If you watched the game between the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets last Friday, you may have noticed something. No, not the ho-hum wire-to-wire domination by the Knicks, including a 42-point first quarter and yet another Kristaps Porzingis double-double. What I want to talk about is the music on ESPN's promotional bumpers.
Normally the province of luminaries like the Black Eyed Peas or Rob Thomas, the bumper music for Friday's game instead featured some Latvian rap with the chorus "Kristaps Porzingis."
It was no promotional stunt. The song is "Porzingis," by Latvian duo Transleiteris and it goes insanely, concerningly hard.
Transleiteris consists of Edžus Ķaukulis, 27, and Lauris Mihailovs, 28, a forest manager and the head of an ad agency, respectively. They live about 50 kilometers from each other in Cēsis and Vecpiebalga, small towns in the eastern half of Latvia. They describe themselves, via a translator, as "countryside persons."
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Edžus met Lauris during an anti-drug event at school, but it was years before they started Transleiteris as a parody band specializing in translating American pop music into Latvian. Their first song, "Baby One More Time," is available to listen to, but only on weird streaming sites. Proceed with caution, but it's worth it just for the thrill of hearing Britney Spears translated into Latvian and sung by a couple country dudes.
Their "Last Transleiteris Tour" was in 2012 but, as you can see, they are still very much producing music.
Porzingis is predictably huge in Latvia, even though, according to the pair, it's more of a hockey country.
"NBA has always been something that's very cool and very far away," Edžus writes. "With Porzingis and success of his song, it feels surreal—suddenly this whole massive thing that has always been somewhere far away over seas now feels so close."
We emailed with Transleiteris through Jānis Sildniks, who describes himself as the "invisible" third person in the duo and serves as their official English translator. Our discussion touched on Latvian rap rivalries, favorite Porzingis dunks, and the famous cornrows. Either because of the language barrier or because Porzingis has destroyed my irony meter, it was almost impossible to tell at which points they're joking.
Answers have been edited for clarity.
VICE Sports: Is there a rivalry between you and Olas, the group that wrote a song about Zemgus Girgensons?
Transleiteris: No, there definitely is no rivalry between both duets. In fact, Transleiteris and Olas are quite good friends and we're happy for each other's success. Although we still can't get over that Girgensons' song has more views on YouTube. Like how? What else can we do?! And yes, "Porzingis" includes parody of Olas duo.
Who are your favorite rappers?
Edžus Ķaukulis is the one who never gets tired of listening to rap music. He's huge fan of both biggest US rap names: Jay-Z and Linkin Park. And of course we're fans of Latvian artists as well, for example rapper Shalle—you can hear his voice in the very beginning of "Porzingis" song.
What are your favorite Porzingis dunks?
Those are all great and the best part is that dunks from Porzingis keeps coming one after another. We wouldn't feel surprised if there were couple of new ones as we speak right now. But if we really have to choose only one then we go with this:
Why? Because we knew he is cool even before fans booed him.
I know you're the most popular Latvian rap group in America. Are you guys popular in Latvia?
Not too much actually, but our aim is to get big in the US and New York first; we'll think about Latvia afterwards. There's some extra attention from local media, of course, especially after ESPN commercial but not that much.
Do you have any trips planned to New York to see Kristaps play?
We've talked about that more than once and a lot of people have asked us but in general—no. We don't have any plans. It's quite a trip from Latvia to NY. Although it would be really cool to see NBA game live. What's more, it would be awesome to sing the song live.
Is Kristaps the greatest Latvian of all time?
It takes a bit more time to become the greatest Latvian of all time but he must be one of the tallest for sure.
Other than Kristaps, who's your favorite NBA player?
Oh, this is easy. Of course it's Zemgus Girgensons. [Editor's note: Girgensons plays in the NHL.]
What do you do when you're not writing raps about NBA players?
Transleiteris in general is parody duo and we love to entertain people. We began it six years ago by translating pop hits to Latvian language in humorous manner. It went quite far and now some people call us Latvian "Modern Talking." We have no idea why. Probably it has something to do with this:
Now we're more and more trying to make our original songs.
What do you think about the now infamous cornrows look?
Can't see what's wrong with those. We were just thinking of getting some ourselves. For all three of us.
Kristaps said, "Nobody wants to go to Latvia." Is that true?
How ironic. This reminds us that Latvians actually for a moment booed him even before Knicks fans because of this. But later that day, he made an apology and everything turned out nice and good. He's a patriot. Have you seen his Latvian flag suit he wore to the draft?
It's awesome! Speaking of Latvia, it's wonderful place. Just like most of the Europe. And we believe that some Knicks fans already are wondering what kind of place raised this 7'3" monster-dunk-machine, so sooner or later they'll want to visit Latvia. Even if just out of curiosity.