostalgically inclining towards the sound of reggaeton, jersey club and drill, seek inspiration in the legacy of 80s “new wave” and turn-of-the-millennium pop, hardcore punk, or the psychedelic wave of the 60s (just think of rappers Bad Bunny, Yung Hurn, Yung Lean, Lil Uzi Vert, Chief Keef, Travis Scott or Playboi Carti). What’s interesting about Shadows of Light is how much they cut away from any regionalism or even the mention of anything connected with the physical geolocation of their place of origin. Unlike the aforementioned Samey projects, they operate purely within a digital space and context. 

Life as in Sims 

Pushing the sound of “East Slovak rap” even further is a new name on the scene and a fresh ambassador of the Zoomer generation lifestyle, SIMILIVINLIFE. Since 2020, he has delivered several singles and a short album SIMILIVINLOVE (2021) and an EP I Miss You (Chýbaš mi, 2022), where he started out on the sound of traditional trap production and quite tendentious hyperpop beats, to which he added his specific falsetto rap and a lyrical style that most of all resembles a verbalized version of Instagram content. Short snapshots of everyday life, photos of desirable goods, current feelings and almost constant references to Instagram. A lifestyle largely which has largely relocated to social media. We are also reminded of the repetitive sampling of real voicemails in the tracks, fragmentedly framing Simi’s verbal collages in real relationships or references to direct social interactions. 

SIMI’s latest EP DVOJBODKAHVIEZDIČKA (written version of “:*” emoji, 2023) is a flagship, or rather a rollercoaster of his previous work and progression of the whole East-Slovak scene. On social media and streaming, he’s mainly pulled by the viral hip-hop dance hit PU**Y POWER, which somewhat unfairly puts the remaining three tracks on the EP in the shadow. Afterka (Afterparty), Exception (Výnimka), I like you (Do teba – with the Do teba – Slowed Down version), along with the pilot single, take us into a world of carefree yet strangely melancholic dates, parties and after parties, from which Simi cobbles together a mosaic of simple micro-stories, closely intertwined with the album’s production backdrop and his musical inspirations. The aforementioned producer Praé weaves rap, hip-hop, pop and dance electronica into a catchy groove. The resulting sound is, within the Slovak scene, a perfect example of the contemporary Y2K (return to the trends of the noughties) aesthetic, strongly popular especially among the aforementioned Generation Z. Soft vocals, more singing than rapping, mix with samples (e.g. Justin Timberlake’s) and drop one catchy bar after another in quick succession. In terms of this verbal cadence and the nature of the simple storytelling of short civilian etudes of nightlife poeticized in simple images and metaphors, DVOJBODKAHVIEZDIČKA is like a condensed Instagram or TikTok feed and a personal diary at the same time. A diary collaged from emojis, voicemails, Instagram messages… DVOJBODKAHVIEZDIČKA thus feels personal, almost intimate and, thanks to the precise production, spectacular at the same time. The hip-hop electronica here is as soothing as it is stimulating. 

SIMI’s lyrics and overall approach are more pop than rap, which has more or less become the norm these days. However, he’s not afraid to openly riff about post-teenage affectation. He fuses authenticity with almost cartoon stylization. It’s an album that documents a generational blending of the virtual and physical worlds, changing into its own bespoke created digital avatars, or reviving the cartoon aesthetic in visual identity, fashion and physical image. This digital turn and fashionable Y2K revival transforms SIMI into an avatar of himself in the style of the aforementioned video game avatars and cartoon characters. Deep pink sweatshirts, oversized camouflage tees, comically large Balenciaga glasses, giant baggy jeans and futuristic designer sneakers co-create a persona more grounded in global trends than the real world framed in square Instagram formats. These are small on mobile screens, but at the same time “Larger than life” in their reach and influence. In this sense, SIMI transcends the common creation of alter-egos in pop music that we are meant to look up to. Rather, he is a synecdoche that is easy to identify with. 

The vintage-futurism aesthetic works with bold textures, colors and cuts that modify the proportions of the human body. Coupled with SIMI’s highly stylized and post-production heavily edited, falsetto vocals, SIMI conveys the world in a style that is akin to social life simulators such as the iconic game series Sims was and is. Set on dance floors, car seats, and city streets, the narrative is civil and very close, yet at the same time it feels virtual, like a highly stylized reconstruction of what (we) the listeners have lived through, converted into an aesthetically compelling form. Something like the poetry of the Habbo Room. 

Global region 

In Samey, Wen and SIMI’s work, we see a lineage charting the evolution and transformation of rap music. Three performers, geographically from the same region, making music that builds on each other stylistically and evolutionarily, but at the same time gradually breaks more and more away from its place of origin and moves towards a universal digital environment. The experience ceases to be geographically bound. Realities are globalised and consequently transformed into an affair akin to video games and simulators. However, the universal language of music production and artistic expression is still linked to the Slovak language, which continues to bind the authors firmly to their native region. Something similar was done by the Slovak literary avantgardists of the interwar era (group around leftist-avantgarde DAV magazine), who brilliantly combined the Slovak language with the expressive devices and dramaturgy of the avantgarde from Western Europe. To address the “applicability” of regional languages to rap music seems, to me personally, anachronistic with the development of regional scenes across Europe. Rather, it is interesting to observe the organic connection of global trends and the virtuality of Generation Z life with non-English language. This is already reflected in the rich mixing of Slovak language with Anglicisms, but this is not a specific means of expression, but a generational tendency. Which only proves that we have before us a complex and symptomatic utterance. Which, moreover, isn’t worried too much about drawing or crossing boundaries in any sense. 

Written by Michael Papcun
Photo SIMI (press photo)

This article is brought to you as part of the EM GUIDE project – an initiative dedicated to empowering independent music magazines and strengthen the underground music scene in Europe. Read more about the project at

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.