Equipped with quick-witted lyricism and a sharp-tongued delivery to match, Zurich-based rapper Big Zis (Franziska Schläpfer) is one of the brightest representatives of the Swiss rap scene – and certainly not just its token feminine member. Backed by cleverly assembled group of sound producers and visual artists (resulting in some of the music’s best tracks and its most endearing videos), Big Zis released her third album in early 2009 and continues to push the genre’s stylistic boundaries.
The rapper being on a Californian stop-over, the Swiss Consulate General in San Francisco and swissnex San Francisco could not resist the opportunity to have her perform in a small setting in the Bay Area. Teamed up with local East Bay hyphy’s own amazon, Keldamuzik, and San Francisco-based Swiss DJ and beatmaker Romanowski, Big Zis thus takes over swissnex’s performance space this Thursday, on July 23rd.
With two leading female rap performers staging no-frills performances and constant prime-choice musical backing, this is a short-notice evening of beats and rhymes that is not to be missed.
Long freed from any complexes it may have harbored against its American elder and its French, German, and Italian relatives, Swiss rap and hip-hop culture has carved out a niche of its own and has long come to terms with the often arduous pop-culture challenge of native expression. The scene has produced best-selling superstars that have managed to break down any previous Swiss music industry records while finding an audience on all sides of the country’s linguistic barriers (Stress, Greis, not to mention grandfathers Sens Unik in the early 1990s).
At the same time, it has witnessed the emergence of less bombastic artists, who quietly feed off the riches of metropolitan Switzerland to realize fully rounded and subtle projects: the infinite verbal possiblities of local dialects; the density of nightlife and clubbing, and the resultant developments in electronic music-making; the proximity, in fairly “small” cities, to a host of talented visual artists, dance performers and other partners – all of these elements have helped to bring forth sonic artworks with an increasingly decomplexed take on local, regional and global pop cultures. Big Zis has been one of the most convincing and original voices to grow out of this fertile background, and she is quick to brush away any limitations one could impose on her: “Big Zis dörf alles!” – for Big Zis, anything and everything is allowed.
Receiving her musical education in Zurich’s busy punk and squatter scenes in the early nineties, Franziska Schläpfer aka Big Zis quickly took to hip-hop under the tutelage of her friends in Gleiszwei. Only a few years later, she was one of the voices to be heard on the epochal “Züri Slang”, a record that served as a stepping stone for an entire local scene rapping in dialect. Performances lined up, culminating in a thundering all-female alliance with DJ Mad Madam, and two first albums. Bringing in elements of electro, house, and techno music along punk and rock flavors, Big Zis has a voracious take on music and brings a similarly wide angle to her texts, which take on dialect without any complex and feed off its bottomless riches: harsh, unvarnished takes on reality stand next to dreamy lullabies and segue into raw, naked poetry. Teaming up with collaborators that include Kutti MC as well as Swiss songwriting wonder Sophie Hunger, Zis once more pushed herself a step forward with her third album, “UND JETZ… was hät das mit mir z tue?” (“And now… what does this have to do with me?”). Keen on making the most of the talent around her, Big Zis insisted on having every track on the album made into a video, which resulted in a admirable series of clips. The video for the single “Biiberräis”, animated by Zurich drawer Grrrr, was even nominated for the Solothurn Film Festival.
More videos, soundbites and information on Big Zis at: www.bigzis.com
Oakland female hip-hop artist Keldamuzik is a dynamic and vibrant female hip-hop artist, who burst onto the scene with her debut album “Shut Up, Listen” in 2005 with production help from Squad Music Group. She’s a powerful addition to the Loud Dust hip-hop/rap roster that also includes another Oakland artist Swicious, Chicago’s HXN, Philly native Ace Boom Koon and many other new hip-hop and urban artists. In a mostly male dominated genre, Keldamuzik confidently puts forth her interpretation of the future of hip-hop with the strong appeal of her own freestyle raps. A native of San Jose, California, Keldamuzik has had successful live performances in the San Francisco area and in Berkeley Keldamuzik has already gathered eager attention and fans during an initial period of promotion of her finished SHUT UP, LISTEN project. KELDAMUZIK’s “Shut Up, Listen” will be widely available through entertainment stores and brands. For more information on KELDAMUZIK visit www.louddust.com and www.keldamuzik.com
A seasoned beatmaker and long-time San Francisco resident, Romanowski got his start in the ebullient Zurich underground of the early 1980s. His extended Bay Area stint has seen him develop into a sought-after street art protagonist and a key ally of San Francisco movers and shakers such as the Future Primitive Sound organization, which released Romanowski’s own beat excursions in 2003 and 2004 (“Steady Rocking” and the “Party in my Pants” album). Romanowski has since kept up a busy schedule making music (“All Styles, All Smiles” came out in 2007), showcasing his art and DJing the world over. More on him at www.romanowski45.com
Photo: Myleen Hollero