To be anything but white in Hungary is to be seriously vexed. Rappers Fekete Vonat (
) know that as well as anyone. EMI Hungary has just refused to release their third album because it’s in gypsy and the group is stuck in Eastern Europe, unable to break their contract.
After signing a three-album contract in 1997, the group was met with much love. Their self-titled debut, flavored with both heavy beats and R&B, went gold, followed by
A Város Masik Oldalon
(The other side of town), which went platinum. They weren’t making money off the albums but they didn’t care. They were living well off shows and, more importantly, they were making an impact.
Smoking fatties in the kitchen and listening to Method Man with her mom, I sat down with Fatima, Fekete Vonat’s 19-year-old MC. She has Missy E-like presence when she talks about the label, and leaned forward on her chair to tell me, “They didn’t take us seriously until they started making profits. We were making a name and getting our word out.”
The group released half a dozen videos, received two Golden Giraffe’s (Hungary’s version of the Grammys) and gained recognition as the only Hungarian band ever to unite Roma and non-Roma youth.
Then the third album dropped. The all-gypsy one. The group was told their language would harbor “resentment in the average listener.” Shortly thereafter, their lyricist, Junior, was arrested and beaten by police when he and some friends were celebrating his 18th birthday “too loudly” (according to the police statement). Subsequently, EMI Hungary complained to the group in writing that the incident had shamed the company. “We were coming back from the tailors in suits riding large in a limo listening to Notorious B.I.G. and they pulled us over, randomly,” Fatima says. “It’s nothing new if you’re gypsy. This is how they work in this country, but the label ran with it.”
Fekete Vonat fought their contract, hiring a lawyer who sued the company on the basis that none of the group members was 18 or had received permission from a guardian when they signed the deal. The first hearing of the lawsuit on April 4, 2001, was deferred to December 17. Fekete Vonat claim they are going to record an album anyway and EMI Hungary sent them a release that said there would be “police action if the group tries to make an album without permission or sends it to other distributors.” Parent company EMI London has issued a statement that it is “not good business to be racist,” whatever that means. A spokesman added that the company was taking the matter seriously and would investigate the situation - eventually.
You can check their sound at: http://www.intersong.hu