I needed to change the vibe. Annet X carved out a space for herself among Czech rappers


Annet X was amazed at how powerful the sound the listeners could create. “When everyone comes together in one choir, it’s unreal,” the singer and rapper recalls of a recent show in Brno. “Then I had a muscle spasm, I was jumping around in my heels the whole concert,” she adds, what has stuck with her from the tour for the new album. The concert series will end this Thursday, April 4, at the Roxy club in Prague.

“I’ll take more, I don’t want less / I’ll take more than is right / The sun is gone, yesterday is long ago,” sings Annet X towards the end of the album. The 24-year-old artist naturally intersperses singing with rap on her second recording, titled Koukej se mno, and cool hip-hop beats dilute graceful R&B procedures. Symbolically, she carved out a space for herself on the Czech hip-hop scene, which belongs almost exclusively to men.

She released the record at the end of last year with producer Jakub Strach performing under the pseudonym NobodyListen. The theme of the project is anger, but it was partly overshadowed by the joy of creating and the fact that during the recording, longtime friends became life partners.

With the debut album entitled When I grow up, I want to be Aneta Charitonova from autumn 2020, Annet X bequeathed her civil name. She was born in Brno, but has Russian roots, and X in the alphabet represents the letter CH. Even then, she presented herself as a “finished” artist. Younger listeners may have known her from a single with singer Ben Cristova. She finished her first album in surprising detail – with elaborate lyrics, an unusual grasp of the Czech language, music, imagery and a refined concept, she presented herself as a distinctive voice of the upcoming generation. That is also why she won the Apollo Award for the best album of 2021 for her debut. Her growing popularity is also reflected outside of music, for example last year she starred in the fantasy series Védma by the Voyo video store.

In the surreal clip from the first record, she acted like Aneta in Wonderland, a girl from the land behind the looking glass, where the echoes of contemporary R&B, hip hop and funk reach. On the dark cover of the current recording, Annet X already resembles a vampire at a party in the Blade film series.

Path of the puzzle

“It’s an emotion I don’t like to express,” Annet X returns to the anger on which she built the current record. “At the same time, I was already annoyed by so many situations and people that I couldn’t help it,” she explains.

Annet X drew attention to herself with her debut album in 2020. | Photo: Roman Nguyen

Suppressed rage wasn’t the only motivation for the sound transformation, however. When she realized that she was listening to mostly angry music, she decided to learn to speak in sharp language. Impulse was also brought by concerts, the medium and slow tempos of the repertoire at the time began to limit Annet X. “I needed to change the energy and the vibe. Based on the concerts, I understood that I should make a sharper and darker sound,” she explains.

In retrospect, the turning point seems to be Hlavolamy’s single from December 2021. She brazenly rapped the challenging and self-confident text, accompanied the song with a spontaneous clip. As if she needed to cut herself off from the sound of her debut. “It was the first song I worked on with similar emotion. That single showed me that this could be my path,” she says of the song, which she describes as raw. “I just needed to get the modern sound that Cuba can,” she turns to her current colleague and partner.

How to connect it

Annet X took guitar lessons for five years, sometimes played it on stage, but primarily composed with the instrument. Now she left the guitar in the corner. She subordinated everything to the cool shades of electronic music.

Look with me sounds like a flood of synthetic sounds. The rhythm is determined by the nervous beats of a digital version of the hi-hat cymbal, the impression is blurred by deliberately detuned keyboard melodies. The whole sounds like a digital stream of information flowing somewhere under the surface of the Internet or the charts. A subdued vocal performance alternates with a sharp flow, velvety R&B vocals or exclamations like “skrrrrrr”.

The single Jenom tak from the joint album Annet X and NobodyListen. | Video: Warner Music

Formally, it is the most comprehensive and also the longest rap album recorded by a woman in the Czech Republic. At least for the last few years.

“We came to the studio, came up with a skeleton, a basic emotion or vibe, and then it just happened,” Jakub Strach describes the spontaneity of the creative process. Originally they wanted to “just make music”, release a few singles, shoot a few videos. After about half a year, they realized that they had the basis of a full album on their hard drive. At that moment, Strach started thinking about how to connect the individual beats in a moody way.

He just finished recording with Yzomandias, one of the most popular contemporary rappers. The almost hour and a half long mixtape called J. Eden E-gen took over the first rungs of the Czech and Slovak charts, individual songs collected millions of plays on the platforms.

“On the record with Yzomandias, he intentionally mixes the fifth before the ninth. It’s a pure party thing. Look with me is more sophisticated,” compares Strach, as he tried to unify the sound with the help of fine details.

The title of the album Look with me and the often intoxicated flow can create a feeling of the world passing before one’s eyes. The lyrics anchor him in reality, but when listening, it seems as elusive as the musical background.

However, the recording caught Annet X at a time when she knows exactly what she wants. She thought about its shape for several years. “Paradoxically, it was the most fun,” he returns to recording. For years, she processed difficult topics in her head and in sketches, she made a name for herself as a lyricist, and in the studio she could take everything in perspective. “For example, I sing and rap about realizing my own worth. Thanks to anger, I raise my self-confidence. In rap lyrics, a person manifests something he would like to achieve,” he describes the rules of the genre.

The title track Koukej s mno from the joint album of Annet X and NobodyListen. Photo: Benedikt Renč

The title track Koukej s mno from the joint album of Annet X and NobodyListen. Photo: Benedikt Renč | Video: Warner Music

Album like God

“Blonde in my ears again, as if the album was God,” sings Annet X about American singer Frank Ocean’s 2016 album, adding “I only trust him, him / I study him, ugh, ugh, few people can do that anymore”.

The Czech singer compares one of the defining records of alternative American R&B to something otherworldly. “In my life, no voice or music has evoked such a strong feeling in me,” he struggles to find words for the revered record. “It reminds me of an Internet meme where the body is lying on the ground and the soul is climbing up from it. That’s exactly how the album affects me. I know every harmony, every second, but every time I listen something new arises,” she describes the mood she tried to write into their own songs.

If an album can be a god, music is a religion and clubs are temples. In one such Annet X and NobodyListen will end the tour.

Thursday’s concert in Prague’s Roxy represents a dream come true for the musician, Jakub Strach is talking about the best Czech club. Since the second half of the 90s of the last century, the space in Prague’s Dlouhá Street has been considered the most important for dance music and Czech hip hop. History was written here – in January 1997, the discovery compilation Real Acid Juice was launched here, a year later the first year of the comprehensive celebration of the hip-hop subculture Kick the Shit started here.

Today, even a generation of rappers who can’t remember the genre’s formative years feel at home at the Roxy. Recently, Viktor Sheen and Yzomandias presented new albums here, recently Robin Zoot or Dollar Prync. All of them got their work to the top of the charts, the first two named stay there practically without a break.

Both Annet X and NobodyListen see the unprecedented success of Czech rap primarily in the blending of the genre with listener-friendly pop of a Western style. “Young people are printing it. Young people are behind the printing of numbers, comments and sharing,” says Jakub Strach. “At our age, you don’t share or comment on everything you hear anymore. But when you’re fifteen, you do that. In the Czech Republic, the community is big, they like it. In addition, there’s a lot going on, so they have a lot to choose from,” he explains from the position of an insider, a musician who started with the genre 15 years ago.

Tracks from the joint recording of Annet X and NobodyListen have hundreds of thousands of plays on Spotify.

Tracks from the joint recording of Annet X and NobodyListen have hundreds of thousands of plays on Spotify. | Photo: Ondřej Zavřel

“Roxy will be completely different,” says Annet X about the upcoming show. “We’ll invite guests and dancers who don’t travel with us otherwise. We’ll actually play a completely different tracklist,” he promises.

The club functions as a meta in the Czech hip hop ecosystem. Once an artist conquers the Roxy, he can move on to bigger venues, recently the largest indoor O2 arena is no exception. Annet X is not that far yet, but there are only a few last tickets left for Thursday’s christening.

Video: Delving into the topic of war does me no good

“I don’t run away from my Russian roots and I don’t want to run away from them,” said singer and rapper Annet X last year on the Spotlight show. | Video: Aktuálně.cz, Jakub Zuzánek

The article is in Czech

Tags: needed change vibe Annet carved space among Czech rappers


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