B.U.G. Mafia (Bucuresti Under Ground Mafia) is a Bucharest-based hip hop group (founded in 1993), among the first hip hop acts in Romania widely recognized in their native country as pioneers of gangsta rap in Romania. Though generally categorized as gangsta rap, B.U.G. Mafia proved several times that they can bring political issues in their music, such as the post-Communist Romanian political class, poverty in Romania's communist-built housing projects or street violence. They were subsequently banned from many mainstream T.V. and radio stations in Romania and even at times prevented from touring, spending a night in jail after their first concert in Turnu Severin in 1997.
In 1991 Vlad Irimia, today widely known as Tataee decided to become a musician influenced by hip hop platinum-selling groups Public Enemy and N.W.A. He had no idea where to start or what to do but he managed to record a first track until 1992.
In 1993 Tataee met with Dragoş Vlad-Neagu who would become known as Daddy Caddy in Bucharest. They started talking about Vlad-Neagu's Cypress Hill cap and discovered they had a common interest in rap music and they both already tried to make music so they decided to start a group which they named B.U.G. Their first rap aliases were Klax 187 and Doom, showing a heavy influence from the American rap scene, especially gangsta rap. They recorded their first track rapping in English with the help of Adi Niculescu, a then well-known radio personality which produced one of the first hip hop radio shows in Romania called "YO! Rap is moving!". The song was called "Straight Outta Da Hell" and it got its first radio airplay on Radio Uniplus where it was actually recorded. The song got favorable reviews even though today's hip hop audience might classify it as dull.
B.U.G. recorded more tracks in English, producing their own beats with help from Romeo Vanica, a well known producer, who had a professional keyboard. In 1994 they had their first live appearance in one of the first Romanian hip-hop shows, made possible by DJ Sleek a famous Romanian hip-hop DJ and one of the first Romanians to pursue this career. Still looking for new rappers they met with Demonii ("The Devils"), one of the few Romanian hip-hop crews to rap in Romanian at the time. One of the members was Alin Demeter a.k.a. Uzzi who joined the group in 1995 at the same time they changed their name adding Mafia for the Romanian public to get better acquainted with their style. They also stopped writing lyrics in English and switched to Romanian for the same reason. In the summer of 1995 they signed their first professional music contract to record an album on now-defunct Amma Sound.
In the summer of 1997, the group released the first cassette-single from Romanian hip hop called Hoteluri ("Hotels"). It featured the original track from IV: Deasupra Tuturor ("IV: Above everybody") album, a remix, both the instrumentals and a bonus track. The cassette had a cardboard cover to announce the special occasion and it sold over 20 000 copies. The sound was completely different from earlier B.U.G. Mafia albums, announcing a new album that would change the course and producing techniques in Romanian hip hop. The title track was later remade as a featuring with Casa artist Mario for re-release on the second volume of the anniversary album Viaţa Noastra ("Our Life").
In 1998, after they released one of the most successful albums in the group's activity entitled De Cartier ("From The Hood), "they received the Best Rap Song award at the 1998 edition of Ballantine's Music Awards but lost the Best Song Of The Year to Holograf. The audience didn't agree with the decision and they started to chant the group's name repeatedly, an event which was mentioned many times after this and even recorded and sampled at the beginning of the group's song "A Fost Odata-n Cartiere" ("Once Upon A Time In The Hood") off their 2000 Dupa Blocuri ("Behind The Projects") album. Their record sales exploded one more time after these awards once again with the help of Romanian press who named them The B.U.G. Mafia Phenomenon. De Cartier sold over 125 000 copies.
In 1998, the group was called by Loredana Groza, one of the most successful Romanian artists at the time, to collaborate on a track called "Lumea E A Mea" ("The World Is Mine") released as a single with the same name. The first hip-hop music video ever made in Romania was shot for this song in different locations in Bucharest and received heavy airplay from many Romanian T.V. Stations including ProTV and Atomic. The video proved to be a wise choice for promoting the single, as it sold over 25 000 copies and boosted De Cartier sales as well.
In 1999 the group held its biggest concert to this day at Bucharest's Sala Polivalenta (literally "multi-use hall") proving that B.U.G. had created a new type of movement in Romania, being capable to fill sports arenas and not just night clubs. Because it was one of the biggest concerts Romanian hip hop had ever seen to that date, they were called to write declarations by the Bucharest police about the kind of product that they were selling.
In 2000, Mafia held the first and only concert of its kind, at Rahova State Penitentiary, at the request of several inmates who wanted to see the group perform live. The concert was a success and was another first time for the Romanian music scene brought one more time by B.U.G. Mafia.
2001 was one of the best years in the group's history. After releasing 2 albums in 2000, one of which had a real newspaper looking like cover with an article about the group by Camil Dumitrescu with sales of ov r 160 000 units and shooting one of the best Romanian hip hop videos ever made for Poezie De Strada ("Street Poetry") which used real special Romanian police forces, directed by Tudor Giurgiu and releasing their most commercially successful single (50,000 copies sold), also called "Poezie de Strada" ("Street Poetry"), the group started its own record label named Casa Productions. The name came from an unfulfilled older project, Casa Productions initially being a project for a record distribution company they wanted to create. They announced this event by signing new artists M&G, Villy, XXL&10Grei, Mahsat, Anturaj and Luchian to the label and starting work on the label's line-up compilation entitled B.U.G. Mafia prezintă CASA ("B.U.G. Mafia presents CASA"). The album was released in 2002 by Casa Productions and Media Services in Romania being supported by the hit single "Cine E Cu Noi" ("Who's With Us"), a collaboration between B.U.G. and an upcoming R&B singer named Nico. The video was shot in a studio in Bucharest being one of the first Romanian hip hop studio music videos and it featured Romanian sport stars Marius Lacatus and Leonard Doroftei, both old friends of B.U.G. Mafia. The compilation, which had a release party in Dumars Club in Bucharest, sold over 100,000 copies.
Since the day they formed the group, Tataee, Caddy and Uzzi were looking to add a DJ to their line-up as they said any good hip hop group should have one. The few hip hop DJs in Romania were either poorly qualified or working with other groups. This was the case of Nicolae DJ Swamp Oncescu too, who, at the time had been a DJ for one of the first Romanian hip hop groups, R.A.C.L.A., since 2001. In 2002, after the release of B.U.G. Mafia Prezintă CASA, B.U.G. collaborated with Oncescu for live performances and, in short time, he was a full member of the group as B.U.G. Mafia's official DJ. He was also a member of Turntable Science, the first hip hop DJ crew in Romania. but he quit so he can focus on his projects with B.U.G. and Casa Productions. He is one of the best known Romanian hip hop DJs and is credited with musical production both on Mafia's albums since 2003 and other projects on Casa Productions.
In 2003 the group released its 7th full-length studio album on their own record label, Casa Productions. Distributed by Cat Music/Media Services it is named Băieţii Buni ("Goodfellas") and it marked a new start for B.U.G. Mafia, both in producing techniques and their lyrics. The album was supported by the hit single "Romaneşte" ("In Romanian") which proved once again that the group had much more to say in the Romanian hip hop scene. It was a Public Enemy-style attack on the Romanian political scene with the video depicting the group's members in police custody verbally attacking the authorities that questioned them. Both the video and the single were a shock for the Romanian community who had never seen this face of B.U.G. Mafia. The following single released from Băieţii Buni was "O Lume Nebuna Nebuna De Tot" ("A crazy crazy world") and reminded the public of the group's earlier work such as "Până când moartea ne va desparţi" ("Till death do us part") or "Poveste fără sfârşit" ("Endless Story"), being an emotional and soulful track showing Tataee, Caddy and Uzzi expressing their thoughts, giving advice to the youth and looking for better days. Another track that was very successful was 40 km/h which featured only Tataee rapping about his personal favourite cars and tuning techniques. The song was supposed to have a video but it was never made.
The album had a completely different sound from any previous material, the production style used by Tataee becoming a trademark for the group and himself as a producer. It had 21 tracks, including the intro, outro and its five skits and featured guest appearances from Villy, M&G, XXL&10Grei, Mahsat, Mario (a member of Anturaj, which had disbanded by 2003), Luchian, Flocea, Brasco and Primo. It was their only album not to feature a feminine voice guest on any track.
During their existence as a rap group in the Romanian hip hop scene, B.U.G. Mafia have repeatedly shown their pride and respect for their Latin roots and being Romanian in their lyrics. The best example would be their 1998 track called "Sange Latin" ("Latin Blood") off their De Cartier album. In this track they express their pride for being Latins and show no regrets glancing back at their lifestyle. ("Iubesc la nebunie culoarea pielii mele, / sunt latin, latin, latin s,i am belele / De cartier, cartier, cartier, respect rasa, / iti fur inelu', ît,i fur ceasu, ît,i fur banii, ît,i sparg casa" - "I love the crazy color of my skin / I'm a Latin, Latin, Latin, and I gotta lotta troublez / From the 'hood, 'hood, 'hood, respect [my] race, / I'll get your ring, I'll take your watch, I'll take your money and I'm-a break into your home"). Another example would be the leading track off 2005's maxi-single called Strazile ("The Streets"): "Sangele latin care înca-mi curge-n vine / Ma face sa fiu ca Al Capone s,tii bine" - "The Latin blood that's still flowin' thru my veins / Makes me like Al Capone, you know it." Other examples could be the 2001 hit single "Poezie De Strada"' ("Street Poetry") - "Daca(-i vorba despre rasa, atunci zic ca(sunt latin" - "If we talkin' about race then I'll tell you I'm a Latin]" or their 1998 "Romania" which was released as a single who topped the charts, still being considered an anthem for Romanian hip hop and being often quoted among fans or Cine E Cu Noi off their 2002 B.U.G. Mafia Prezinta Casa ("Un fel de Tony Montana în România" - "A kinda Tony Montana in Romania").
Opposing to their Latin pride and respect for Latin nations, in their early days they had an ongoing dispute with the Romanian press, recording numerous diss tracks aimed at newspaper and T.V. reporters who they accused of writing and spreading false information about them, such as asking for 280 million Romanian lei (about US$10,000 at the time) for a concert or hitting their fans in different concerts, information which was clearly denied and proven to be wrong by the group's members and management. Surprisingly, this dispute only got them positive feedback which showed in their record sales that grew every time a press scandal occurred about them. This dispute was one of the reasons they were called to write declarations by IGP (Inspectoratul General al Poliţiei - The Bucharest Police) in 1999 after their concert at Sala Polivalenta.
B.U.G. Mafia were the only group in Romania to receive 5 nominations in MTV Romania's 2004 edition of its Annual Music Awards. They only won 2 of the 5 nominations: Best Album and Best Hip-Hop Act but this was also a premiere in Romanian hip hop boosting the sales of Băieţii Buni to 100,000 units. In 2004 they were approached by Pro TV to produce the theme of their Baietii Buni series that they were about to start making. The group made a maxi-single entitled Strazile ("The Streets") which was released in 2005 and contained the show's main theme which had the same name. A video for the track was shot in Bucharest and released also in 2005.
Other important nominations or awards include: 1998 Ballantine's Music Awards and 2001 Romanian Music Industry Awards.
In 2004 the group started working on an anniversary hits album but they had a different approach then most of the artists doing this kind of project. Since some of their hit records were old and had poor sound quality they decided to remake all the songs before they put them on the album and add some new tracks too. The recording process was halted when B.U.G. had to make the Strazile ("The Streets") maxi-single for the Pro TV series and they were resumed in 2005 after the single was released. The album is named Viaţa Noastră ("Our Life") and is made of 2 parts. The first volume, Viaţa Noastră Vol. 1 was released in 2006 by Casa Produtions/Media Services and was supported by a music video and a hit single which was a new track also called "Viaţa Noastră", which was a collaboration with the female singer who was featured on most tracks of the album, Adriana Vlad. Although the album was supposed to drop in 2005, 10 years after their first release, the fans were happy they got the quality they expected. The second volume of the album is set to be released in 2008's spring containing hit records such as "Născut şi crescut în Pantelimon" ("Born and raised in Pantelimon") or "Hoteluri" ("Hotels"). In late 2007 the remade version of "Hoteluri" off Viaţa noastră vol. 2, a collaboration with Casa Productions artist Mario leaked the Internet and recei,mn,nm,n,ved positive feedback from the group's fans.
In 1997's fall Tataee, Daddy Caddy, Uzzi and La Familia members Puya and Sisu were taken in police custody at Turnu Severin after a concert for outrage against good customs - article 231 of the Romanian penal code forbidding the use of cursing in public places. They were released after 10 hours of writing declarations at the police station and D.A.'s office. The press brought this case to national fame creating a strong public image for both of the groups. This could be seen in the B.U.G. Mafia's fourth album IV: Deasupra Tuturor (IV: Above All) record sales as they moved an impressive 45 000 units with basically no radio or T.V. promotion. This was the first and last case of this type, none of the Romanian hip hop groups or artists encountering this kind of issues Romania ever again.
During the years, the group used several samples from other artists in their songs. Because the album covers did not usually say anything about this they have been accused of stealing the samples and not being original musicians. The group's producer, Vlad "Tataee" Irimia wrote a response to this issue on the group's unofficial fan forum. Irimia stated the following:
In 2003, after La Familia member Tudor Sisu was arrested for drug trafficking and dealing, B.U.G. Mafia's producer, Tataee registered the name La Familia with OSIM (Oficiul de Stat pentru Invenţii şi Marci - State Invention & Trademark Office) with no apparent reason and asked Puya and Sisu 15,000 euros to give the name back. The roots of this event would be traced in 2002 when La Familia recorded a diss-track about B.U.G. Mafia called "Foame de bani" ("Money Hunger") which was never officially released, the group's manager at the time, Gianiny Munteanu refusing to start a B.U.G. Mafia - La Familia rap feud. The group was forced to change their name to Sisu & Puya and the track was remade and released in 2004 on the Foame de bani album as a diss towards Tataee and B.U.G who decided not to make any response diss tracks. The first track was recorded after B.U.G's label, Casa Productions was created and La Familia were invited to sign as artists but they tried to get involved as CEOs but were rejected.
In 2007, Sisu and Puya attacked the name registration in court and won the rights to reuse their group name as they stated Tataee had registered the name for harmful reasons.