By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /


Translator: Kristaps Kadiķis
Reviewer: Katrina Rutka Hello! My name is Gustavs Butelis,
my ID code is 190678-13111. My bank account is
LV26HABA0551001792691. My ZIP code, some say index,
but it’s a code, is LV-1010. Oh, the PIN code – 4242. Tell no one! Door code – 1212A. For some reason, ever since I was born I have this feeling, that I am coded. Because the moment I was born,
when I had just popped out, there was a voice from above saying – 190678. – What?! – 190678! – Wait a second.
Don’t I get a choice? – You have already chosen, they say.
You crawled out today, and it’s 1906. If you crawl out tomorrow,
it will be 2006… But it’s too late for that now! I didn’t have a calendar with me inside. And so the ID code is 190678-13111. Why am I telling you this? It’s because I am coding you now,
so you know that my birthday is coming. (Laughter) That’s why I mentioned the bank account.
– (Applause) It’s all related. Codes are everywhere. Codes are everywhere,
but that’s a minor issue. Also the thing is that
I have contradicted myself. You see, I have been writing songs
for about 15 years. If you compare songs created 10 years ago
with the ones created today, it seems like they have been written
by two different people. If the current Gustavs met
the other guy from 10 years back, one of them would just get into
a misunderstanding with the other. – What are you saying? The difference is easy to see. Then I was absolutely sure that, firstly,
dissing someone was a piece of cake. In exchange, I got people’s reactions:
“Wow, you really can pull it off!” And I thought, “Sure I can.” It was kind of a natural state for me. Then I also listened to music like that. I was convinced that when writing a song,
it has to be harsh. People then said, “Where Gustavs spits,
the grass won’t grow.” And I was like “Oh, stop it you!” At the time I did lyrics like: What’s up, huh? Scratching nuts, huh? In your sleep, huh? Haven’t scored, huh? Got pissed, huh? Screwed up, huh? Who’s the man, huh? ‘Cuz I rock the crowd, huh! People told me it’s wonderful poetry. (Laughter) And I truly believed them. I thought “Yes!” (Laughter) (Applause) To understand how good the lyrics were
for that time – it was 2004. I got a National Music Award for this.
(Laughter) Means that these words resonate. They even resonate with some jury. Well, I thought that when writing a song,
I needed to show who I am. And while others may
express themselves gently, put some romance into it,
I thought it was better to threaten. Scare them so that they know! So in the end what came out was like: You know the way I am, right? Like a snow pile on your head, kaboom, the moment you start some shit… These kind of sharp, punch-like lyrics have become a norm in the hip-hop genre. This genre as such started out
in New York back in late ’70s. This culture was meant to replace
the actual violence in the streets. Possibly to an extent the genre
did bring the people closer together, when actual street battles were replaced by battles on a stage with rhymes,
or dance, or graffiti. And that was cool too,
that physical fights were no longer there. But the thing is, by putting all
of this aggression into lyrics, it spreads at a much wider range. It’s not one guy I’m messing up anymore,
it’s thousands of people. If the song is a hit, millions of people
get involved in my aggression. There’s no official research on this,
but it seemed very interesting to me. I looked at famous rappers’ biographies. I was wondering what they were about,
how they were doing. I knew how I was doing,
but I checked out their game, too. So, if we take the top 5 guys, Jay Z, Nas, the deceased 2Pac and Biggie,
and, let’s say, Eminem. The list can go on, of course, but
these are the life stories I came across. What confused and surprised me,
was that they all have identical stories. All were abandoned by their fathers
in early childhood. All had inner resentment because of this. They started rhyming,
which was a way to express that. No one was a good student at school, they all had weak grades, majority of them were expelled. And then they started rapping. They committed, put all of their energy,
their view of the world into rhymes, that, at first, nobody cared about. Encouraged by their friends to continue,
they did it over and over, created things, and as a result, gained success and fame. For some, the success was temporary,
while others still enjoy it. Then I took a moment to look at myself
and saw that my story is identical. As were those of my friends
that I started rapping with in mid ’90s, and of the ones that joined later. So maybe it has nothing to do
with the genre at all. Maybe I was attracted to these songs,
these images and these people, because of our similar psychic state,
similar experiences and concerns. Without even knowing their stories, something clicked in the subconsciousness,
making me join the club. Possibly, I didn’t realize at the time
that I’m attracted to it, because my background was similar, but when I started living it
and cultivating it, I was only multiplying
and multiplying the effect. That part wasn’t clear to me at that time. It got me thinking about
how many people are bad at school, grow up without a father
and cannot even imagine, how close they are to becoming a rapper. As a result, continuing with my songs, at one point I noticed that
I started falling sick quite often. The diseases were very diverse – catching a cold several times a year, continuously worsening asthma,
some pneumonias and finally shingles. That’s when I first understood that
I need to change something in the content, that I could write something nice. I could write something nice,
dedicate it to someone, and just stop with the name calling. So I wrote “I simply melt every time
you cross my mind”. A simple phrase that shows my feelings. And automatically I had
the next one in my mind: “But you don’t have to come to me now!” It’s simply enough that
I remember you and that’s it! Shush! And even when I keep the lyrics like that, I have some people saying to me, “Aha, Gustavs, you contradict yourself!” Whoa, what? They say: “Just a moment ago you said that it’s pop. Such words and such songs are pop,
and now you’re doing that yourself.” So I think to myself, well,
I just wanted to do what’s best… So if I wet my pants when I’m three,
but stop it when I’m five, do I also contradict myself? I better continue wetting them.
God forbid, I’m in conflict with myself. What if someone thinks
that I’m not for real. (Applause) If I don’t learn and pick on the teacher
while I’m in school, should I continue this afterwards,
when I quit? Should I keep picking on my ex-teacher?
Probably not. Contradicting yourself is a good thing. It shows that there is
some kind of development. So I started to think, what are the songs
that we hear today and that often reflect
everyday relationships, some issues in relationships, or our current inner state
that we like or don’t like. The idea is that you need to operate
both brain hemispheres to perform a song. That means operating both the rational
and the emotional side and also the heart. When we repeat some words often enough
we code ourselves and the ones around us, the song becomes somewhat of a spell. So I thought, if the words in a song
are a spell, what would I like to conjure? I would like to conjure sincerity,
friendship, goal-orientation, integrity, so that these values
are above national interests or sexual interests, something higher. So I had the opportunity and I decided
that I have to write something like that. I arranged the music. The piece that played
when I came on stage today. I wanted to write a sort of a compliment
to the people and to my surroundings. I sat down, grabbed a pen
and heard this voice in my head: – Sugarboy! (Laughter) That was the inner voice, by the way. I thought: “No, no, enough,
just write it, write it!” – No, not like that. Don’t write that.
Everyone will think you’re a sugarboy. (Laughter) Messed up! I know that’s not true. It can’t be. So I sit down once more. – Sugarboy! This is how days go by. More days pass. The studio is already booked, and I can’t put down a single line.
Not even one! Dissing comes easy, but this –
this is difficult. So I thought: “What’s this?
Surely I can say something nice, right?” Not today. Merely a couple days are left
before studio work, so now I will write. Now, that’s it, now I will write. No. Some more time passes. I’m thinking – Now I’m feeling good,
now I could say something nice. Now! No. So why is it that each time I want it now,
there is a “No” on the other side? I start thinking:
“Codes and the Latvian language”. What if words can act as codes, too? So what do we call the moment
that is happening now? What is the synonym
of the word “currently”? In Latvian it is “tagadnē”
(LV: “tagad”=now, “nē”=not). The code is already rigged inside.
Not now! (Laughter) (Applause) All right then, if not now,
I will do it tomorrow. In the future – “nākot-NĒ”
(LV: “nākot”=coming, “nē”=not). Well, why didn’t I do it yesterday? Simply because it’s “pagāt-NĒ”
(Latvian: past tense). Like a triangle with a No at each corner. That is the way of the Latvian language. I do not know who invented this, why they did it
and what were their motives. I checked other languages. In Russian the other meaning for the word
“nastoyaschee” (present tense), is “real”. So you give a kiss and you feel
that it is now and it’s real. In English it’s “Present”,
that’s a gift in itself. (Laughter) Maybe that’s why they smile all the time.
They walk around and smile. Everything comes as a gift to them. They come here, stand somewhere smiling
and the Latvian looks at them and asks: – Why are you smiling? He answers, “Present”. And the Latvian goes, “Not now!”
Translating it literally. So my father tells me that the “-nē”
in the Latvian word for the present is nothing but an ending of the word. And I know that it is just an ending,
and that this “nē” doesn’t mean “no”. But if we imagine that a child is born, and soon he picks up the first words,
which are ‘Mamma’, ‘Papa’ and ‘Nē’. And he uses “Nē” million times more often
than the other two, because he replies to everything with it.
No-no-no-no-no! Do you want to sleep? No. Are you hungry? No. No-no-no everywhere. In the end it comes down to conversations, where each phrase starts
with the words “No, but…”. And then you say, “OK, if not this,
can I propose something else?” – No. – Listen, have you noticed
how often you say “No”? You reply with “No” to every question. – No, I don’t! – What? You just said it again! – No! – Do I need to record you?
Look, I’m recording. – No. – You see, you’ve just said “No”! – No, well yeah… (Laughter) He can’t even say “Yes”
without saying “No” first. – No, well yeah! You see that’s how we all do: We have science – “zināt-NE”
(LV: “know”-“not”) Why not? Maybe you should know?
Science? Not. Girl – “meite-NE”.
(Laughter) That’s how it goes. These are the audible codes,
that we hear and pass on verbally. There are also visual codes. Visual codes can be very powerful. A flag, for instance,
is a very strong visual code. We honor it. It’s our symbol.
That’s clear. Everyone knows the legend, right?
The one about how this flag came to be? Even more interesting is
that it’s based on a single quatrain. It mentioned warriors from Cesis walking
with a red-white-red flag. And if I’m not mistaken,
one rector decided to use it as a flag
for the National Song Festival. And afterwards it became the Latvian flag. The legend is about a bleeding warrior
placed on a white cloth. And the shroud was then used
to scare the enemy. Ok, it’s 13th century,
scaring others is what they did. Bloody, dirty,
that is their set of values. In addition, this chief probably
was very skinny, because that white stripe is so narrow. Back in those days they also didn’t eat. However, blood was more than plenty. So what they did was walk around
and scare the enemy. The enemy was mortified seeing that. – Look, they whacked one of their own
only to make a flag! (Laughter) (Applause) That’s why our army is the way it is. Because one in every three guys
is wasted for a flag. All the skinny ones at least. Back then – it is clear.
Today – the symbolism is not so clear. What does it mean, when we’re holding
a bloody flag and yelling, “Not-now!” We will end up wherever it takes us. The anthem – awesome! A great song. I read it, sang it
and enjoyed it. Then we talked about it
and look where we ended up. There’s so much egoism in it. God bless Latvia. In other words – we are here, okay? You should bless us. Estonia – no, Lithuania – no. Well, Lithuania – a little bit,
but Estonia – totally not. Russia – no. Actually, you know what?
Don’t bless us, just make their life worse. We’ll be fine with just that. But you know God, right?
He is big and far away. Maybe he is aiming from another galaxy. He hears: “God bless Latvia,” and then he shoots, the Earth turns,
and he misses and misses! And we’re like, “But why? Why Estonians?
Why couldn’t you do it for us?” I’ll tell you why. If we were smarter and just wrote
“God, bless this World”, he wouldn’t miss for sure. (Laughter) (Applause) So that’s how it is. Oh, one more thing! There’s the chorus:
“There, where our daughters bloom, where our sons sing,
let us dwell in happiness”. So first just bless us, and then we’ll just bloom, sing and dance. We don’t feel like doing anything,
so just bless us. And this is where the egoism
is taken to a higher level. This is what we focus on,
basically our future. We want to sing and dance
with a flag covered in blood, yelling: “Not now!” To get where? The future – not-coming! I don’t know who wrote it,
when, and whose invention it was, but today our vision
on where we want to go is profoundly different. We could incorporate
this vision in our symbols, because it is possible that
the people who wrote this back then, who came up with the whole language, they also were sitting down
and intending to write something nice. And the voice went: “Sugarboy!” (Laughter) So he goes like: “Not now!” Thank you. (Applause)


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