Her childhood was spent in an ordinary village, and music cassettes were big and rare there. At the age of 15, she was selling shoes in Troyeshchyna district and was ready to turn the game around. About childhood, love for hip-hop, accepting yourself, writing tracks and language – from the words of the rapper alyona alyona in “Who is…” on Opinion.
The childhood of the future rap star has passed in the village in Kirovohrad region. Alyona says that it was a usual countryside where everyone knew each other, and the habit of saying “Hi” to everyone would stay with her forever.
“Everyone knows each other — through relatives, colleagues, acquaintances, friends. Right with genealogy and biography. Here is someone, a relative of someone that worked somewhere for a period of time, someone’s grandfather possessed something here and there. There weren’t any high apartment blocks (5 floors maximum), there were common houses, rivers, fields, dirt or paved roads. We built tree houses, sat all day in the water, played with skipping ropes. Also, I had a collection of dad’s tapes and a tape recorder with large speakers. Staying alone, I turned on, for example, a Scorpions tape, took my mother’s “dezik” (a can of spray deodorant) and staged a concert. Just in the best traditions of the early 90s.”
How she started liking Hip Hop
The main distributor of rap tapes for alyona alyona in childhood was her father. Back then, it was very difficult to get something in the Kirovohrad region, and the trends came with great delay. Therefore, every business trip his father had was the child’s happiness of the performer – he had to bring a new rap tape.
“I quickly switched from songwriting to writing texts in all of my notebooks and notepads. All the young people at that time were listening to KiSH (Korol i Shut, The King and the Clown – editorial) and electronic music. But I liked rap. There were a couple of like-minded people who listened to Eminem only.”
In general, Alyona Savranenko confesses: she got a significant impetus for her own efforts thanks to the rapper Detsl.
“I was given a cassette with a young guy wearing dreadlocks on the cover – I’m not sure if it’s an original cover, maybe it’s some kind of a replica from a local market. He looked as if he was 12. And I was 12 then! I thought: ‘Damn, he can – why can’t I?’ And he gave the impulse to write. Then we listened to the track Letter – and it was very symbolic because everyone was listening to KiSH, but I didn’t, I couldn’t be myself as a character of the song. So I started rapping. I was rapping to no one, to myself, in my room.”
About the work of a cashier, cleaner, and a psychologist
Before breaking into the big stage, Alyona had to change many professions. Starting working at the age of 15, she got a degree in psychology and even worked for some time with people who needed her professional help.
“I am an ordinary girl who finished school, studied, went to work. Who I just did not work as! I started when I was 15: there is a market in Troyeshchyna district in Kyiv (a district infamous for high crime rate – editorial) where I used to trade bags and shoes in a tent owned by a Chinese man. I was 15 years old, but I said I was 20 and I was at university, and he even thought I was 30.
Then I worked as a cashier, a collector, a cleaner in shopping malls, a salesperson. I got a degree in psychology and started working as a social worker. I provided psychological counseling to people in need.”
About working at a nursery school
However, everyone knows alyona alyona as a nursery school teacher who became a rapper. She went there to continue working as a psychologist, but since there was a lack of funding and an absence of a psychologist position, the young woman was offered to become a teacher, promising that she would eventually be transferred.
“But the vacancy never came up. However, I fell in love with my job, received my second higher education as a teacher and stayed at nursery schools for five years. At my second nursery school, she even became a head. It’s a very interesting job for me. I love appliques, I love to draw. I found an approach to the kids – they listened to me, they were engaged with me.”
When asked about what nursery school has taught her the most, the rapper answers – patience, the ability to not respond instantly and emotionally.
“There is popular advice, ‘Do not make promises and do not wish anyone harm when you are full of negative emotions.’ And with children, you are constantly full of all kinds of emotions. Therefore, you learn to control yourself, to be focused. Children are constantly to be counted. The teacher has to be able to dance, and sing, and draw, and sculpt. Children teach to enjoy the smallest things.”
Fish is the debut music video of the rapper alyona alyona which literally blew up the internet. This is where the story of true hip-hop success and real recognition began. But it all started… with writing a track about a pet.
“At the time, I had an aquarium right above the workplace. But while writing the verses I wanted to use something like an allegory to depict the conflict between society and individuals. We often strive to express ourselves the way we want to, but in small cities, society does not accept it. Everyone wants to throw their stone in our direction. This applies to different people, even girls who just look well. I have girlfriends who came and cried on my shoulder since having the natural beauty ‘makes’ men see them as a sexual object only, though they have an interesting and large inner world. There are girlfriends who took off their piercings because of bullying, and there are those who, against all odds, continue to look the way they want despite all the ‘rules and norms’. A mixture of all this is the basis of the text. We have experienced the worst, we have built an invisible glass barrier and can simply be ourselves even in our own urban village.”
About turning the game around
In the texts, Alyona repeatedly emphasizes that she came to turn this game around. And it’s not just a phrase for the sake of beauty, but the real purpose of the rapper, something that’s important for her.
“Ukrainian-language rap has fallen into oblivion. There is a lot of Russian-language music on the market, it is popular. Children at the age of seven walk under the windows and listen to (a song where – editorial) someone had a hookup and what exactly they had in their glass. This is pure propaganda. It makes children take this glass. Since rappers are role models, idols. ‘He’s so cool with a girl’ and all that. That’s the game I want to turn around. It makes me want to bother the lying dogs. To find a treasure they are guarding. That’s how it is for me personally.”
About the language of tracks
Her first track was released about ten years ago, and after that, she started rapping in Russian. But in the end she understood: she prefers rapping in Ukrainian.
“I wanted to be liked but nobody liked Ukrainian rap. I wandered, searched, tried to do something in English. And everything I wanted to say in Ukrainian was accumulating inside. And then I started to do what I do now. It’s closer to me. I read a lot of Ukrainian literature, and at some point, new Ukrainian prose “shot” — there are many cool and interesting books. I taught children Ukrainian – and the vocabulary expanded even more. I think mostly Ukrainian. Moreover, in its structure, Ukrainian is simpler than Russian, it is more melodic, no wonder they call it a ‘nightingale song’.”
About body positivity and attitude to herself
Alyona is pretty straight forward: she never had the idea of promoting body positivity. Therefore, she asks not to ‘hang’ it on her: she just accepted herself, but she does not advocate going and beating the face of those who call you fat.
“I did not accept myself immediately – only after 20 years, during university years. I then sang a lot on stage, participated in CMI (Club of Merry and Ingenious, a humorous contest of different levels originating from a popular USSR TV show – editorial), and once a girl approached me and said: listen, you are so cool, can you teach me? I want to act like that on the stage too, and it surprised me because she was so slender and slim. We met with friends, I told them about that case, and they asked me: if you could fall asleep today and wake up skinny in the morning , but without your stage, musical, or voice talent – what would you choose? I laughed off, and then I thought, what is more important to me – my charisma and love for humor or being slim? And I decided that what I love was more important than my body.
I have since stopped dieting. I decided that if I had the time, I’d better help someone, teach someone. The nursery school kids came in my life and I decided to dedicate myself to them. I cannot say that I have no complexes. Life isn’t like that. Complexes have been instilled in us since childhood. It is impossible to wake up one day, click and say: they are gone. But what matters is how you feel about it. You can corner yourself, sit like a gray mouse and cry every time someone pushes you, says something offensive. Here comes a little baby – they just pokes their finger and says, look what a big woman she is. Well, I shouldn’t sit down and cry. This is life, this is who I am. Taking it easy makes life so much more beautiful and cool.”
Text by Dmytro Zhuravel.
The material was collected from numerous interviews, speeches, presentations, and messages of Alyona Savranenko.