Realistic Crew
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Realistic Crew


Band EDM Hip Hop


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"This Is Hungary: We don't have stars"

Hungarian hip-hop has been going strong since 1984, and its musicians are keen to be recognised globally. The problem: they're just not Hungarian enough. Angus Batey reports
Angus Batey
Friday February 29, 2008

The crowd in the Budapest cinema are watching both the screen and the stage in front of it. A flickering montage of leafless tree branches, broken windows and cold, grey skies is being given an intricate live accompaniment. Two musicians stand silhouetted by a single red spotlight, grinding out a crisp, slouching buzz of snare drum snaps, bass and static from their set-up of bass guitar and laptop.

A slim young woman with short blonde hair steps carefully on to the stage. Her half-whispered lyrics add another layer of mystique and menace: fragmentary verbal images, sung in an evocatively distant English, deepen the sense of icy unease at this music's brittle heart.

Realistic Crew's music isn't typical of Budapest's underground hip-hop scene. In a city where most rap acts adhere to the primacy of sampled beats and rhymes, their sound sits somewhere between leftfield electronic jazz and the dubwise accessibility of Massive Attack and Portishead. But their attempts to get their music heard outside their own country is one that musicians throughout Hungary will recognise.

The group's debut album, Overcome, is released this week in the UK. The band have a distinctive sound, a smart live show, and music that should prove accessible and intriguing to western listeners. Everything - band name, album and song titles, lyrics, even the convention of placing members' surnames after their first names, rather than the Hungarian way round - is in English. But Realistic Crew have yet to find a British booking agent, and are finding gigs and radio play outside Hungary tricky to come by. Their very Anglicisation means they are deemed not Hungarian enough for the rest of the world.

"People in other countries keep telling us that we should do stuff in Hungarian," sighs Csaba Kalotás, bass player and co-composer of the group's music. "It's really strange to me," says Dalma Berger, the singer, after a gig. "My lyrics are important for me, and I want people to understand. If I write in Hungarian, only Hungarians can understand. Why would this music be more interesting if we sing in Hungarian than in English?"

Hungary is at the heart of Europe, but linguistically, it is an island nation. Aside from a distant kinship with Finnish and Estonian, Hungarian has no relatives. Further isolated for most of the late 20th 0century by its communist rulers, Hungarian culture has developed alone - and its pop music has provided an often proud parallel to trends in the west.

During the 1960s and70s, artists released records on the state-run label and became huge stars in their sequestered nation, but today's Hungarian bands are part of a global market. There are around 10 million people in Hungary, and another 2 or 3 million ethnic Hungarians in adjacent nations. For any cultural product in which language is crucial - lyric-heavy hip-hop is one - the potential market is tiny. Online file-sharing is commonplace here, and with recent figures suggesting that only 2% of Hungary's credit and debit card users are willing to use their cards online - just over 100,000 in total - it will be some time before Apple bothers to launch a Hungarian iTunes store. Hungarian musicians, in effect, cannot sell their music.

"This is Hungary - we don't have stars," Frigyes Machán says with a rueful smile. A programmer at the Budapest station Radio Cafe, Machán also runs, "as a hobby", Mamazone - a combined publishing company, booking agency and label - which releases compilations of Hungarian underground music. "To get a gold record in Hungary you only need to sell about 7,500 copies," he says. "For a label, there's no sense in releasing an album. They're just promotional tools."

"We once did a gig with 1,000 people there, all shouting the lyrics," says Ferenc K´o´házy, a member of the hip-hop band Suhancos. "Nobody believes that we aren't making any money, but we are in debt."

The morning after Realistic Crew's gig, K´o´házy and his Suhancos partner, Balázs Szabó, are sitting in a bright, Vespa-themed cafe in the centre of Budapest. Suhancos offer a very different take on Hungarian hip-hop from Realistic Crew, K´o´házy's raps meshing with Szabó's acoustic guitar in a style based heavily on traditional folk music. Tracks from their debut album, Üzenetrögzít´o´, have, the pair believe, found their way into around 200,000 homes, via MySpace, YouTube clips and illegal downloads - but as yet the record has sold barely 500 copies.

"I won't sing in English, because it's not my language," says Szabó."But, of course, I'd like to play a big concert somewhere, and somehow let everyone know what the lyrics mean."

Suhancos are following a venerable tradition. In the 1960s and 70s, Illés, regarded as Hungary's Beatles, helpe - The Guardian

"Realistic Crew - Overcome"

Realistic Crew – Overcome

Records :: Album Reviewby Liam Arnold

Sounding like Boom Bip if he'd spent some years drinking with gypsy caravans rather than listening to breakdance and rave, Realistic Crew are Hungary's most intriguing musical export. Taking out-of-focus snapshots of the likes of Amon Tobin and Massive Attack... - The Skinny

"dripping blood"

"...the sound of blood dripping on a broken record player that's playing the sound of a man sweeping leaves"-NME - NME


2001 – Things Realistic Crew mixtape
2002 – Roma Remixes (Hungarian & UK release)
2002 – Ez a divat / Realistic Crew remix
2002 – Fuori Orario Ottodix / Realistic Crew remix
(Italian release)
2004 – Wake Up Peet / Realistic Crew remix
(Hungarian & Dutch release)
2005 – Testlies / Growgrow Double EP (Sonic 360 - UK)
2006 – Fekete Kefe/Black Brush – Original Soundtrack
2007 – Overcome (Kitty Yo - worldw., Ward Records - Japan)
2007 – One Year on Hungry for Hungary compilation



REALISTIC CREW was founded in 2001 by Chabz and Krizo, who both began their musical careers in alternative rock bands before making the transition to electronica at around the same time. Having worked with the cream of Hungary’s underground musicians and vocalists, they have now signed to Kitty Yo and are about to release their album ‘Overcome’. Recorded with their new members Dodi, Albert, David, Dalma and Zeek, OVERCOME is testament to the multi-faceted genre that is hip hop.
Deep melodic grooves converge to produce truly cinematic music that balances somewhere between the abstract and experimental while exploiting all instrumental and vocal possibilities.

Having opened for artists such as Amon Tobin and being invited to the Glastonbury Festival, they are in high demand as live artists, their performances being as unique as the beats they put down in the studio which are also enhanced by powerful visuals provided by their VJ team MONKEY PRESSO.