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Astana Qazaqstan's new rap video has dropped: The Cyclist review

1 Feb 2022
Verdict:

Call it a comeback, Astana's second team rap might actually be quite good

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
• Big step up from previous effort • Samuele Battistella has actual talent • Vinokourov is a drill rapper
Against 
• Doesn't feature Kazakh or Russian languages • Joe Dombrowski's verse • Numerous controversies

Controversial ownership, controversial staff, controversial riders and actually quite fun blokes? Astana Qazaqstan divide opinion across the spectrum but even their staunchest critics found joy in their team rap. Now they're back and could, maybe, be quite good.

In 2019, Alexandre Vinokourov's team released 'First Ever Pro Cycling Rap', in which the team's riders and the man himself shocked the world with a very lighthearted, cheesy rap to celebrate the Kazakh team and its riders.

With a video that involved Laurens De Vreese showing off his abs and lines including – but absolutely not limited to – gems like, 'We are the only team who wore blue before, all the other blue teams it's better to ignore,' and 'I'm doing my business, I'm doing my job, I will rap this song like Snoop Doggy Dog.'

Good fun but quality? Not so much.

Now, the boys are back with 'Astana Is My Team (Cycling Rap)' and a mostly new line-up. Will they turn out like the Sugababes and see a change in personnel lead to a decrease in quality, or will they be Fleetwood Mac, soaring to new heights with a revitalised roster?

The first thing you'll notice is the increase in production quality, unlike the first effort it seems like a proper camera was used to film the video, which is a good start, and Vino and the other senior staff are suited up looking like the Men In Black. Nice touch.

Win number two comes with the actual riders involved in the rapping. Vincenzo Nibali, Alexey Lutsenko, Joe Dombrowski and Samuele Battistella would be a properly strong side in any race.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the flow is massively improved from the first rap, with solid rhyming in the catchy chorus of 'pedals' and 'medals', 'done' and '(Kazakh)stan), and a good variation of rhythm and style in each of the verses.

Lutsenko does a really nice hardman act, Nibali has a short but sweet few lines and Samuele Battistella is actually talented, both in his rapping and his mannerisms.

Dombrowski, sadly, should've left this one to someone else, it's like the acts they used to let onto the auditions of the X-Factor just so people would laugh at them while they were deadly serious about their craft. You hate to see it but he won a stage of the Giro last year so he does deserve to let his hair down a bit.

Vinokourov is the highlight though, even though his solo is short, he could actually feature on a drill track and not one eyelid would be batted. Cue TikTok sponsoring the team in 2023.

Lyrically, it's a bit more refined, with fewer jokes and more hyping of the riders' abilities, 'We build this empire with Lopez come back/Lutsenko's on fire and shark can attack' is a really nice way to tee up Nibali's Italian section, although the opening ad-lib, 'Looking fresh, we are ready to win' is highly inaccurate given their kit is identical to last season.

Overall, the progression is commendable, there are millions of people who would listen to this if you completely ignore the context and the artists. The comedy is more subtle and they've eliminated the cringiest elements.

Personally I'd have liked to see rapping in Kazakh or Russian, I've been reliably informed by my colleague Emma Cole that Kazakh musicians Skriptonit, масло черного тмина, and Dimash Qudaibergen are the pinnacle of the country's – and the wider region's – music scene. However, you'd have to say Astana Is My Team is a success and I look forward to the next one.

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