Published on 01/02/2022 11:00 am

Leopold I. is a Slovenian rap and hiphop artist with activist and socially critical tracks. As it befits a rapper. More unusual is the fact that he hails from the Gornja Ragdona area in the north-east of the country directly bordering Austria and the town of Bad Radkersburg. Most importantly for his poetics, however, he is rapping to the beat in his native Radgona dialect.

In civilian life, Leopold I. goes by the name of Michael Leopold. He majored in translation studies and has been steeped in rap and hiphop since childhood. Many moons ago he joined a Maribor based hip hop collective Rap Virus Crew in early naughts and quit in 2011, realising that he is not staying true to himself by rapping in Maribor dialect.  And yes, dear listeners, even though Gornja Radgona and Maribor are only 35 kilometres apart as the crow flies, the two areas have to very different dialects. And so, a decade after he quit the Maribor scene, Leopold I. re-emerged, better, wiser, and laying rhymes in Radgona accent.

In his songs, Leopold I. takes aim at social injustice, hypocrisy of the political class as well as hate and xenophobia. Which is exactly what the preceding tune was about. How fascist, autocrats, misogynists and populists will claim not to be any of those things and then proceed to do those exact things. And if you listen carefully, you’ll hear a few names named as well. But he also raps about mortality and just how fleeting life can be.

Leopold I. bases his lyrics on everyday experiences, as a rapper should. But he augments these with his background in literature and translation. He is especially fascinated by how local cultural context matters in both creation and reception of music. Which also explains his decade-long hiatus and choice of native dialect as an expression tool. While this is not directly translatable, take it from this presenter that his tunes in Ljubljana or Maribor accents would probably come across as phoney. At the very least, they would have a completely different vibe.

But anger management and sentimentality are only two of the wide variety of emotions Leopold I. explores in his songs. He does humour and sarcasm just as well. Combined with what can only be described as a valiant attempt at chap hop, he can create a funny vibe, with a serious and critical undertone.

Every self-respecting hip hop artist has a crew. So does Leopold I., whose band goes by the name Drügi, meaning “The Second”. So, what we have here is Leopold The First and The Second. Funny. They are still working on their debutante album but plans are to release it later this year.

And that is all the time we have for this week’s episode. Check out Leopold I. on YouTube, Bandcamp, or wherever you get you music from.

Balkan Express will be back next week.

Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of, you guessed it, the Balkans. Forget gusle and tamburice, this show is about rock, pop and a sense of humour. Well, at least there’s guitars. On air most Tuesdays in a new-and-improved time-slot at 1100 hrs. Usually. Your train conductor is Aljaž (aka @pengovsky) who once did the world a solid and decided never to sing again in public. Which is why he ended up doing radio

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Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of the Balkans.

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Leopold I. (Balkan Express 072)