Back in July 2015, Deadspin posted an article on a rap song by the Latvian group Transleiteris about Latvian-born, New York Knicks player Kristaps Porziņģis. After the initial ripple of interest across the Internet, and because sometimes I don’t sleep at night and have hours of free time as a result, it didn’t take long for me to give into Chad’s insistence that I must do a translation of the song and it would be the funniest thing ever probably—and that I send the resulting translation back to Deadspin, to kind of shed light on what the song was saying, why it was funny, etc. Which I did, AND NO ONE BIT. Then a few weeks later there was another post about the song, this time saying ESPN had decided to use it for a promotional commercial, which is WILD, but apparently no one had a real interest in knowing what, exactly, the hell these guys were saying in their rap?
That feeling when you give someone something kind of great, and they ignore it or filter it into the pile of other crazy emails from crazy people, and in the meantime keep outputting more general announcements on the exact thing you’ve already voluntarily illuminated? THIS IS IT.
Anyway, because I also have access to the real world wide web (and because today Deadspin posted yet another article on yet another Porziņģis rap song) it seemed like the right time to post said rough translation of the song lyrics for the almighty #PORZIŅĢIS rap. (This latest Porziņģis song, by OLAS, as far as I can tell, is an answer to the Transleiteris song. Which was an answer/satire on an OLAS song. Or two, or three OLAS songs.)
It turned out that the “#PORZIŅĢIS” lyrics themselves aren’t all that interesting, but what is interesting is how layered the “birth” of the song is, so to speak. (At least, maybe for just me, as a Latvian?) That said, translation and language background aside, I have zero rap-lyric qualifications, so this is a “rough translation” in full meaning—but not too off the mark. (I welcome input from people with additional information/background on the song and the two groups of artists involved in this!)
However, I do also want to contextualize how and why I wasted (fascinating) hours of my life delving into this.
The song is, obviously, about Latvian-born Knicks player, Kristaps Porziņģis. And initially, it really does seem like the song is just a bunch of basketball-related puns and lyrics pieced together among shouts of “Kristaps Porziņģis” to create a tribute to him.
Transleiteris is a Latvian duo known for their translated renderings of popular songs—including Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” Blur’s “Song 2,” Limp Bizkit’s “Rollin’,” and even Psy’s “Gagnam Style”—into Latvian. According to their Facebook page, their main goal in translating and recording these songs is to contextualize for and bring pop music closer to Latvian listeners. (The sub-goal is to educate Latvians on what’s actually being said in pop music, as the most-listened to music in Latvia tends to come from outside the country, and it’s often doubtful whether, in terms of lyrics, most Latvians even have a good idea of what, exactly, they’re listening to.)
That said, the song “#PORZIŅĢIS” struck me as a bit of a new direction for Transleiteris (who I haven’t followed at all, but I’m familiar with what they do). It’s a song in Latvian about a Latvian, not a Top 40 hit adapted for Indo-Slavic vocabularies. It’s about an athlete, and one who wound up on a team—and a sport—that people actually have heard about. And watch. Willingly. Then the video started cropping up on Facebook and Twitter in the usual herpes-like manner. Then, as I said, I was persuaded to translate the lyrics. “It would be awesome” I was told, “it would be hilarious!” And then I spent five plus hours at my laptop, cycling through 30+ browser tabs of information and Latvian news-entertainment articles, listening to satirical Latvian rap songs via Youtube on loop, and giggling to myself with each new connection drawn in this mini-cyclone that is #PORZIŅĢIS . . .
Anyway, somewhere remains a five-page Word file of insanity that I hacked out over those hours, but below I give you a rough translation of the lyrics, complete with footnotes and links, which, this long intro aside, seems way easier to deal with.
Enjoy? Or just find more reasons to wonder what’s up with Latvians.
“#PORZIŅĢIS” by Transleiteris1
My Little Bells2 are right here in front of you
2.16 meters tall
If you’re looking at him, you’re looking up
Who’s got way more money3?
Whose name do we always get wrong?
I’m pretty short, I’m not that young,
I’m pretty stiff
I come into the club, throw down some cash,
throw down my skis5, kick off my shoes.
I sit down on a couch, but my feet reek6,
I put my shoes back on and keep partying,
make my way through, slam[-dunk] one down7—
just like Kristaps Porziņģis
You noticed me
Standing across from you, girl,
You dig my skis8, you wanna get with me,
You come my way, but I jump right over you—
just like Kristaps Porziņģis
I spot the hottest girl in the club
And tell her “I’m your destiny.”
But she says “You’re not as [sfx] as Kristaps Porziņģis”
Honey, ice, a masterpiece, a sausage9
[Yes, yes, yes]
Meanwhile Kristaps is killing it in the NBA
[Yes, yes, yes]
A meaning, a fence, steel, a cookie, darkness
[Yes, yes, yes]
A rarity, age, luxury, pride, a drunk
I don’t want to be a liar or grow old, steeped in booze
don’t want to be sad or have to fight for [my] choices,
I don’t want to, don’t want to, son—peace.10
1 In their Facebook post accompanying the release of their video, Transleiteris wrote: “It’s with pride and the feeling of a job well done that we present our new and all-original single—dedicated to shooting Latvian star Kristaps Porziņģis. The song is totally 100% original and any similarities to any other song is, quite frankly, impossible.” (This is a bullshit statement, but stick with me for a bit longer.)
2 A nod to Latvian socially-satirical rap-duo OLAS—“olas” means “eggs”, but is slang for “balls.” The diminutive “little bells” used by Transleiteris (as the name for their “rap group” for this video) takes that slang “eggs” one self-depricative notch smaller in size.
3 A (supposedly non-referential) reference to the song “Daudz naudas” (“A Lot of Money”) by OLAS, which is ridiculous. Transleiteris goes so far in its video as to wear similar T-shirts to what OLAS has, changing #DaudzNaudas for #DaudzākNaudas (meaning: way more money). I want one of these shirts badly.
4 This stanza, and the entire song, actually, winds up being referential to the song “Zemguss Girgensons” by OLAS (the actual video is here), which was released in January 2015 as a sort of tribute to the Latvian NHL player drafted up by the Buffalo Sabres (and which, apparently NO ONE IN THE WORLD noticed except for Latvia [doesn’t matter], the Sabres webmaster [matters even less], and a handful of websites with “hockey” in the URL [half of these are probably porn anyway].) The #PORZIŅĢIS video also apes the Girgensons tribute video, down to props, lighting, and sound effects; neither song takes itself seriously (another OLAS song is titled “#DPM,” which stands for “Dzīvoju pie Mammas,” or “I Live with My Mom”) , though but I think it’s pretty clear that the Transleiteris song takes itself even less seriously…
5 Assuming this is another reference to the “Zemguss Girgensons” lyrics and Girgensons himself, though I don’t know why they used “skis” instead of “skates.”
6 In the Girgensons tribute, these two lines are about how the narrator comes into the club all baller like Girgensons, sits back in a couch, and props his feet up on a table, regardless of who is or isn’t watching him, because he’s on his way to being baller, so there. Transleiteris makes their lyirc more… realistic.
7 Lots of basketball-related puns for Porziņģis, as there are many hockey-related puns (and visuals; the one Olas guy “skates” past the girl who approaches him in the club) in the Girgensons video.
8 Again, not sure why the skis.
9 This is where I start to lose sight of what’s literal and what’s metaphor. The Girgensons song talks about being calm, smooth, and collected. The Transleiteris tribute to Porziņģis just sounds like a mash-up of words, though there could be meaning. “I’m honey, ice, a masterpiece, a sausage” could simply mean “I’m sweet, cool, awesome, and good at The Sextimes.” But then I have no idea what the following line is all about. Either way, by “sausage” they almost definitely mean “peen.”
10 And this is where shit seems to get dark. Try as I might, I couldn’t find any real-life references to explain this. I kept hoping I’d find some dark and twisty Porziņģis past—but he’s just 19 and freaky tall.
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .