The reception of Taco Hemingway’s recordings in 2015 is the best proof that such a rapper was needed in Poland. Fans and journalists alike were ecstatic about his albums. Taco Hemingway's music is in the style of the first years of Polish hip hop: it doesn't look up to anybody, and is technically uncouth but very literary.
A rapper whose music is influenced by the style of the first years of Polish hip hop.
The rapper's real name is Filip Szcześniak. He came up with his pseudonym for the sake of the football video game series FIFA and kept it. He was born on July 29, 1990 in Egypt, where his parents then lived. Later, they moved to China. He spoke in English with his mother and sister but in Polish with father. He graduated from the Kopernik lyceum, where he passed the international baccalaureate. During his studies at the Institute of Polish Culture at the Warsaw University he spent a year in London.
He worked in an advertising agency and as a translator. An oddity: a few years before kicking off his musical career he created a viral youtube video of Adolf Hitler looking for an electronic party in Warsaw (a mix of shots of the angry Hitler from Downfall and information about a burnt-down club called Jadłodajnia Filozoficzna). What is even more interesting is the artist's active contact with his fans: on the Genius.com website, where fans may comment on lyrics and interpret songs, Taco Hemingway is a very active visitor, often trying to explain his texts in particular contexts and suggest the meanings he meant to construct.
Before rapping in Polish, he tried his hand at rapping in English – his first album is called Young Hems – but it was his debut Polish EP called Trójkąt Warszawski released in the last days of 2014 that brought him larger attention. The EP is composed of seven tracks that together form a story about ‘people being in love with the city’. Its reception was very positive, partially thanks to the fact that listeners could identify with the protagonists, who pursue each other around the city trying to avoid, remember and forget each other.
In June 2015, he released another EP. Umowa o Dzieło has eight tracks. Some reviewers were not satisfied with its revealing production and technical mistakes, and some pointed out that in the case of 6 Zer (one of the singles) the artist went too far in following the style of the Canadian rapper Drake. Despite the criticism, the single Następna Stacja (probably the first song about the second metro line in Warsaw) successfully fought for the top place on the Radio Three Chart (pl: Lista Przebojów Programu Trzeciego). Taking into consideration the conservative musical tastes of the listeners of this radio station, the final outcome was revolutionary.
Both albums were first available online for free, and only later did Taco start to sell them in physical formats. When, in August 2015 before the Tauron Nowa Muzyka Festival in Katowice, Taco premiered Umowa o Dzieło and rereleased Trójkąt Warszawski, both albums reached the second and the third place respectively on the Polish OLiS bestseller's list. The great success of the albums brought Taco into cooperation with the renowned hip-hop agency Asfalt Records.
It’s been a while since a rapper as self-confident and distinctive has appeared in Poland. Taco consciously creates his mythologies: maps of now defunct clubs, recognizable figures like taxi drivers, waiters, and cashiers, as well as characteristic protagonists with whom listeners may easily identify. He serves it all with a large doze of coolness and grace modelling his voice on an exhausted, irritated, or surprised tone. As sensitive gentlemen and dreamers, his protagonists often reach for alcohol and constantly need money.
With a few exceptions, the musical side of his projects is arranged by his school friend Maciej Ruszecki (pseudonym Rumak). Together, they sent their recordings to fans before signing a contract with Asfalt. Free concerts on the banks of the River Wisła quickly turned into for big, profitable concerts.
In 2015 Taco Hemingway played at various Polish Festivals: starting from the great Open’er, which launched the period of his greatest popularity, through Live Music in Kraków and Up To Date in Białystok, up to Domoffon in Łódź. After summer performances, Taco managed to gather the whole public in Palladium (several hundred places) in September.
Author: Jacek Świąder, translated by Antoni Wiśniewski, April 2016
- 2015 – Umowa o Dzieło
- 2014 – Trójkąt Warszawski
- 2013 – Young Hems