PRO8L3M is a Warsaw-based hip-hop duo that focuses on independent production and the visual aspects of their activity. Hip-hop? They would rather say ‘pop culture’. The group is well-known for its futuristic, synthetic soundtracks and characteristic lyrics based on long narratives, stories, and dystopian visions of the future.
PRO8L3M consists of Oskar (Oskar Tuszyński) and Steez83 (Piotr Szulc) – producers and DJs, known from collaborations with Hemp Gru, JWP/BC, and Sokół & Marysia Starosta, as well as from events around the Rap History Warsaw project. As the name of the duo indicates, they were born in 1983 and began collaborating in 2013.
That year, they released their debut EP C30-C39, consisting of underground sounds in which we can hear the rap rhythms characteristic of '90s Warsaw, as well as the futuristic sounds of synthesisers. The mini-album was promoted by music videos for the songs Opowieść o Tobie (Story About You) and Tori Black. Additionally, graffiti appeared in the city centre of Warsaw saying ‘Pro8l3m łaki (the Polish transcription of the adjective ‘wack’ from the expression ‘wack MC’).
In the spring of 2014, PRO8L3M released their most unexpected piece: Krzyk (Shout), inspired by the biography of Ryszard Siwiec. He was a former Home Army resistance member who committed suicide by self-immolating during the national harvest festival taking place at the 10th-Anniversary Stadium in Warsaw. His action was a protest against the Warsaw Pact and the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The song was composed for the film Pocztówki z Republiki Absurdu (Postcards from the Republic of the Absurd).
The Man That Makes Every Music Video Go Viral
In September 2014, PRO8L3M recorded Art Brut, which became an instant hit. Art Brut was a conceptual project and the majority of its songs were based on samples of Polish popular music from the 1970s and 1980s – including Halina Frąckowiak, Krystyna Prońko and the group Dwa Plus Jeden. They also used lines of dialogue from gangster films such as Sylwester Chęcińki’s Big Shar and Olaf Lubaszenko’s Cheat. The album was promoted by the singles Stówa (much later they released a video for this song in 360 VR technology), TEB 200-1 and Jakby Kończył Się (As If It Were Ending). All of the songs were published on YouTube as one single piece – the artists wanted the music to be listened to from beginning to end.
After the release of Art Brut, the duo received the Nocny Marek (Nightlife) Award from Aktivist magazine in the category the Artist of the Year. PRO8L3M gave an interview in which the artists spoke about their beginnings and about their ‘game rules’:
Electroacoustic Music in Poland
There was no music that would fully satisfy our tastes, so we sat down and made music for ourselves. We put some time and money into it – that's why our debut EP is called 'C30-C39', which is the king’s gambit: you lose something and take a risk to obtain an advantage. (…) I really respect the Polish hip-hop scene, but PRO8L3M is so different that it would be difficult for me to work under a label. The same applies to music videos – we don’t appear in them, nor clothes with big brand logos. Fuck it. We put our own money into our productions and we won’t cooperate with clothing brands selling kids new hoodies.
Debut album and further career
In June 2016, their debut album entitled Pro8l3m was released. It was announced by the single 2040, the video for which referred to anime aesthetics, and then by the song Molly. They sold over 30,000 copies of the album, earning it a platinum record. The music arrangement resembles soundtracks from old science fiction films as Steez replaced samples from popular Polish songs with piano and synthesisers sounds. The music fits perfectly with the distinctive rap of Oskar, who shifts accents like in jazz syncopation. In the mentioned 2040, he raps how he imagines the future. While being interview on Programme Four of Polish Radio Oskar explained:
On a lyrical level, the listener is confronted with my visions, which are inspired by the impact of pop culture. I try to describe a forecast of the future based on futurologists’ theories.
His visions include sex, parties, and robberies, as if lifted from the films of Quentin Tarantino, but also psychotherapy and above all the omnipresence of surveillance due to technical progress. Filip Kalinowski summed up the album:
The closing songs of the album tell about virtual crimes, drones, orbital flights, cars with autopilot, and artefacts resembling those from science fiction. And most of them have already appeared in our everyday reality.
In June 2017, the released the EP Hack3d By GH05T 2.0, which was even more futuristic, showing a dark vision of life facilitated by the internet, a life in which privacy doesn’t exist and people willingly give up their identities to corporations and hackers. In five of the songs, Oskar raps about a future that has already come to exist in our lives from which there is no escape.
At the end of 2017, in an interview with NewOnce.pl, Steez told about their plans for a new album and about his time in Los Angeles – which didn’t slow down the preparations for the new release :
During my first stay in the US with Hemp Gru – it was in 2008 – I thought that I would like to stay there for some time during my music career. This cultural melting pot creates new, far-reaching sounds (...) What I do with PRO8L3M isn’t something that will interest the American market, because the music that I create is largely inspired by European culture.
In March 2018, the duo released Ground Zero Mixtape. It was their next big production after Pro8l3m. They managed to include 27 tracks that together form 57-minutes of hip-hop, techno, drum’n’bass and breakcore music of the turn of the 21st century. The sound is heavy, messy and distorted, and once again, contains a lot of samples. As usual, there was room for short recordings that imitated phone conversations, and in the lyrical layer – stories about sex, alcohol, drugs, and money. There were also lyrics about dealing with hardships in life and living up to expectations. High sales resulted in the first place on the OliS list (Polish Official Retail Sales Chart) and brought their next platinum record.
In December 2018, the group announced that their next album would be released in 2019.
Electric Knights, Classics & Abstractionists: A Brief Guide to Polish Contemporary Music
Collaborations, awards and concerts
In the summer of 2015, during their performance at The Wall Festival at Służewiec Racecourse in Warsaw, they covered the entirety of Molesta’s album Skandal. For this occasion, the maxi-single The Wall Skandal Covers was released, with four covers of the songs from Skandal. PRO8L3M, together with Quebonafide, Sokół and Night Marks Electric Trio, contributed to the recording of the song Szacunek. Generally, PRO8L3M avoids collaborations, but in 2017, the duo created the song D / CD for rapper Włodi's album Wszystkie Drogi Prowadzą do Dymu (All Roads Lead to Smoke).
The Latest Hookup: Visual Art and Sound
January 2018 began with an album release from rap group Rasmentalism, Tango. Oskar from PRO8L3M and Sokół took part in the single Duch (Ghost). At the end of the year, PRO8L3M collaborated on a track celebrating the 20-year anniversary of rap group Hemp Gru titled Rajski Ogród (Paradise Garden). During the first edition of the PL Music Video Awards, dedicated to the best music videos in the country, PRO8L3M's video for Flary (Flares) received the Grand Prix. The video was also nominated for the Berlin Music Video Awards.
A year later, PRO8L3M guest-featured on two tracks. Along with Taco Hemingway, they appeared on Sokół's debut album Napad na Bankiet (Banquet Stickup). The duo also appeared on Jetlagz's album Szum (Hum), on the track Mieć i Nie Mieć (To Have and Not Have). They also recorded a remix of Dawid Podsiadło's track LIS (FOX). The year 2019 was full of awards for PRO8L3M: A Fryderyk Award for Hip-Hop Album of the Year for Ground Zero Mixtape as well as two hip-hop Popkiller Awards in the categories of Producer of the Year and Album of the Year.
PRO8L3M performed at multiple festivals including Hip-Hop Kemp in Hradec Králové, Open'er in Gdynia, OFF in Katowice, Amsterdam.PL Hip Hop Fest, Up To Date in Białystok and Polish Hip-Hop TV in Płock.
contemporary polish music
2013 – C30-C39
2014 – Art Brut (mixtape)
2016 – Pro8l3m
2017 – Hack3d By GH05T 2.0
2018 – Ground Zero Mixtape
2020 – Art Brut 2