Düsseldorf based left-field rap artist, The Last Kobayashi – aka Stefan Petcov – dropped his debut mixtape just last week. Burning Down Babylon is a powerful, experimental, confessional piece peppered with nods to fellow luminaries Joey Bada$$, Mos Def and MF Doom, exploring what it means to be alive in our turbulent times.
Born in Germany to Romanian parents who fled their home as political refugees in the 1980s, Stefan was educated at international schools, a nomadic experience that further eroded his sense of geopolitical belonging. After studying history, briefly chasing careers in law and digital marketing, he found his calling penning lyrics, which evoke his experiences as a young man navigating the uncharted waters of the age of post-truth.
Much like his self-imposed status as stateless citizen, Petcov’s outsiderdom also extends to his music. Unlike most rappers who sharpen their rhymes as part of a scene, Stefan built himself a vocal booth made from egg cartons collected at a local market and developed his own set of oblique storytelling techniques inspired by the likes of William S. Burroughs and Dan Harmon, the creator of Rick and Morty.
“This mixtape was born in the depths of my personal hell. To say I poured my soul into it would be an understatement. I sacrificed the life I had, many, many relationships, and an oppressive belief system to create something that would forever make me proud. Hopefully it will help other people who feel like they are not enough know that they are wrong, and that they are not alone.”
As for his playlist: “Living in surreal times, it seems more appropriate than ever to begin preparing for the time when all known order collapses and we find ourselves slipping further into a film we thought could never happen. They say every generation has their crisis, and it feels like mine is going strong on a couple already. Who’s to say that Shaun Of The Dead won’t turn out to be as prophetic as The Simpsons? And if it does, we’re gonna need a killer soundtrack.
“My name is The Last Kobayashi, and I make music that helps me come to terms with the state of my world, our world, the past, the future and what it the present holds in store for us.”
1. The Strokes – ‘New York City Cops’
“A little trivia to kick it off. This song was left off The Strokes’ debut record Is This It? because of 9/11. Released shortly after the fall of the twin towers, the band thought lines decrying New York City cops as not being ‘too smart’ wasn’t the best move politically, considering the heroic antics of the Big Apple’s finest during the catastrophe which shook the world. The real question is… who can you rely on when law and order dissipates?”
2. Cyndi Lauper – ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’
“I can imagine this track as the perfect selection for a supermarket shootout. A rag-tag band of brujas vs. bankers and hedge fund managers hoping to secure the last frozen burrito in the city. Could be heard blaring out of a boom box, or the tannoy. On second thought, the oldest sister of our all-female outfit has definitely put this on an iPod circa 2006 for a younger sibling who now sits at the back of the store, protected from all noise by this wall of sound.”
3. Gil-Scott Heron – ‘Legend In His Own Mind’
“And here the flip. Lone ranger vibes. If you were slaving away at an office job you hate during the week before it all went down, this one’s for you. Perhaps you’re dancing to this in your apartment while the rest of the world is at each other’s throats. In your bathrobe with a White Russian in hand. All twirl, baby. Maybe it even helps you pluck up the courage to ask the girl next door on that date. I guess in the end is late really is better than never.”
4. Ebo Taylor – ‘Love And Death’
“When it comes down to it Ghanaian superhero guitarist Ebo Taylor, still funking in the free world at age 84, has boiled life down to its two basic ingredients. These are the essentials. As far as I can recall, the lyrics are adopted from a nursery rhyme. I may be wrong but it’s a nice thought either way, so let’s run with it. We live in the age of post-truth after all. Think of this song like a sonic proverb to help you navigate the tightrope between our waking dream and the inevitable after.”
5. Pachanga Boys – ‘Time’
“I learned the hard way that patience pays off. And another thing that becomes starker than ever when our colleagues and compadres become flesh-eating monsters, who want nothing more than to feast on our innards: namely that our greatest commodity is time and the challenge how we spend it. Anathema to our collective obsession for efficiency, the Pachanga Boys remind us with a lazy eye in this classic cut that losing track of time can be the most rewarding of endeavors.”
6. Lamont Dozier – ‘Fish Ain’t Bitin’’
“No doubt somewhere along the way you will have to try catch some nourishment. And if the zombie apocalypse is as toxic as I imagine, it might be more difficult than it sounds. In that case, patience may be your best friend. And Lamont Dozier.”
7. Paul Simon – ‘50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’
“During our apocalypse there is bound to be one or two goodbyes. Also, between lovers. In every doorway of our little planet, every street corner and outside the cinema, all shapes and sizes are connected by their desire for proximity for one around: the company of another being. A reminder then that we are never alone, even when we are left to ourselves.”
8. Alice Coltrane – ‘Turiya & Ramakrishna’
“The mythical, mystical figure of Alice Coltrane. Her explorations into the soul world would do well to help you deal with the impending doom. My suggestion? Light a scented candle, draw yourself a hot bath and sink deep into the flesh of this track. Let your senses be enamored and your toes tickled by the sounds of her fingers dancing with blissful grace across the black and white keys of her piano.”
9. Sun Ra – ‘Have You Heard The Latest News From Neptune’
“During the Romanian Revolution of 1989, everyone knew that things had started to turn seriously sour for the government when the national TV station was hijacked. As far as I can remember, from what I’ve been told, it happened live. Some suited presenter representing the regime got bundled over on air only to be replaced by someone doing much the same thing but for some other warlord. There are limits to this universe.”
10. Mos Def – ‘Life Is Real’
“To round off our selection, none other than Mr. Yasiin Bey himself. Poignant as ever and no holds barred. Packing no punches, this one is bound to get your blood stirring if you still have any pumping through your veins. A reminder of the way things were. Because nostalgia is what reminds us of what we would do well to keep in mind: we are all the imagination of ourselves. An RIP the late, great Bill Hicks.”
The Last Koboyashi’s debut mixtape, Burning Down Babylon – the first part of a trilogy forged in the guest bedroom of his childhood home – is out now via Arrhythmic Records. Listen to it HERE.
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Find The Last Koboyashi’s playlist below and HERE.