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Mithridatis: How a Rapper Shook Political Normalcy in Greece

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Mithridatis and his band Imiskoubria, are the first mainstream artists in Greece’s hip-hop scene. Credit: Greek Reporter

Greek musician Mithridatis rocked the establishment recently by releasing via YouTube a 12-minute rap “manifesto” which harshly criticizes government policy, authoritarianism, police violence and the management of the health crisis.

His words, carefully put together in his signature lingo, form perhaps the toughest political criticism Greece’s current government has received the last two years it has been in power. Listen to the song below:

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Mithridatis’ release titled “Gia na min ta xrostao”, with strictly political lyrics made a great hit. It garnered one million views in the first five days of its release and two million views until now.

He constructed a message of a very different Greece from what the country’s media and government are portraying. His main message is that Greece has not returned to normalcy after the conservative government took power in 2019. Instead, the country is now ruled by fear and terror.

“I was really impressed by the response of the people to my project…To be honest I did not expect it,” Mithridatis tells Greek Reporter.

“The success proved that people wanted to hear something like that. They wanted to hear from somebody what they themselves wanted to say…I expressed through my music their dissatisfaction, their anger. I think the reaction of the people troubled the establishment. I am really glad this happened. It means that my message was received,” he says.

Controversial project

The project, as expected, was controversial. Left-wing politicians applauded its message. Social media users clashed in lengthy debates. Dozens of thousands had at least a comment to share. It became a symbol of all those who oppose the conservative government, which still has a comfortable lead in the opinion polls two years after its election.

“There was a strong government reaction to my work. Of course no member of the government commented on the project, but pro-government media and social media sympathizers orchestrated personal attacks against me and my work. But, that how social media works…It was expected,” Mithridatis says.

The Greek musician and rapper is also signaling out the role of private TV stations in the country. “Greek TV did not even mention his project, despite the fact that millions were watching the video on You Tube. There was not even a mention, despite the fact that it took political dimensions.”

He notes that private TV stations have received a lot of money from the government to support campaigns against the pandemic. In return, he says, “they keep quite and do not let people know what really happens. They are instruments to serve the interests of the ruling party. This is a big problem, a problem for Democracy.”

Mithridatis does not describe the release as a song. “It is not a song, it is a project, a musical. It could have taken many forms. It could have been a poem,  an essay or even a theatre monologue. I am a musician so the project took the form of music. I consider it a project,” Mithridatis tells Greek Reporter.

The project comments on crucial aspects of the Greek reality under the current conservative government, but also touches upon cultural and societal aspects.  It portrays a modern Greece which is is much different from the one advertised by the government.

“The project highlights a different, a darker reality in Greece,” he says.

“Expatriates who have not lived in Greece for years, even decades, they cannot have a real feeling of what is happening in Greece. I understand that most are feeling romantic and nostalgic about the country. But, the reality is different. Things are not very nice here,” he says.

He promises to relaunch the video with English subtitles and has this message for Hellenes abroad: “I wish you all the best, but stay where you are! It’s much better there!”

Mithridatis: Government terrorizing people during the pandemic

He talks extensively about the pandemic crisis and how, in his opinion, it was managed in Greece in the “worst possible way”.

Despite the fact that Greece has been lauded by other governments, international institutions and the media on the excellent work it did, especially during the first wave of the pandemic, Mithridatis has a completely different view.

“The government did not take measures to protect people…The lockdowns it imposed were ineffective, the national health service was not improved, intensive care units were not created,” he argues.

He also decries the government for not hiring new doctors and nurses to deal with the pandemic.

“The government was also giving different advice every single day. This confused and created insecurity among the people. They felt no confidence towards the people in government.”

Mithridatis blames the conservative government and the media for terrorizing people about the virus.

Operation of fear

“I do not understand why the government chose to terrorize people with the virus – and the mass media played a huge role in this operation of fear and terror. We were hearing every day about how many fines were handed out to those breaking the lockdown rules, instead of hearing about whether any doctors or nurses were hired.”

Athens-born and raised Mithridatis, says that over the last few years he has seen an increase of police violence against ordinary citizens. Also, unproportionable police violence against demonstrators and peaceful marches.

“The police does not aim at reducing crime, but to terrorize people. Their aim is to control the people.”

Mithridatis is a veteran of the Greek music scene. He was a member of the comedy hip hop group Imiskoubria, widely credited for the establishment of hip-hop within Greek music show business.

The rapper tells Greek Reporter that he has written similar projects in the past but what makes this one different is a change in style. “I was more straight-forward in my latest project. I was pointing the figure at people and situations that I believe are  annoying and problematic.”

But he insists that he has not changed the message he is trying to send. “My style of what I am saying has changed, because we are now living in a different era. An era where the patience of the people, and by extension the patience of the artists is diminishing.”

Getting into politics?

His political message begs the question whether Mithridatis is looking to get into Greek politics. “I think I am doing it already. Through my art I am doing politics. Everything is politics,” he notes.

“There are alternative political forces that can assume the government of this country. There are always alternatives. There is always something better, something different…We need to think what is the lesser evil.

“People need an alternative, they need to see a way out, they need to react…They may take their time, but sooner or later they do.”

He tells Greek Reporter that the word revolution may sound a bit old-fashioned and outdated, but revolutions will always happen when they are needed. “Humanity and history are in circles. The more oppressive a regime becomes, the more the need for revolution. Do not think for a minute that because people have smartphones there can be no revolution.”

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