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Czech rap star Yzomandias has a habit of collecting verses from time to time, which he handed out on the records of other rappers, and releasing them under his own name in the form of a mixtape. The first was J.Eden from 2016, J.Eden Dva, who is three years younger, can already boast double platinum. (In our country, the platinum record is awarded to a recording that earns its creator a million crowns.)
When it came time to collect the “guests” that Yzomandias had recorded with other rappers over the past three years, he decided to take the recapitulation a little differently this time. He went through his drawers and approached the popular club DJ NobodyListen to prepare a recording of J.Eden E-gen as a delirious tribute to the free-thinking mixtape format, which played a key role in the development of hip hop.
J.Eden E-gen can be listened to as a uniform mix and it is a really crazy ride reminiscent of a wild night in a club. NobodyListen mixes Yzomandias’ verses in new remixes here, as well as a dozen unheard-of tracks, sometimes friendly rappers (Smack, TK27) show up with their greetings, and actor Jakub Kohák makes a message like “Come on now! “For listeners unfamiliar with the chaotic aesthetics of rap mixtapes, it can sometimes be an experience bordering on sensory overload, but they are definitely not bored for a while.
Some tracks have barely a minute, but thanks to NobodyListen, they fit together smoothly and naturally mix with several new songs, which Yzomandias released gradually as singles endowed with clips. The songs Don’t Understand Us, One Two, Quarantine (recorded with other Milion + members) and the playful Koleso scored at the top of the streaming service charts and prove that Yzomandias’ stuff “from the drawer” also maintains high quality.
Back to the roots
For Yzomandias, the novelty is a bit of a return to the very beginnings of his career. In the middle of the zero decade, he first started playing in clubs in Karlovy Vary and first occasionally created mixes from songs by Czech, Slovak and American rappers, to which he added his own rap and spread it in a semi-legal way. His cult mixtape Shine Like Diamonds Vol. 1 (also released under the name DJ Logic) from 2008 falls into the domestic golden era of this format. There was already a decent demand for rap at that time, but it was still relatively difficult to list and distribute a compact with music, so a home-burned CD, which was sold at club events, had to suffice.
Mixtape means more things in the history of hip hop: from pirated DJ mixes from the mid-1970s to recordings of beginning rappers in MP3 format distributed via internet repositories. But what they have in common is a loose concept of copyright – whether they rap into borrowed beats, or DJs use tracks in the mix for which they do not have copyright. Mixtape belongs to the gray zone, a kind of alternative rap universe where anything can happen.
NobodyListen and Yzomandias on J.Eden E-gen pay tribute to a specific period in rap history – the middle of the zero decade of our millennium, when hip hop became a powerful commercial force and publishers signed recording contracts with every promising rapper. However, after “transferring” to the first league of the music industry, they soon began to lack the freedom of the original hip-hop culture, so they took refuge in the aforementioned parallel world of mixtapes, where they could rap into “stolen” beats. The collage aesthetics of mixtapes were also formed here, which includes telephone messages from friendly rappers or comedian performances.
J.Eden E-gen, of course, works with the author’s material, but he retains the free-thinking spirit of the format. Rap fans can easily reveal a lot of references to classic rap mixtaps. Cashan Bulhara’s polite message “Damn son, where did you find it?” Refers to the famous slogan of the Atlantic mixtapes creator DJ Trap-A-Holics, who was active in the first decade of the new millennium. In Heliport, Yzomandias quotes from the text of cult rapper Lil B, and Kohák’s speeches reflect the bold diction of the guides of classical mixtapes.
The reference is also a great cover by an artist who calls himself Paul Gate – he is conceived in the spirit of the poster for the horror classic Reanimator. There are actually two covers – the two protagonists of the mixtape Yzomandias and NobodyListen take turns on them in the roles of crazy scientists who do experiments with the other’s head. It’s a convenient metaphor – the J.Eden E-gen mixtape is a bit of a laboratory in which animal species interbreed and fantastic super-genre hybrids are created. By the way, this is the method with which the club nights Addict Rave, behind which DJ NobodyListen stands, succeeded – dance music naturally meets rap with them.
Yzomandias has been developing its own rap career and founding the Milion + label, currently the most successful publishing brand in the Czech Republic, since releasing the burned CDs. “Find the word self-made in the dictionary and next to it will be my photo,” he recalls his achievements on the track Voprsklý Kids, and then adds: “We were down like you, down like you, voprskylý kids. Look now, he’s a millionaire, he used to be just like you. “
Money, girls, drugs, cars
“My only nightmare was to be average or normal,” says the rapper in Domesticik’s opening track, and of course Yzomandias’ mantra is repeated several times: “Not to sell out, but to make money.”
Of course, his verses also revolve around other typical rap tropics – money, girls, drugs, cars. Design brands are named, TV sorceress Jolanda quotes and travels the world in first class. In many places, Yzomandias’ lyrical machine gun seems to switch to automatic mode, randomly jumps between themes and spews rhymes, but even this rap “stream of consciousness” has its own charm. In recent years, Yzomandias has entered a superhuman rap mode, where there have been only a handful of chosen people in the history of Czech rap, and J. Eden E-Gen is a summary of this transformation. “I was looking for myself, the sea, I found myself in time,” he states in the final track Lost in the Future.
In interviews, Yzomandias admits that preparing a mixtape with his old friend NobodyListen was a fun turn-by-turn from the merry-go-round and the tour. (But in the end it will also be for J.Eden E-gen, it is scheduled for May and June.) The precision and dynamics of Nobody’s mix make the recording much more than just another compilation of Yzomandias’ hostesses. One of the two most popular rappers in the Czech Republic continues to grow – after the multiplatinum record Prozyum, this is his next significant notch in the history of Czech rap.