The lifting of the Iron Curtain in Romania promised change but also revealed realities that many were afraid or unwilling to accept - corruption, poverty, crime. Young teenagers living in a jungle of concrete high-rises chronicled the hardships they felt and witnessed day-by-day, laying the groundwork for Romanian Hip Hop. It was too real and too soon. Stepping into the media’s spotlight they faced criticism and censorship from a society with an out of tune system of values while being praised by a younger generation that identified with their lifestyle and message. Today, these visionaries continue to take an active role within a society dealing with the realities of the 21st century. Their stories trace twenty-five years of highs-and-lows of a country and a movement: an undocumented coming-of-age story of the underdog.
After the fall of Communism in 1990, Romania’s liberalization and increased access to foreign cultural products triggered the spread of street-operated black-markets. It is within this cultural context that Hip Hop music was imported in the early ‘90s. Adopted by a generation of nonconformist teenagers eager for alternatives to relate to their environment, Romanian Hip Hop became the voice of a post-Communist society facing an unstable political climate, an undefined social class system and a ruptured national identity.
Quickly finding an audience that connected with its themes and attitudes, Romanian Hip Hop was brought into the mass media’s spotlight and exploited by a developing music industry. Echoing in a still conservative society, it was marginalized for its direct, rough and vulgar expression. Nonetheless, the movement was strengthened by the “do-it-yourself” spirit of individuals seeking ways to create and promote their culture. By the end of the ‘90s, Romanian Hip Hop marked its integration into popular culture and the end of its “golden era.”
Romania’s entry into the 21st century saw the revival of the movement with the birth of the independent artist. With the socio-economic freedom offered by the arrival of the internet, Romanian Hip Hop became self-sufficient and matured in its scope. No longer local-specific in its approach, it adopted issues of national identity, the environment and immediate social change into its discourse, increasing its visibility within the public sphere. Twenty years later, Romanian Hip Hop is taking an active role within a society that demands an identity in tune with the global changes surrounding it.
Considering the DIY nature of the movement and absence of official archival sources, we are casting a wide net, asking potential contributors to contact us with any print, audio and video material.