"Atlichna!" and "Ushat griazi": Schizophrenic Hip-Hop

Having recently written an overview of 2.99 Records and the youthful slacker hip-hop of Kunteynir ("Container"), we also need to include the opposite, socially-concerned end of 2.99's roster.  In particular this would be a couple of related outfits:  Atlichna! (Kool!) and Ushat griazi (Dirt-tub). The two different names are reliable indicators of different attitudes.  Although it's all, in essence, the output of two Moscow rappers - "Epizod" and "Nihon" (above) - this split project says a great deal about the difficulties of assessing social development either positively or negatively in Russia.

The former project is optimistic in outlook, the latter much less so.  Atlichna! takes its name from a silly spelling of the word "Excellent!" (Otlichno!) - as it looks if written according to less-than-perfect pronunciation:  no sense of social complaint is evident.

"Ushat griazi" means, as mentioned, dirt-tub.  An "ushat" is a traditional form of tub, used in bath houses.  The phrase as a whole is often employed in the sense of "smear campaign," a large amount of negative information used to darken somebody's reputation.  That's unlikely to be the name of a fun-filled combo.

And indeed it's not.

The two projects work together as follows.  In 2007, Atlichna! released an album called "The Future" (Budushchee).  The front cover included two small children standing beside a wedding limo.  Beneath the album's title was written:  "The future isn't about robots.  It's all about lots of happiness, and lots of hassles, too."

The future isn't about robots. It's all about lots of happiness, and lots of hassles, too.

This was a veiled reference to the matter of raising a family, something made much clearer with the opening track, in which a child - happily! - reminds its father that he is indeed the future.  He'll work hard to fulfill the potential that his parents both hope and believe he embodies.

All in all, an uplifting theme.  The promo-materials underscored this:  "If you like rap about cool rides, girls, and weed, you've come to the wrong place.  This CD is for people who like beauty in their normal lives - or at least who want to work towards that."  Here's a sampler of the CD:

The duo went on:  "Atlichna! performs realistic rap about life - but without any rosy fairy tales or fantasies.  It's all simple stuff:  Life, family, work, and the kids."  The looping melodies used on the disc either come from - or are associated with - the early '90s, a time of relative optimism for both Epizod and Nihon.

With Ushat griazi, however, things are very different - in music recorded less than a year after "Budushchee." Epizod and Nihon were unable to keep smiling or remain positive for very long.  "Not long ago, the duo tried to talk about the good things in life.  That wasn't easy.  As a result, this next CD has turned out a lot tougher."  That recording is called "Tiazhelo s Vami" (It's Hard Being with You All").  Not exactly a celebration of social existence...

Not long ago, the duo tried to talk about the good things in life. That wasn't easy. As a result, this next CD has turned out a lot tougher.

"There are soul-searching tracks of naked sincerity;  there's intelligence and great melodies, quotes from the classics and so on, but a grim sense of some dead-end, too.  It all creates an atmosphere of blind rage and a really severe realism.  It's almost classic rap:  all about the fact that life's crap, that it's easy to lose it nowadays.  It's all about chicks and booze.  The difference is that Ushat griazi talk about all these simple, common things in ways that'll make you see and believe... that this is how things really are."  Below is a comparable sampler from the second CD:

"Behind all these grim-sounding texts you get an idea of the 'cultural background' that's really making it hard to live like 'other,' normal people.  That's why you can hear both irony and human pain.  Those are the feelings that have something to say for themselves."

To go from "family" to the irony of frustrated dreamers is not a happy move, especially when we consider that the initial dream was nothing more than a peaceful, healthy family.  Russian journalists, however, sometimes refer to the nation's "cross," by which they mean the double problems caused by a declining birth-rate and falling longevity.

Although the government has announced wide-ranging plans to fix both issues, the combined hip-hop of Alitchna! and Ushat griazi suggests considerable doubt. It produces the "intellectual, depressing rap" mentioned in the top B&W photo, peopled by characters such the as unfit, sad-looking men in the cartoons above.  The flies that haunt them seem dreadfully persistent.

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