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A Bad Copy of Serbia

«Esi Mi Dobar» by Serbian rap group Bad Copy [1] tackles issues of contemporary Serbia head-on by providing us with an image of contrast and contradiction. The 2013 video resembles a moussaka dish: a layer of meat, a row of potato, a layer of meat, covered with… more potato. It is simple and easy to swallow, but you need to have a stomach for it. A commentary from the Norient book Seismographic Sounds (see and order here [2]).

Film still from Bad Copy (Music) and Djolodjolo (Video): «Esi mi dobar» (Serbia 2013)

Kotez, the location of the shooting, is the actual neighborhood where two of three members of Bad Copy live. The gipsy cardboard houses and the kids you see in the video are true and real. The trashy paintings showing politicians and folk singers are the same as you see on every wall here. Fake tattoos and handmade vehicles are an everyday thing too. These elements from daily life receive new meanings when shown in the video. Director Djolodjolo plays with the imagery of gangsta rap as well as with the exotic Balkan representations of Emir Kusturica movies, and he comments ironically on everyday politics in Serbia. The effect is striking: seeing cute poor kids carrying big guns around and acting cool is a message that is very disturbing when true (remember the movie City of God that was shot in the favelas in Rio De Janeiro), but it is also a laughing matter when looked at as fiction. So what Bad Copy do is create drama where there was none in the beginning.

Form without Function

«Esi Mi Dobar» (How you doin’?) is a shout-out, a greeting, that usually carries absolutely no weight or meaning. Now take that and put it in the ghetto, add kids with guns, SWAT teams and wannabe gangsters. You get a sort of philosophy that relates not only to local politicians and turbo-folk musicians featured on the graffiti stencils, tattoos and t-shirts, but it speaks to a global phenomenon as well: form without function. Everyday talks and political promises without substantial content. Love songs of despair and lives full of disappointment, all empty and unfulfilling.

In hip hop today, most performers try to present themselves as macho and over-masculine in an attempt to disguise their own sexual and lyrical insecurity. Bad Copy has always seemed different: In «Esi Mi Dobar» they criticize Serbia, but also themselves – they are a Bad Copy of Serbia. It is a statement of the marginalized and it is nothing at the same time. It is an ode to simplicity, both in life and music, but also, it is only hip hop. Raw and uncompromising.

This text was published first in the second Norient book Seismographic Sounds [3].