This lethal diss track’s target is none other than Napoleon Bonaparte himself, written on behalf of Tsar Alexander I who died of Typhus in 1825. A sombre beginning to the track nods to the immense sacrifices made at Borodino, where in 1812, just 75 miles west of Moscow, Napoleon's forces met those of General Mikhail Kutuzov in a concerted stand made by Russia against the seemingly invincible French army. It evokes memories of the diss track against Devilman ‘Nasty’ by Skepta - the slow build up with alternating rhythms will be an almost familiar prologue for what is to come for the grime connoisseurs of 2015 (so very long ago). The Battle of Borodino, of course, saw casualties estimated as high as 100,000 leaving the French the pyrrhic masters of the field. It was, however, ultimately a major blow against the French invasion of Russia which led to the long retreat that spelled the end of the Grande Armée. This diss track was quick to compound the humiliation arriving a mere 68 years after the fact.
The overture itself is a marriage of sorts between the formal western-oriented classical teaching from the nascent Saint Petersburg Conservatory and the traditional, nationalistic Russian native movement of Tchaikovsky’s contemporaries. This break from the status quo has been controversial and has been met with critics in Russia. The international market, however, have lapped up this new original sound from the east.
The last sixty seconds of the piece especially are a favourite among Yanks watching firework displays or anyone partaking in a comedic slow-motion food fight. The Year 1812 Solemn Overture (its full release name) is up there with Mr Stormzy’s “One Take” or Dizzee Rascal’s “Old School” when it comes to the punch and venom that make a diss track great. However, weighing in at a whopping 15 minutes long the song can compete with epics such as Pink Floyds’ “Dogs” or Iron Maiden's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" its safe to say that any opponent that has to face Tchaikovsky’s cannons going: “skrrrahh, pap, pap, ka-ka-ka, Skidiki-pap-pap, and a pu-pu-pudrrrr-boom, Skya, du-du-ku-ku-dun-dun, Poom, Poom” is in for a very rough ride indeed. It will be most interesting to see Napoleon’s response from the safety of his private island resort.
Tchaikovsky himself declined comment on this ludicrous take. Although, evidence does seem to suggest that the music industry could play a part in the prevalence of violence in our society. Birmingham-based academics Craig Pinkney and Shona Robinson-Edwards found that music videos especially could be used as a platform that allow for "individuals [to] essentially say and do what they want.” This is coupled with: “the constant narrative of ‘will you do what you say in your [music]?", which puts the subjects of such tracks in a position where their credibility and national prestige is at stake. Smash hit national songs like ‘Heart of Oak’ contain bars such as: “And drub them ashore as we drub them at sea”, seeming to condone violence. It is no wonder that these songs are now famously linked with the gang skirmish that erupted in Europe known as the Napoleonic Wars. The choice to release the music without an accompanying music video was a brave one, and perhaps was a purposeful attempt to keep the animosity on the rap sheets rather than the field of battle. There have been rumours of Tchaikovsky possibly partnering with anti-violence campaigns in the past. A source close to Tchaikovsky’s agent was quoted saying he was a fan of the government's anti-knife chicken take-away box scheme which has recently come under fire.