1. Please tell the people a little bit about Dj Nio, how you came into the culture, and a quick description of where you are at currently?
I’m from Genoa (Genova), Italy, and I’m a dj, mc, producer and Hip-Hop Activist. I started spinning records and writing my first rap in 1993, after listening to Cypress Hill, Public Enemy and the very first Italian rap groups. I felt in love with Hip-Hop Culture and I started buying records, rapping, making “graffiti” and even b-boyin’ a little. As a dj, I’ve been performing everywhere in my city and in many other towns in Italy since 1996, and I’ve been part of or worked with a lot of groups such Zena Art Core, maybe one of the most important crew in our country. I founded my group, Zero Plastica, in 2001 with my man Lure and since then we made a record, hundred gigs and so many mixtapes… so much music! Actually we’re recording our 2nd cd, while I’m working also with NYC underground label Nomadic Wax and many great artists. In these months I’m working with Ben Herson on “Mo’Glo”, a show on 91.5 New York Radio, where basically I mix world wide rap and reggae music.
2. What is Triburbana? What is its importance to the hip hop community? Its importance to the community at large?
TribUrbana is a non-profit cultural association I found in 2006 with other hip-hop and reggae artists. Basically we promote Hip-Hop Culture and Reggae good values through events, records and workshops. We made the biggest hip-hop event in Liguria -our region- ever; and we had some very good workshops with teens and youth workers since last year, when Mr.B a.k.a. berlusconi’s government cut almost any kind of financial resources to social activities like these.
We kept on building anway, and now we have a new office and a new studio that is considered the best place to make a hip-hop or a reggae record in our city; plus, we’re planning some big events for 2010.
3. Give us from your perspective the state of the italian hip hop community? Is it unified? What are the styles/themes going on? How similar or different is it from the American hip hop scene from your view?
Actually, Italy is living one of its worst moment in its history, not only due to berlusoni’s dictatorshit, but also due to people who still believe him and his bullshit. The state of Italian Hip-Hop community reflects the greatest part of the Italian society and it’s a product of a fiction-propaganda going on in the last 30 years through mr.b’s medias: not only the HH heads, but all the Italian community has definitely never been so divided and confused as in this moment. Too many people here aren’t able to see the whole big pitcure we’re living because they’re focused just on themselves as they were into the “Big Brother” TV series; at the same way, Italian rap is basically about braggadocio style, battling, posing, or self-mental-masturbation, and when rap is a little bit conscious and speaks about social problems, it’s seen as “communist”, “populist” or ignorant definitions like these. I know it’s incomprehensible, but it’s like that: after I’ve been travelling so much world wide, I can sadly tell you Italy is the 3rd world of hip-hop. Yo, we had and has very good mainstream and underground rap too, anyway, but it’s so damn rare!
Any kind of comparison between Italian and American Hip-Hop should be inappropriate because here it’s often seen/lived not as a culture but as a fashion or a teen-agers hobby, while there in the U.S. it’s a mass phenomenon, obviously. Well, we def could laugh at that, telling Italian rap is like the worst American soccer team!!!
4. Can you give us a brief history of the italian hip hop scene? When did it start? Name a few pioneers?
Hip-Hop Culture went to Italy with films like “Wild Style” and “Beat Street” in the early 80′s. Some Old School pioneers were The Next One a.k.a. Maurizio, Emilio & Marcella (Battle Squad), Dj Enzo, Dj Gruff, Mc Shark, Ice One; some of them are still pretty active. In the first 90′s Italian Rap music became a little bit mainstream thanks to artists like Frankie Hi-NRG Mc, Articolo 31 and Sottotono, but maintaining deep roots with punk mentality and the “posse movement” born in squat social centers. Due to Eminem’s “8 Mile”, Italian medias and major labels revamped interests in rap music, but actually our music business is just “floating”, I guess.
5. Who are some of your personal influences in the culture?
I’ve been influenced by so many artists, dj’s, mc’s and producers! The list is too long, but If you need some American names I can say: Cypress Hill, Public Enemy, Tony Touch, the whole Native Tongues, Gangstarr, Nas, the Dungeon Family, Reflection Eternal, Common, dead prez, KRS One, Non-Phixion, Scarface, Rakim, Wu-Tang, etc. I’ve def been influenced by SensaSciou (that means “Out of breath”), the very first rap/raggamuffin group of my city, who where the first to rap and sing in Italian and in genovese dialect, in the first 90′s.
6. From your perspective what is the relationship between hip hop from around the globe and America?
Hip-Hop gives voice to people and has been saving so many guys and girls everywhere. U.S.A. are Hip-Hop’s father, but wherever you go around the globe you can see different and beautiful sons growing up! I think that in the beginning Hip-Hop is very tied to the Old School original values wherever it lands, but if and when come the money, any kind of problems follow. HH’s is a philosophy and a way of living, and everywhere there’re scientists and dumb folks, poets and prostitutes, if you know what i mean.
There’s a straight relationship between hip-hop and food, to me: although I’m Italian, I never eat pasta when I go abroad, I’m always looking for local and traditional cousine because I’m curious, I like to try different flavours; at the same way, I love when rap is mixed with local and traditional music, language, dialect and instruments!! That’s originality! That’s true Hip-Hop!!!
7. Does hip hop in italy play a role in informing/educating the people on issues happening inside the state?
I wish it was like that! If any Italian mc’s spit a little about our reality, probably we wouldn’t have the mafia at the governament!!! I know just some few artists that are pretty conscious and focused on concrete social issues, but unfortunatly they’re totally underground like me and Zero Plastica. Even if Chuck D said that “Rap is the Black CNN”, here it’s seems more an Italian comedy, a bad fiction, an horror b-movie… That’s why I love to deal with International Hip-Hop!
8. Besides your crew of course, who are some of the hip hop artists from Italy we should look out for?
Actually If you want to listen to some good Italian rap, you def have to hear Colle der Fomento, Tormento, Cor Veleno, Groovenauti, Assalti Frontali, Ghemon, Mistaman, Fabri Fibra; there’re also a lot of dope aerosol-artists, b-boys and dj’s -as the Scratch Busters, IDA World Champions 2009-.
Photo Courtesy of DJ Nio