What might look exotic is bitter reality. In a shanty town in Serbia kids play with big guns for the camera. Three rappers enjoy doing nothing and show off with drugs and alcohol. The 2013 video «Esi mi dobar» by Serbian hip hop group Bad Copy is a persiflage on postwar Serbia where the true gangsters are not getting caught and no one seems to care. A commentary from the Norient book Seismographic Sounds (see and order here).
«Stop, I say stop it boy, you’re doin’ a lot of choppin’ but no chips are flyin’.» (Foghorn Leghorn)
The Song «Esi mi dobar» (Doin’ ok? or Are you good, mate?) comes from the frustration of being born and living in Serbia. Ordinary life sucks here, but people keep asking the same rhetorical question – «How are you doing?» – millions of times a day, when nothing is alright. Serbian hip hop group Bad Copy counter-attacks with idiotic, absurd but funny answers: «I’m doing ok like Bruce Wayne’s batman, I’m doing ok like president Toma’s diplomas.» To beat the lethargy of the everyday, Bad Copy adds verses about what makes the little man in Serbia ok – «I’m doing ok like it was payday; I’m doing ok like the full bottle; I’m doing ok when I’m not leaving the hood.»
Flea Markets instead of Shopping Malls
The hood is clearly at the center of this narration: the setting of the video, story, slang, jokes, values, and lifestyle. Hoods, I believe strongly, represent how people live in a country. Flea markets and not shopping malls are the true mirrors of economy in a society. In the hood people are also not ashamed to publicly show their adoration for icons of corrupted state leaders (in the Serbian case, and in this video: Slobodan Milošević), musical trendsetters (Saša Popović), world mega fighters (Rocky Balboa), and hip hop legends (Tupac Shakur). But no worries! Gypsy kids in our Serbian hoods do not usually carry guns. Bad Copy invented this scenario in their clip, possibly making these kids’ dreams come true. The SWAT teams in the video seem surreal too. However, the video reminds me of a far too real incident in Albania in 2014, when locals in the village of marijuana grower Lazarat opened fire on the police. Forty-three metric tons of ganja were seized. This video might be more than fiction.
Between Mainstream and Underground
The video contains the typical black humor, satire and irony I know from several Serbian hip hop bands. They use humor to talk about life here – and they probably need it to stay positive in their local and niche non-market. Bad Copy is one among them. Others such as Prti BeeGee, Bvana, D-Fence and Duboka Ilegala, while Beogradski Sindikat, Juice, THC la Familija or Marchelo work around politics in more direct ways. In the Serbian music world it is naïve to think you might find producers, journalists or cultural workers who will support you. «How are you doing», they might ask. It’s one reason why you can also not draw a line between mainstream and underground here. Rappers have to work in various and often very different projects simultaneously. Wikluh Sky of Bad Copy is one of the most talented musicians on the Serbian music scene, but he produced some really sleazy «summer hits». Is he doing ok?
If Bad Copy wanted to become an international act and rap in English, I fear they would lose their unique language and inspiration. At the same time, I feel that global recognition for local music is growing. Maybe we will see Bad Copy on the worldwide charts in the future. They truly deserve it.
This text was published first in the second Norient book Seismographic Sounds.