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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 24 October 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 24 OCTOBER 2015 13 FEATURE Listening and learning Neos Kosmos speaks to Greek rapper Negros tou Moria about his upcoming new album GEORGIOS HATZIMANOLIS It's not easy being a rapper in Greece. Only a select few MCs make a living from their art. They are usually the really commercial guys acting like Jay-Z but sounding like Kriss-Kross while dropping a verse halfway through some cheesy Greek pop song. If you want to release music you believe in and stay true to the ethos of underground rap music, chances are you will struggle to make ends meet without a second or third job. Of course, hardship and suffering are not new to hip hop; songs about struggle are a cornerstone of the genre. Brooding tales of desperation often become heralded classics. Which is why many in the Greek hip hop scene are eagerly anticipating the release of Negros tou Moria's debut LP, Akougontas kai mathainontas. Because this is a guy that not only knows about doing it tough, he is also a young man wise beyond his years, with an incredible grasp of the Greek language and a vocabulary that would make most professors envious. His verses, which draw on inspiration and slang from early rembetika songs, paint vivid images of life in Greece today for a 20-something male, dealing with the difficulties of daily life while dreaming of a better future. Born in the central suburb of Ambelokipoi to Ghanaian parents, Negros tou Moria has always had to deal with racism, from playground incidents in his younger years to constant harassment by the police as he grew up on the streets of Kipseli. Despite the fact that he was born in Greece, was baptised Greek Orthodox, went to school in Greece, speaks Greek and identifies as being Greek, he is not legally considered Greek, leaving the young rapper feeling like an alien in his own country. "I was born here but I am not a citizen, which makes me non-legal, which means I am trapped," he told me during our interview in downtown Athens. "Without the appropriate documents, the legal status of residency or citizenship, even the most simple of tasks become impossible - renting a house, copyrighting my art, every single function of daily life becomes an uphill battle." There is no denying that this injustice and the resulting consequences have those of African heritage, to stand up for their rights and to fight for what they believe in. "I don't have the power to be the next Malcolm X, the next Martin Luther King ... the only way I can protest, the only way I can be an activist is through my music, by using my rap to tell the truth." At the same time, Negros tou Moria is determined to use his music to prove to his doubters just how Greek he is. "I want to show them that I am not only Greek, I am Ellinaras." There is no denying this kid identifies as Greek. His understanding of Greek history is impressive to say the least, as is his use of the Greek language. Hearing him discuss the history surrounding the Greek Civil War, in Greek, with a shop owner during our walk around Athens left me lost for words. That's something that never happens to Negros tou Moria, who not only speaks multiple languages, but has also studied, in great depth, the slang used by rembetes during the early era of that music. "We need to go back to our roots. If we want to use slang, we should use our own slang. There is no need to be American, we have our own slang, and it's a language much older and much richer than American slang," he told me. Intertwining the language of a bygone era with references to life in Athens today and modern beats has resulted in Negros tou Moria becoming one of the most talked about rappers in Greek music. His album, Akougontas kai mathainontas, has been three years in the making and has been produced together with his 307 crew, a diverse group of talented musicians who come from all parts of Greece or are children of migrants that call Athens home. "My squad is very multicultural, we have five Greek guys, plus a Greek Ethiopian, a Greek Albanian, a Greek French guy, a Greek Georgian and myself. Because of this diversity no two tracks sound the same, we all call on different backgrounds and inspirations when making music, meaning everything we produce has a unique feel." Akougontas kai mathainontas will be shaped this young man's life and the way he engages with the world around him. He is now calling on all his experiences of growing up black in modern Greece and putting his thoughts into his music, with his first LP due for release this year. "Music is my main weapon in combatting and dealing with the racism I encounter. It's my machine gun, my shotgun, my knife," Negros tou Moria explained. He says he wants to use his music to help inspire other migrants in Greece, particularly released through Greek record label Black Athena. It will be available via iTunes and Spotify, and will also have a very limited run of a vinyl edition that includes bonus tracks and material. *All photos for Neos Kosmos by Photius Drakos.
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